How To Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler w/ Yearly Photos

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen some giant growth chart rulers pop up periodically as you scroll.  I’ve been eyeing them for forever a while, but after checking out some pre-made ones on Etsy, I got a little sticker shock….no way was I paying $100+ for one of these!  I mean they’re super cute, but not that cute.

Then my little DIY light bulb went off…..why don’t I just make my own?!  I mean I’ve never stained wood before or used vinyl, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.  Plus, it would be the perfect first project for my new Silhouette Cameo.  And since my son was getting ready to turn one, there was no time like the present!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

[This post contains affiliate links.]

 

How To Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler w/ Yearly Photos

1.) Get Supplies

So, one Saturday morning, my husband, my son, and I took a trip to our neighborhood Lowe’s in search of supplies.  It was my very first time to the lumber section….talk about a fish out of water.  Whoa….

I ended up going with a pre-cut board (I believe it was listed as Whiteboard) that was 1″ x 10″ x 6 ‘, and it was only around $9.  Next, we gathered up the rest of my supplies.  Luckily, we had a bunch of what I needed already on hand, but here’s a total list of supplies that I used for this project:

  • Wood board (1″ x 10″ x 6′)
  • Sand paper (rough and fine grades)
  • Wood stain
  • Wood sealant (polycrylic)
  • Rag (a.k.a. an old t-shirt to apply stain)
  • Synthetic brush (to apply polycrylic)
  • Vinyl (for markings and family name)….see below for details on how to get my FREE cut file!
  • Family photos
  • Cardstock (for Polaroid-type frames)
  • Washi tape
  • Command strips (for hanging)

When we were picking out the board, I made sure to get one that was pretty, i.e. no chips/dents, staples, glue, etc.  I also told my husband that I wanted a knotty board, as in one that has a lot of knots in it (I just think they’re prettier that way when stained).  However, The Hubs thought I meant a NAUGHTY board….he got a little twinkle in his eye, but it quickly faded when I set him straight.  Ahhhh, men…..

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

2.) Sand the Board

Later that day while The Hubs started smoking some ribs for dinner, I started sanding down the board.  I first used a heavy grade sand paper and a hand-held electric sander that we already had.  You could just sand the board by hand if you don’t have an electric one, but that would be quite the upper body workout!  I highly recommend getting an electric sander though….they’re not very expensive and are definitely worth the investment.  But if you want to work on your biceps while doing a home improvement project, go for it!

I sanded down both sides and all the edges twice with the heavy grade sand paper, then did two rounds of sanding with a finer grade (220) paper.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Since The Hubs and I were both doing projects outside, we brought our 11-month-old son Rowan (a.k.a The Cub) out in his high chair to get some fresh air as well.  He LOVES being outside, so he was completely content just watching us as we worked.  Man, I love this kid.  

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

3.) Stain the Board

After the board was sanded and as smooth as The Cub’s cute little hiney, it was time to stain.  I set up our saw horses in the garage and got my supplies ready: can of stain, rag (a.k.a. The Hub’s old t-shirt), phone for some Pandora tunes (I gotta have some music while I work), and baby monitor (by this time The Cub was down for his afternoon nap).

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Here’s the brand of stain I used: Rust-Oleum Ultimate Wood Stain in Traditional Cherry.  It was just a few bucks, and I ended up using hardly any at all, so I’m sure this can will make appearances in future projects.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

After I read the directions and shook the can up like it was a Polaroid picture (any Outkast fans out there?), I was ready to get my stain on.  I had picked up my rag and was inches away from dipping it into the stain when The Hubs (who was working on his motorcycle now) asked “Errrr, you gonna put any gloves on?”

In my excitement to get started, I had forgotten to put on gloves and nearly caused myself to have cherry-red fingers for life!  Maybe not life, but at least for a while.  So The Hubs grabbed me a set of black latex gloves from his stash.  That’s why I love him so….he saves me from myself.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

Terrible pic of me, but I’m still posting it to remind you to don’t do like I almost did….remember your gloves!

 

Since I had never stained before, I turned the board over to its not-so-pretty side (it had some glue that just didn’t want to come off) and did a few test spots to both practice my technique and to see how long I should leave the stain on before wiping it off.

