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Tutorial: Giant Ruler Growth Chart

DIY Growth Chart Ruler hanging on a turquoise wall next to a white door.
Project At-A-Glance
DIY Project1 day, with lots of downtime
This DIY Giant Growth Chart Ruler is great for a kid's room or nursery, and is way cheaper to get than its pricey Pottery Barn counterpart.

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I think pretty much everyone has a story about where in their childhood home they marked their height as a kid. I always loved the idea of having a visual representation of a kid’s growth in the home, but I never loved the permanence of it all. I grew up in one house, and then moved to another when I was 11—and with that move, my growth marks stayed behind. I was always a little sad that part of my childhood didn’t get to come along with me. And of course, moving isn’t the only way the marks can disappear—maybe you want to paint a wall or remodel a room. Once those marks are gone, they’re gone forever.

DIY Giant Growth Chart Ruler hanging on a turquoise wall next to a white door in a nursery.

So when I was flipping through Pottery Barn a few years back and saw their ruler growth charts, I knew that was the direction I wanted to go when we eventually decided to grow our family. Not only were they adorable and quirky, but, most importantly, they were transferable. While Craig and I don’t plan on moving out of this house until we’re old and gray, the truth is, you never know where life will take you. I love that wherever we go in life, we can take this growth chart ruler with us.

Of course, I couldn’t stomach the $100 price tag on the Pottery Barn version. After all, it’s pretty much just a piece of wood with some tick marks and numbers painted on it! So when it was time to start working on Juni’s room, I decided I was going to make my own. And I did, for about $15.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own version:

Materials for Your Growth Chart Ruler

  • 1-1” x 8” x 6’ pine board
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Stain and rags/brushes for application (optional)
  • Printer and paper OR a Cricut with permanent vinyl (for the number stencils)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Black acrylic paint (or white if you’re going with a dark stain)
  • Thin paint brush
  • Spray polyurethane
  • Hanging method—sawtooth hanger, heavy duty mounting tape, anchors and screws, etc.

We had nearly everything to make this at home, except the board. A quick trip to Home Depot, and we had ourselves a 1”x8”x6’ premium board for less than $10. Make sure to look for one that isn’t warped and has a texture and grain you like.

board

We went back and forth about staining the board (after all, most new rulers have that light, pine board color to them), but decided we’d rather darken up the color a bit to match the rest of the wood in the room and help make it feel a bit rustic and old. We knew we wanted black numbers and tick marks, so we didn’t want to go so dark that those didn’t show. So we landed on this oak stain. A small can for $3 was plenty—we could probably make 10 more growth chart rulers with how much stain we had leftover!

stain

Before staining, per the instructions on the can, I lightly sanded the wood using a fine-grit sandpaper going in the direction of the grain.

sanding sandpaper

I wiped off the sanding dust and let it dry completely. Then, I used an old cloth and applied the stain.

stain board

I let the first coat dry per the instructions, and then applied a second for just a slightly darker tone. Like I said, we still wanted to use black lettering, so I didn’t want it to go too dark. All done!

board

I let it dry outside for a few hours until it was dry to the touch, and then I brought it inside to start putting on the marks. I used a ruler (this clear grid ruler worked really well for me, but a regular ruler would work, too). We decided that we wanted to hang the ruler 8” up from the floor in the nursery, so I started my first hash mark at the 9” spot. There, I just drew a pencil line. To keep the ruler looking authentic, I made the 1/8 marks 1-1/2” long, the 1/4 marks 2” long, the 1/2 marks 2-1/2” long, and then the foot marks 3” long. You can play with it to see what lengths feel right.

Mechanical pencil and a ruler resting on top of a wooden board, marking ruler ticks.

I worked my way all the way down the ruler making marks with the pencil. It sounds tedious, but it really only took about 30 minutes. Then, I came back with a thin paint brush, black acrylic paint, and a steady hand. I just painted right over top of the lines.

Giant Wooden Growth Chart Ruler with some of the height marks painted in, and some still only in pencil. A piece of newspaper with a paintbrush lays over the top.

It definitely isn’t perfect, but I kinda enjoy the wiggly, handmade quality of my lines. And from two or more feet back, you can barely tell the lines aren’t perfectly straight.

Giant Wooden Growth Chart Ruler with some of the height marks painted in, and some still only in pencil.

(Update! For the next few steps, if you have a Cricut machine, this would be a perfect use for it using permanent vinyl. Just make sure to seal the top with a good polyurethane before hanging.)

The next step was to put the numbers on. I headed to my computer and found what I thought was a ruler-y looking font—Century Schoolbook—and printed out the numbers 1-6 at 200pt. Honestly, you could go with whatever font makes you happy, I just like the traditional look.

Then, I lined up the numbers with the foot hash marks. I did a little research about how “traditional” rulers do this, and they usually actually put the number directly before the corresponding hashmark, instead of below it. So that’s what I did.

Paper with the numeral one on top of a giant wooden ruler.

And then I used a mechanical pencil (with the lead retracted), to burnish around the outline of the number. Because the wood was soft, this transferred an indentation to the wood.

