My Christmas Project: Part 2

My Christmas Project: Part 2

I told you in My Christmas Project: Part 1 that I'd be back with details about my Christmas project, and so I am. As hard as it is to let the holiday season go, it does come as a bit of a relief. When celebrating with family means covering about 3000 miles by car, it feels great to be done with it. 

Let me give you a brief overview: 

Christmas Eve: Wake up with pancakes (gluten free), gifts with wife and baby, watch A Christmas Story. Church at 6pm, which means we were there at 4 to finish decorating and practice with the choir (I was directing). Left church around 8 to start our 15 hour drive.

Christmas: Continue our 15 hour drive (non-stop) until reaching our destination around 1 in the afternoon. Family, food, gifts, naps. 

Monday: Friends, more family, more gifts

Tuesday: 4 hour drive to other family.

Wednesday: Wedding. 2 hour drive each way.

Thursday: All day family madness. I don't know how these kids don't take naps!

Friday: All day family madness. Seriously, their stamina is impressive. Oh, and our anniversary.

Saturday: Mid-morning anniversary date. Mellow New Year's Eve. That's weird.

Sunday: Church. MORE family madness!

Monday: Leave around 6:45am on our trek back. Arrive at home at 9:45pm. PASS OUT.

That is one fun-filled, hectic, blessed, and EXHAUSTING week. I'm glad I experienced it. I'm glad I'm done with it. 

Don't get me wrong. Our family is amazing. Lisa's family likes to play games and just be around each other. My family likes to sit around the table and talk (although their talking equals most people's SCREAMING), play music, and play games. Both families are incredible in that everyone makes a genuine effort to spend time together as much as possible. And as tiring as that can be, I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

It is interesting, though, now that I have a family of my own, to see the differences in family cultures from one household to the next. Lisa and I now have our own family culture, but when we are with her family or my family we revert to that family's culture. I'm sure it's the same for everyone else too. Surely there is a profound lesson in there somewhere, but I'm still recovering. All I know is that it is tiring and we are thankful to be home safe and sound. 

I suppose I should get to why you are actually reading this. The project! OK. So the gift I made for Lisa is a giant measuring stick. You've probably seen these around, or your wife has on Pinterest. All it is is a 2x10 made to look like a ruler. It hangs on the wall and we will use it for measuring kids as they grow. That way measurements don't get left on a door frame somewhere after we move. 

This is a really easy project, so here we go. Things you need are:

2x10, sandpaper, wood stain, rag or sponge for staining, rag to wipe off stain, house numbers, ruler, sharpie, vinyl lettering, large sawtooth hanger. 

First you have to pick your wood. Knots look good once they're stained, so I wanted a piece with some good knots. However, I was planning to stick on vinyl lettering, so I didn't want the lettering to have to go over any knots since they are usually rougher and thus not as conducive to sticking. I found a piece with some good knots, but a long stretch on one side without any knots. 

I cut the 2x10 to 6 feet (since they only come in 8 feet and up) and sanded the whole thing. Smoothed out the surface and rounded the edges. I also sanded a section on the back side for testing the stain. Once everything was smooth, I wiped it with a damp rag to get the dust off. 

Then came the stain. I used espresso and it came out a bit darker than I had hoped, which makes the hash marks a little tough to see in a couple spots. It could've been lighter with espresso if I wiped it off immediately after applying, even though it says to leave it on for like 15 minutes, but a lighter stain is probably the way to go. This is why you should use the back of your board or another piece of wood to test it. And also, do your staining during the day or in a lighted room, not at night like I did. 

I let the stain dry overnight. Then I distressed it a little bit. Basically, I just sanded the edges and a few spots on the surface. It gives it a little more vintage look. Not necessary, but a nice touch I think. 

Next came the hash marks. I put the hash marks on the left. I just took a ruler and pencil and went down the left side marking every inch. Then I used a square to extend the lines so that they'd be straight and I could measure them. You can decide how long you want the lines to be. I wanted it to look like a ruler, so I used 3 different lengths.

  • I made the foot markers 2in long.
  • The 3, 6, and 9in marks I made 1.5in long.
  • Everything in-between I made 1in.

That gives you the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 look that you see on rulers and tape measures. 

When making your marks, remember that the board won't be sitting on the floor, so you don't want your 1ft. mark a foot from the bottom of the board. You want it 1ft from the floor. Mine will hang 6in. off the ground, so my 1ft mark is 6in from the bottom of the board and the very top of the board is 6ft 6in. Does that make sense? 

Once all of my marks were on with pencil, I went over them with sharpie. Then I went over the edge one more time with sandpaper so that there wasn't fresh sharpie over spots that were supposed to be distressed. 

Next I put on the vinyl lettering. This I ordered from vinylwallexpressions.com. I made the lettering 4in tall. That is measured from the top of the highest letter to the bottom of the lowest. That way I knew that my hashes took 2in, the letters will take 4in, leaving ~4in for the numbers. Make sure you follow the instructions for applying the letters. Along with my order, they sent a practice letter, which I did on the back of my board. Good thing, because I tried to do it upside down. Be patient with this and keep an eye on the little bits like dots above "i's" and any fancy swirly stuff. They might not stick right away and may need some extra pressing. 

Now the numbers. I used black aluminum house numbers. Because the stain came out dark, I wanted them to stand out a little more. I took the sandpaper and distressed these as well. I sanded the corners and edges so that the black paint came off and the metal shows. That little bit made a world of difference. Lay the letters on the board and look at it from a distance. You may find that you need to take off more paint than you thought to get the right look. Once you like how they look you can nail them on next to your foot marks. 

The only thing left is how to hang it. I used a large sawtooth hanger. It's ok so far. The board is a bit heavy, so using 2 may be advisable. To make it easy on yourself when you're hanging it, make sure that you put the bottom of the sawtooth 6in. from the top so it's even with the 6ft. mark on the front. That way you can measure 6ft from the ground, put your nail there, and you should be pretty accurate with the height. 

Something I might try if I were to do it again is using pallets instead of a single board. I would probably go 2 or 3 boards wide and stagger them so the seam isn't in the same spot in all three columns, and leave the ends uneven at the top and bottom. I'd also like to try using different stains on the different boards. It would be a bit more involved with more measuring and cutting and hammering, and more potential for disaster. Maybe I can come up with another project so I can try some of these things out.

That's it! I feel like I wrote a lot about this, but it really is very simple and quick. A good starter project if you haven't done much like this before. 

If you're making this project, then I think it's safe to assume you have a little one in your life. As a bonus, you can make a sensory board using the extra 2ft. that you cut off of your 2x10. All I did was sand the edges and put on random stuff from the hardware store. I put on some plastic house numbers, but only put in one nail so they spin. There is a door hinge that can be flipped back and forth, a chain lock to slide back and forth, 2 door stoppers, a plastic chain, and twine with nuts and washers on it. It was easy, cheap, and Eloise loves it! 

There you go. 2 projects from a single board. Your wife will think you are so handy and creative, your baby will have a fun toy to play with that doesn't require batteries or sing annoying songs, and you will have a family heirloom that the kids will fight over when they grow up. Not too shabby. Now get to work!