The directions on the can said to leave the stain on for 1-2 minutes before wiping, so I tested areas at both those times.  However, I wasn’t quite happy with either of those colors, so I decided to try 5 minutes (seemed like a good number)….I really liked how the stain looked, so that’s what I ended up going with for the other (real) side.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Since I had perfected my technique and determined the time I was going to use, I flipped the board over and got to work.  I simply dabbed a corner of my rag straight into the can then started wiping it on the board.

The stain is very thin and the board soaks it up quickly, so I had to reload my rag quite often.  I just spread the stain around in little sections at a time, making sure that all areas (and edges) were thoroughly covered.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I used the clock on my phone to (sort of) keep track of how much time had passed, and once I reached my 5 minute mark, I went back with a different clean rag to start wiping it off.  There really wasn’t much to wipe off….it was more like drying the board….easy peasy.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Tada!  First time staining looks like a success!  It really wasn’t hard at all and took maybe a half hour from start to finish.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

4.) Create Markings

Now that the board was nice and stained, it was time for the markings.  I had just gotten my Silhouette Cameo a few weeks earlier as a surprise birthday gift from The Hubs (thank you honey!) and I was just DYING to do a project with vinyl….and this was it!

I spent a couple hours one night creating the markings in the Silhouette Studio software.  Since the board is 6′ tall and we were going to hang it flat against the wall, we had to allow some room for the baseboard (plus, The Cub has always been at the 100th percentile for height and is projected to be at least 6’2″, so we needed to account for that as well).  Therefore, I started the bottom markings at 6″ and then finished the top at 6’6″.

 

Snag the FREE Growth Chart Ruler Cut File!

I had so many people asking for the cut file that I created for the ruler’s markings, I decided to go ahead and offer it for free to all my lovely readers!  If you have a Silhouette and would like to create your own growth chart ruler, head over here to download the free cut file!

Free DIY Growth Chart Ruler Cut File

 

I then cut them out on Silhouette brand matte black vinyl that I had already picked up at Michaels with a coupon.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Boy, was I a happy lady when the markings turned out to be correct!  Who says women aren’t good at math??  I cut them into strips to make them easier to align and work with, then set them aside for the moment.

Sidenote:  You obviously do not need to use vinyl for this project.  You can simply measure out the markings with a ruler and then paint them on by hand, or even use stickers or stencils from a craft store.  There are also lots of sellers on Etsy and Amazon that sell the precut vinyl sets too.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

When I first undertook this project, I had intended for it to be The Cub’s personal ruler that would have his name and be hung in his room and would only include his heights.  With this, I had planned on using little vinyl arrows to display his heights from birth through all of his check-ups during the first year and then yearly there after.

So I created a set of arrows and cut them out in white vinyl that I would stick at his corresponding height along with a mini photo from that time…but I ended up not using them because….like usual, I changed my mind after I was already halfway into the project.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I started thinking that it would be rather nice to have this be a family ruler that would include my and The Hub’s heights as well as those of any future child[ren] we may have, and also be displayed in a main living area.  I’m big on personalized/custom home decor (that’s what makes a house a home, isn’t it?), and love the idea of having this living historical record of our family in one place that I can look at and be filled with joy over the years…there will probably also be some tears at how fast time is going by….my baby’s not a baby anymore….*sniffle*.  So, it became a family ruler instead.

For our family name, I cut out the vinyl in both black and silver, then layered them for a little pizzazz.  I chose these colors since they’re pretty classic and they’ll (hopefully) go with any color scheme we have over the years.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Like I said, this was my very first time ever working with vinyl, so I was very nervous about layering the two colors…..my OCD was almost sending me into panic mode at the thought of the silver outline not being even on every letter!  The horror!  But I cut out registration marks (those rectangles at the top of each piece) and they led to perfect alignment…..wahoo!

For a more detailed description on how to layer vinyl, check out my tutorial where I layered vinyl to create a cute and feminine home state decal!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

5.) Apply the Vinyl Markings & Name

Now that everything was cut and ready, it was time to align them on the board.  I trimmed down all the edges and then started aligning the markings first.

