Rule of Thumb: Wooden Ruler Growth Chart PBK Knock-off


November 6, 2012 by Decorum DIYer

Happy election day, everyone!  In the spirit of voting, don’t forget to cast your vote for your favorite paint color for my freebie french provincial bedroom set here.  Today is the last day to vote!

Today I am sharing with you a Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) knockoff. My cousin, Melissa, is expecting her second child and I needed gift ideas.  For days I stalked her Babies R Us gift registry, but the website’s gift registry was glitchy and unavailable.  I knew I had to be creative.  I like making gifts for others and I especially like receiving handmade gifts.  In the end, I decided to try my hand thumb at PBK’s giant, wooden, growth chart ruler as one of my gifts to Melissa for her new little one.

Pottery Barn Kids’ ‘Wooden Growth Chart Ruler’ (now discontinued)

I would never purchase the PBK version for myself, much less as a gift.  It isn’t that I am a poor gift giver, but many of PBK’s items are just too costly and I try to be practical, as well as budget-savvy, about gift giving.

In the past couple of years, I have seen many knock-off versions of this very item.  To give you an idea, here are the search results just on Pinterest.  Personally, I like the handmade versions much better than the original version that the ‘knock-offs’ are duplicating.  Firstly, the handmade versions are inexpensive, and most importantly, personalized for your child(ren) or gift recipient.

After viewing several blog tutorials, I knew I wanted the easiest and most cost-effective version to diy.  Some versions of the knock-off required etching, machine-made stencils, vinyl decal machines, etc….  None of these items do I own, nor see myself owning in the near future.  So, the method I chose was simple and straight forward.  Anyone can make this wooden growth chart ruler.

Here are the supplies I used:

  • One six (6) foot length of 1″ x 10″
  • sand paper and/or electric, hand-held sander
  • stain (any color of your choice will do)
  • small foam brush (bristle brush could also work)
  • rag to wipe off excess stain
  • latex gloves (or substitute, if you don’t want you hands to be messy)
  • ruler/tape measurer (US measurement units (inches/feet) [one could certainly use metric measurement instead, especially if this is the standard of measurement where you live]
  • pencil
  • exacto blade or scissors
  • sharpie marker (black)
  • number fonts (via Microsoft Word or an online printable) and printer (although you could free hand or use a template)
  • hanging hardware
  • glass of wine (optional, but makes it more interesting)
  1. To start, I surveyed my wood plank to determine which side would be the front, based upon the wood grain.
  2. Next, I was sure to soften the edges of the wood with a 220 grit sand paper.
  3. I gave the entire piece a light sanding with a hand-held sander.  (I wasn’t trying for a super smooth surface, just smoothing out any defects or potential splinters.)
  4. Using my ruler and a pencil, I drew a line on the front of the plank, starting slightly in from the left, top, edge of the plank, every inch (or thumb, hence the post title) along the top edge of the plank.   I wasn’t worried about making an apparent line, but rather a light pencil mark to guide me later when I traced over with the black, sharpie marker.
  5. After I placed a light pencil mark every inch along the top edge, I started at the left, top edge again, and I counted every six marks.  The first sixth mark would be my ‘one foot’ mark.  Essentially, the ruler starts at six inches, not zero, to allow for baseboard clearance when the ruler is hung on the wall.  (If you plan to hang the growth chart ruler so that the bottom edge touches the floor, then by all means, start with zero inches and not six inches.)
  6. Continuing, the twelfth mark would be the 18 inch (1.5 feet) mark, and so on…
  7. If you have a six-foot board, your ruler tick marks should end on the 78 inch (6.5 feet) mark.  Make sense?
  8. To mimic a real, wooden ruler, I used a small ruler to elongate my tick marks.  All one inch markings were one inch long.  Any half foot markings (6 inches, 18 inches, etc…) were elongated to two inches.  The foot markings (1 foot, 2 feet, 3 feet, etc…) were elongated to three-inch markings.  See below.

    Wooden plank with tick marks laid out every inch. Varying lengths of tick marks are dependent upon the importance of the measurement: inch, half foot, foot. Please note that this photo shows the tick marks outlined in the permanent sharpie marker and with numbers filled in. This shot is provided to better illustrate the tick mark placement. However, at this point, your plank should only have pencil tick marks at varying lengths.