A numeral one outlined in pencil on a wooden growth chart.

And then I used a pencil to define the edge a little more on the actual wood.

A numeral one outlined in pencil on a wooden growth chart ruler.

I transferred all the numbers, and then came back with my black paint and filled in the lines. I love that the numbers are a little bit debossed.

Paintbrush filling in the outline of a number six on a wooden ruler with black paint.

Once all the paint was dry, I took the board back outside and gave it two coats of satin polyurethane. I went with satin because (a) it’s what we had on hand and (b) I feel like the satin will protect the board, but still allow us to write over it with a permanent marker or paint marker (whereas a gloss might not).

We left the board outside for the evening to off-gas and finish drying, and the next morning, we put heavy duty mounting tape on the back and hung it up on the wall (making sure to measure up 8” from the floor). You could also use a sawtooth picture hanger or screws and anchors. We like the mounting tape because it’s crazy secure (we used enough to hold 20 pounds, but the board is less than 5), doesn’t require any holes in the wall, and the board is completely flat against the wall—no wobbling or bobbling.

DIY Wooden Growth Chart Ruler hanging on a turquoise wall next to a white door in a nursery

Just to make sure all is right, I then took a tape measure to verify that the ruler was going to measure correctly—and it does! Spot on, in fact.

Measuring tape stretched over a giant wooden ruler hanging on a turquoise wall to check the height.

I am absolutely in love with this little project. Not only do I think it’s adorable, but I love that it’s functional and portable. We love marking Juni’s progress as she gets bigger and bigger.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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42 Responses
  1. Ashley B C

    SO excited that you posted thus tutorial! I’ve been eyeing your ruler ever since you first posted a picture. This truly does look simple enough to make, even in a virtually tool-less household. I can’t wait to make our own! 😀

  2. Theresa

    Thanks for sharing this tutorial! We haven’t started measuring our son yet, but have been planning to do it every 6 months starting on his 1st birthday which is somehow in only 2 weeks! I think I know what my husband and I will be working on this weekend while little AJ is napping 🙂

      1. Cassie

        We actually haven’t marked a height yet because haven’t decided how, yet! I’m thinking a gold paint pen or a black Sharpie.

  3. Shelly

    Just a quick question…it looks like you only marked off the inch marks not the 1/8 or 1/4 marks. Did you just vary the length of every other inch mark? I am making one as I type this and in looking at your picture with the tape measure, each mark is at an inch. Just checking because I think it would be too many lines if I marked the eighth and quarter marks….Yours looks great! We added a sharpie marker holder on the back of ours and we are giving a 5 pack of colored sharpies as part of the gift so each child has their out color.

    1. Kathy

      I am in the process of making this and noticed the same thing….the finished picture is not the same as the picture of the board in process.

  4. Amanda

    Just finished this – it’s going to be a Christmas gift for my sister and brother in law, soon to be parents in January 2015. The tutorial is so easy to follow and the end result looks awesome. Thank you!! 🙂

  5. Laura

    I just made this growth chart yesterday, it was so much fun! It turned out perfectly and we are going to start marking on my daughter’s 3rd birthday on Sunday. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  6. GJG

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I appreciate how much detail you included, it was very helpful.

    This came together so easily and looks great. Many of the inexpensive growth charts that can be purchase have style/patterns I don’t really like, and I love the look of this. That trick for getting the numbers on there is what really makes it look like a ruler.

    I decided to not stain my pine board and I like the look of it as is. Also, I used a Sharpee instead of paint for my lines and numbers, using a rule to make my lines straight.

  7. Sarah

    I bought one of these from a lady who made these. Yours is great and I will make my own for the next one, BUT on the one that I bought she added the name of the child (or last name of family with the childrens names on either side a little smaller) as well as the birth stats (time, weight, and date) super cute

  8. Emily B

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I just made this for my kids for Christmas and it took about 2 hours total – way less than I expected – and it turned out great!

  9. tiff W

    Thank you for this tutorial! I used your instructions and made one today. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long! I have other growth charts for my kids, and will transfer the heights and dates onto this one as soon as I decide what to record them with (which kind of pen).

    Anyway, thank you again – great instructions and pictures! I used your font and font size – perfect!

  10. I LOVE a great tutorial! You are so specific and your pictures are wonderful. Our grandson turns one in June and I know what I’m making him. What a keepsake:)
    Thank you.

  11. Tiffany

    I am in mid-creating of the ruler from your tutorial! Thank you for giving specifics that are easy to follow. As I look at your post, I really love the wall color that the ruler is hung on. Do you remember what brand and color that room is! Thank you!

      1. Emily Rahemi

        Quick question- where did you mark the heights- on the side, front, by the numbers, by the lines, etc? I can’t decide where it would look best. I have 3 kids so far and aren’t done yet so I can’t decide if all on one ruler would be too crowded.

  12. Whitney

    I just made mine. SO you DID polyurethane it, and the sharpie DOES work to mark the heights? Mine took me FOREVER, so I canNOT mess it up now on this final step!!

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