Starting with the 6″ line (at the bottom of the piece with the #1), I lined it up in the corner and secured it with blue painter’s tape so it was nice and flush with the edge.  I then grabbed the next strip (the one with the #2), and, using my normal-size ruler, measured out one inch from the last line on the first section to the first line of the second section (does that make sense?) to make sure they were evenly and accurately spaced.  It was then also secured with painter’s tape.

I repeated this process all the way to the top….and everything lined up beautifully.  No tears of frustration were had…horray!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Next I placed our name pieces….I pretty much just eye-balled them, but I did use the ruler to make sure the capital letters (and “y” in “family”) were all 1/2″ from the edge of the board and that no part was overlapping any of the other markings.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Now it was time to apply the vinyl….this was the part I was most nervous about.  The mere thought of having a single piece not being perfectly lined up with the rest sent shivers down my spine.  Nobody else would probably even notice it, but **I would know,** and it would haunt me for the rest of my life.  OCD?  Yes.  Overly dramatic?  Yes.  But it was now or never…..

It was actually pretty simple too.  I worked in very small sections (just a few markings at a time) and pulled the backing off the vinyl by lifting the vinyl up with the transfer paper.  I cut the backing away with scissors, and since the painter’s tape was holding everything else in place, just laid the markings right back down to their final resting spots.

Seriously, don’t stress {too much} about this part!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I then started scraping over top the vinyl with my scraper tool to get it to stick to the wood.  I scraped and scraped….and scraped and scraped.  It took some serious elbow grease to get the vinyl to finally release from the transfer paper and stick to the wood….whew.  Remember that upper body workout I was talking about during the sanding phase?  Yeah, I got it here.  #kiddingnotkidding

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I held my breath until I finished the second section of the first foot….this would tell me if I had actually aligned the pieces correctly.  And to my pleasure…yes, they were.  Phew!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I then simply repeated the process for the rest of the markings: lifted vinyl up, cut away the backing, laid vinyl down, scraped until my arm was ready to fall off, pulled paper up, smiled with satisfaction.

The same process worked for the three words as well, except since I used Oracal 631 for the silver vinyl instead of Silhouette-brand, the “scraping until my arm was ready to fall off” stage was avoided….this stuck like glue with just minimal pressure.  Thank goodness!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

I am an airhead and forgot to take a picture of the board after all the vinyl had been applied.   I know, one of the most important pics of this whole tutorial, and I missed it.  Sorry, but you’ll have to use your imagination here, folks.

 

6.) Seal the Board

Next it was time for sealing everything.  I chose Minwax Polycrylic in Clear Semi-Gloss.  I had researched sealants (somewhat) and read that it’s really up to you if you seal, and if so, what you use: some people say you shouldn’t seal vinyl (especially with aerosol sealants) because that can cause the vinyl to bubble and peel.  Others say seal with whatever you want.

I knew I wanted to seal the wood, and I chose to wait to do this step until after the vinyl was applied because I wanted to make sure the vinyl was nicely adhered to the wood….for all I know The Cub may be curious one day to find out if all that stuff can come off.  (Update!: Yes, he’s been *very* curious about the vinyl.  Thank goodness for deciding to seal!)

Seal = more protection from prying little fingers.  Plus, the seal gives everything a nice subtle gleam.  Also, I didn’t want to have to worry about any yellowing over time that can happen with polyurethane, so polycrylic it was.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

The directions on the polycrylic said to stir, not shake (like a backwards James Bond drink) and apply with a synthetic brush….so I readied my supplies.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

The polycrylic is very thin and looks milky in the can but dries crystal clear.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

After giving the can a nice stir, I simply dipped my brush in then began applying it to the board in long even strokes, going with the grain of the wood.  It went on very smoothly, although it did like to drip over the edges, so I had to be extra aware and remember to go back over the edges and remove any drippings.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

The directions said to wait two hours between coats, so I did the first coat during The Cub’s morning nap, the second coat during his afternoon slumber, then the third and final coat after dinner.