  9. Next, I opened my word program and typed numbers 1 – 6 using ‘New Times Roman’ in a 215 font and then printing same.
  10. I used an exacto blade to precisely cut out the numbers.  You could also use scissors to do this, but it is a bit more tedious and prone to over-cuts.
  11. Using the cut out letters as my template, I traced the numbers in sequential order (1-6) under each 3 inch’foot’ tick mark.
  12. Using my black, sharpie marker, I traced the tick marks in the predetermined lengths and outlined the numbers.
  13. Next, I filled in the numbers with the black, sharpie marker.  Just like coloring in a coloring book.  There was relatively no bleeding, despite my fears.
  14. I decided to add my cousins’ last name to the ruler to personalize it, but this certainly isn’t necessary.  I also considered writing ‘Made in the USA’ in a smaller font at the opposite end of the ruler, but later decided I was afraid I would ruin the design.  In retrospect, I should have just gone for it.  This is what it looked like at this point:
  15. Really, this is the bulk of the work.  Next step is to stain.  I chose a dark walnut color. Believe it or not, I didn’t have any other stain in the house, so I purchased a new quart.  I figured that the dark walnut stain would compliment most contemporary furnishes and was closest to my cousin’s furnishings in both her nursery and home.  You could certainly use any color of stain you would like.  You could even paint the wooden plank first and then draw the measurement tick marks and numbers.  Of course, I would put a protective polyurethane over the plank, if painted.
  16. I used a foam brush to apply a thin coat and then carefully wiped off any extra with a spare rag.  I used new, unused cloth diapers.  I have so many left over, I use them for almost anything.  I started with the edges of the plank. First I applied a thin coat of stain and then gently wiped off any extra. You can make this as light or dark as you want, just be sure that it is somewhat of an even finish and that you can read the ruler through the stain.   I only applied the stain to the front and sides of the ruler. After I covered a small portion, I gently wiped off the extra. I was careful to apply the stain and wipe off the excess in the direction of the wood grain for a neater appearance.
  17. After staining the front and sides of the wooden plank, now ruler, I followed the recommendations of the stain manufacturer and waited a few hours for the stain to dry.
  18. Once the stain was dry, I flipped the plank over and added the hanging hardware.  I purchased a ‘D-ring’ picture hanging kit which supports up to 50 lbs. just to be on the safe side.
  19. I also decided to add a quote to the back of the ruler at the last minute: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who
  20. I also added a “To:” and “From:” section and the date.

Basically, that was it.  I completed the project in one evening.  It was super easy and I really like the way it turned out.  I don’t have ‘after’ photos of the growth ruler mounted to a wall, as I gave it as a gift.  I do have these photos of the ruler as it was drying.  So, you will need to use your imagination. (Oh, and ignore our crazy workroom.  We are still trying to sort things out down there.)

And the budget breakdown?  Here it is:

  • six-foot 1″ x 10″ wooden plank (Home Depot) – $10
  • one quart of stain (Home Depot) – $8 (only used a few brush strokes, so even less, or free if you have stain on hand)
  • ‘D’-ring wall fastener (Home Depot) – $4 (only used one, so $2)
  • all other supplies I had on hand, but they are a minimal cost, if you need to purchase for this project

Estimated Total:  $20 (as stated above, if all you need to purchase is the wooden plank, this is a $10 project)

My husband, mother, and sister absolutely loved this idea.  My cousin seemed excited about it as well, so I hope this means that she and her little ones will enjoy it for many years to come.  If you like this project, I urge you to give it a try.  It really was as easy and inexpensive as it looks.  I have a second board waiting for me to make one for my children.  With the holidays coming up, this would make a great gift for any families you know with little ones.

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<img src=”” alt=”The Humble Brag Link Party” style=”border:none;” />
Now sharing via Young House Love’s  ‘Winter Pinterest Challenge‘ and Bower Power’s ‘Winter Pinterest Challenge’.

Until next time…, happy diy-ing!


25 thoughts on “Rule of Thumb: Wooden Ruler Growth Chart PBK Knock-off

  1. floridaysmom says:

    I love this!!! Hmmm, maybe a cute idea for Colin’s big boy room.

  2. Suzz says:


    One thing though … do you know where the saying “Rule of Thumb” comes from? It is a reference to a “olden-days” standard/belief that a man could beat his wife with a strap no wider than his thumb and it was okay.

    • Decorum DIY says:

      No, I was unaware of that reference. I was using the ‘rule of thumb’ reference loosely. As in a time when most measurements were comparable to somewhat standard body measurements. Had I known, I probably would have chosen a different title or clarified my reference in the post. Thanks for sharing. By the way, how exactly do you know this information?

      • Suzz says:

        My boss told me. We’re pretty strict at my office about thing like this … sometimes to the point of being silly (my words). For example, we’re not allowed to use the term Flip Chart referring to the giant pad of paper used in presentations and workshops – Flip is a derogatory term for Filipinos. In stead, we use “Newsprint.” It’s very confusing for anyone we talk to outside of our building – especially when I am planning events, etc.

      • Decorum DIY says:

        Wow, that is both thoughtful and concerning. I realize this is getting off topic to the post, but I am really interested in what you are saying. Perhaps I am naive, but, is ‘flip’ really a term used to describe Filipinos? I mean, it doesn’t even make sense. Also, in the term ‘flip chart’, wouldn’t ‘flip’ refer to the actually act of flipping one page to the next? I could be wrong, but I am curious how these terms came about.

  3. Lauren says:

    That is SO COOL. Well done, Christine!

    • Decorum DIY says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I was pretty excited about it, given it was my first try. I still need to make one for my kids. 😉 (By the way, the above reply should read ‘actual’, not ‘actually’.)

  4. Megan says:

    It looks fantastic!! Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. I am following you know too. 🙂

  5. jocieopc says:

    Hey Christine! Looks great. Love the new header and blog design too!
    Thanks so much for linking up and linking back last week at the Humble Brag! Hope to see you back tomorrow to link up more great projects. Don’t forget, we will be giving away more free ad space! 🙂 Also, YOU WERE FEATURED!! woot woot.

    • Woot, woot, indeed! Thanks for the blog love. You know I’ll be stopping by. I love your blog, so friendly and inspiring. You, know, you don’t live that far from me. 🙂

      • jocieopc says:

        WHAT?!?!? where do you live? I am having some fellow bloggers over tomorrow night and you would be more than welcome!

  6. Rosanna says:

    Hi there! Stumbled across your blog and love it, especially love how your DIY growth chart turned out!
    A few months back I asked my husband to help me make one for our boys and we had fun preparing the board, but got stuck on creating a neat, professional way to put on numbers and tick marks. We tried numerous methods, and weren’t happy with any of them, so decided to design a DIY vinyl decal that you can just transfer onto the board and were finally happy with it!
    Since then, knowing how popular this project is, we actually opened a shop on Etsy to sell the decals for other DIY-ers who wanted to make a board but didn’t have the creativity or time to hand draw out or stencil numbers and tick marks. If you’d like to take a look, or recommend the shop in your post to others who might be frustrated by the same step as an option, it’s:

    Maybe it will be a help to others out there!
    Thanks and best wishes!

  7. The Wangs says:

    love this!

  8. Sue entress says:

    Great project! Thanks so much for sharing

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! I was going to paint the numbers on my board until I found this. Using a Sharpie was so much easier and looked much sharper. I stained my board before adding the numbers and it worked just fine.

    • Great! I am happy that it is helpful. Yes, before or after, it all works out. I did the same thing (sharpie after staining) for my own and it was just fine. 🙂

  10. What a wonderful idea! I love it! Straight to Pinterest for a “hope to complete soon” project. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Thank you. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I can assure you that it is an easy project that you could complete in one day or over the course of two evenings.

  11. Artzzle says:

    Hey Lady!
    Was looking for “ruler” projects and found this. A great gift idea that I may try for my Great-granddaughter’s room in their new place … but I have small rulers. None the less, once again you’re an inspiration because this did get me to thinking of some ideas. I’ll post something a little close to school time.
    Great stuff as always. Keep em coming.

  12. whimsyburd says:

    This is gorgeous. Now you should make more and sell them on etsy. What a wonderful gift for your cousin.

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