I let it sit for a few more hours in the garage, then brought it inside.  The directions also said to sand in between each coat, but I decided to skip that step…..I didn’t want to chance messing up the vinyl I had worked so hard at.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

7.) Prepare for the Yearly Photos

Now that the actual board was basically finished, I needed to decide how I planned on marking our family members’ heights.  I don’t want to just take a Sharpie and draw a line for each height recording.  No, that would be too ho-hum and typical.  Plus, my handwriting = yikes.

Instead, I want to take pictures of each measurement and then post that at the corresponding height as well….that way, the board will sort of act as a giant photo collage as well as a height recorder.

So I thought it would be fun to make some mini Polaroid frames.  They would obviously frame the pics, but I can also write the family member’s name, age, and height on them.  Perfect!  I fired up my Silhouette Cameo again and cut out the frames in some heavy-duty white card stock.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

8.) Hang the Growth Chart Ruler & Photos

Next up was hanging the board…finally!  We chose to hang it in our dining room.  There’s no adequate wall space in our living room, and we always use the backdoor that is off our dining room when going in/out of the house, so this seemed like the perfect spot.

I’m not a big fan of putting a bunch of holes in our walls, and I didn’t want to chance The Cub playing with the board and knocking it off the wall and onto himself, so we chose to hang the board using some Command velcro strips.

The ones we picked up can hold up to 16 lbs., and the board weighed 9 lbs. (yes, I weighed it just to be safe), so we put two at the top and the other two in the center, that way we can pull the board off from the bottom.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

It was now the moment I’d been waiting for….hanging this baby for good!  The Hubs and I hung the board the following night….and then I sat back and stared at it with pride and joy.

A successful DIY project….and my very first time working with wood (and vinyl)!  Ahhh, I love it.

But I wasn’t finished just yet.  Nope, I needed to take and then print out pictures of the three of us standing in front of the newly hung ruler (plus a pic from when The Cub was born to include his birth height).

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

After the pics were printed, I simply taped a card stock Polaroid frame to the front, wrote down our details, and hung them on the board with some super cute polka dot washi tape that I’ve had for a while but hadn’t yet found a project to use it with until now.

I didn’t want to use thumbtacks to hang the pics for fear The Cub might pull one off one day and decide it looks like a yummy snack, and I also didn’t want to use anything too permanent, like glue, because we want to have more kids which may require shuffling of the photos.  So washi tape seemed like the perfect solution.

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Now, The Backus Family Growth Chart Ruler Was Officially Complete!

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

This is The Cub’s Grumpy Face….he still resurrects it from time to time. I think it’s the absolute cutest.

 

How to Make a Family Growth Chart Ruler (with Yearly Photos!) | Where The Smiles Have Been

Mom & Dad make an appearance at the top.

 

Ahhhh, I just love this.  It literally brings a smile to my face every time I see it.  It’s amazing to see how much The Cub has already grown in just his first year.  I can’t wait to see his growth for all the years to come.

 

Update: Year 3!

Rowan has now just turned three (I can’t believe it!), so we’ve updated our growth chart ruler with a couple more photos!  Plus, we moved into a new house earlier this year and this board looks just as lovely in our new kitchen.

Growth-Chart-Ruler-Yearly-Photos-Graphic

 

If You Enjoyed This….

Make sure you check out my Project Gallery for lots of other crafty creations, including more Silhouette fun and cute kiddo keepsakes!

FREE Silhouette Cut Files at WhereTheSmilesHaveBeen.com!

 

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First Birthday Chalkboard Poster

 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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About Christine

I'm Christine, a SAHM to a spunky toddler and his mini-me infant brother, and married to the best guy you'll ever meet. I (try to) spend their nap times getting my craft on and I blog about my creations and adventures in parenting at Where The Smiles Have Been. My loves are all things DIY, especially Silhouette projects, wreaths, & personalized decor. And ice cream....definitely love me some ice cream.

Comments

  1. Hi, Thanks for sharing your tutorial & cut file! Do you know if you can write on the board with a Sharpie or other permanent marker? I am trying to figure out what type of finish to use so I can long-term track heights of multiple kiddos. Thanks!

  2. Karen Seymore says:

    i was unable to download the file. any ideas on the growth chart.

  3. I just got my Silhouette Cameo II and downloaded the cut file for the ruler (thank you). When I open it on the design page the images go outside the 12×12 square on the screen and I don’t know how to move it to put half on that page and the other half on the another. Advice?

    Thanks

  4. What a cute idea!! This would be so fun for a kids’ room! Pinning for later :)

    • Thanks Emily! It’s been fun marking my son’s heights already….and it’s almost time for his 2nd birthday photo! I can’t believe it! #mommysadface

  5. Love this idea! Wish I had done this when my kids were younger.

  6. Thank you for the tutorial and cut file! I made one for a relay for life Chinese auction this past weekend. Was a huge hit!!!

    Just a few things I thought I’d share with you… The vinyl (silhouette matte vinyl) DID bubble and peel beneath the polycrylic. It didn’t come up, but had air beneath it and looked terrible. I just read online that it’s because matte vinyl has a water based adhesive where glossy vinyl has a solvent based adhesive. Even though 651 is outdoor vinyl, the adhesive makes the difference. Just thought it was interesting and worthy of sharing with others.

    We’re going to try a coat of poly, then the matte vinyl, then more poly to see if it makes a difference because I love the look of the matte vinyl for theses.

    • You are so very welcome, LuAnn! I am happy to hear my tutorial and cut file made your life easier, and that your ruler was a success at your auction! Wahoo! :)

      That’s so strange about the bubbling of the vinyl. I’ve always sealed my vinyl whenever I put it on wood….Silhouette brand, 651, 631, whatever kind, always gets 3 coats of polycrylic and I’ve never had any issues. Thank you for sharing that tidbit of info about the adhesive….that’s quite interesting!

  7. i love how you did this growth chart! is there any place where i can get the cut file for this design? thanks.

    • Hey Jane! I’m so glad you like this growth chart ruler! Another commenter asked about this a couple months ago and I said I would post the file….and I totally forgot! Ooooops! That’s what the holiday craziness did for me, haha. I’ll post up the free cut file within the next week–PROMISE! So stay tuned!

  8. Shawna Kientz says:

    Do you by chance still have your template you used in Silhouette Studio? If so would you be willing to send it to me. I can’t quite get the measurements and spacing correct.
    Thank you,
    Shawna

    • Hey Shawna! So sorry to hear you’re having troubles with the markings! They caused me some headaches too (but then again, most things involving math do, haha). I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the markings I created for this growth chart, so I plan on providing them as a download in a post very soon….look for it within the next few weeks or so. Thanks so much for stopping by these parts!

  9. Loving your ruler ( wish i had seen this before i made my own lol).
    Just wanting to know how you made the ruler measurements?
    I have just purchased a cricut explore. I made my numbers with the cricut but
    just drew in the lines as i am new to this an have absolutely no idea how to make the lines.
    Any help would be great.
    Thanks :)

    • Hello Mel! I’m so glad you like this ruler! I’m not familiar with the Cricut Explore so I can’t give you any pointers for that, but I basically just used an actual ruler as a guide and tried to mimic the major markings in Silhouette Studio. I first used my Line tool and made them one of four lengths that were proportionate to a real ruler’s markings (one for the foot markings, one for the half foot, one for the 1/4 & 3/4, and then a short one for the rest) and then increased the thickness under my Line Style tool so they would be chunkier. It wasn’t hard, just a little bit of math and lining everything up with the ruler guide in Silhouette Studio. I was able to fit all the ruler markings and numbers on two 12″ x 12″ sheets of vinyl. I hope all that makes sense, haha. :) Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Trackbacks

  1. […] that The Cub no longer fit into as well as some scrap vinyl letters that were left over from my Family Growth Chart Ruler project (see, THIS is why I always save any and all scraps….The Hubs says I’m a […]

  2. […] cutting the footprint out on a piece of scrap silver Oracal 631 vinyl that was left over from our family growth chart ruler, so I made sure to check the Cutting Mat option.  The settings I used for this […]

  3. […] the layers that way.  I’ve done it the other way though, too, and had success, like with our family growth chart ruler.  For this project though, I rotated my design and then used my Rectangle tool to make a small box […]

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