First off, I want to say that I took major inspiration from Brooklyn Limestone. I saw her growth chart and got tingles! It was exactly what I wanted! She gets it… My biggest reason for making this is, like her, I too wanted something that would grow with my child. We take such care to record and track the first year milestones but what about beyond that? What was the first book he read, the first song he sang, what was his Halloween costume that year, and what was that cute thing he said that had us laughing to tears that one time? This chart has the space to write it all down! When he’s older, he can even join in the fun!
Reason #2 for making this (like I needed more reasons but that’s besides the point) is that we are not in our forever home. How heart breaking would it be to chart his growth on the drywall behind the door (poster charts just aren’t my thing), just to leave it behind when we move. Sure, there are feasible ways we could take it with us but I haven’t yet seen an elegant solution for that yet.
Lastly, this just secures a project slot for the next baby. We are planning another and we can’t have one child with a beautiful custom growth chart and one without…right? RIGHT? Anyway, if Mrs Limestone over at Brooklyn Limestone was taking orders, I would have said “shut up and take my money” but she’s not and I can see now why she isn’t (more on that later).
This project started out fairly simple. I had worked with knotted pine before when building a shelving unit so I ran out to Lowe’s, dug through almost every plank until I found a good one and bought myself a piece of 12x8x1.
We have high ceilings to accommodate the whole 8′ but I had them cut a foot off the top. I needed some space for design and the ruler actually only goes to 5 feet since I don’t suspect that we’ll still be charting my sons growth past 10 years anyway so…7 feet would do. The first thing I did when I got home was sand it first with an 80 grit sandpaper and palm sander then a 220 grit to smooth it out and round the edges and corners a bit. I didn’t want anyone getting a sliver.
Now this can be done beautifully with marker as Brooklyn Limestone
demonstrates (just be sure to read up on her learning lessons before you start). I’ve been known to dabble in pyrography so I chose to burn my designs into the wood. It’s actually fairly easy to do and adds a little character and imperfection to the whole thing. The tool I used is the Walnut Hollow Creative Hobby Tool and to give you an idea of my skill level, this is the third project I’ve ever burned. This is definitely one of those “if I can do it, you can too” deals.
Because I was literally playing with fire, AB and I thought it best to burn on bare wood and stain and seal everything afterwards. So that’s what we did! I laid my designs out in illustrator to get an idea of space and size, hooked up the laptop with my designs to a light projector and projected the whole thing onto the plank where I outlined everything with a sharpie.
Lesson #1: Don’t outline everything with a sharpie. If you’re going to follow in my footsteps and burn, use a soft pencil. The marker bled beyond it’s borders and if you don’t follow your lines exactly with the tool, you will be sanding the board back down quite a bit to get rid of your tracing lines (I did this and really didn’t mind the result). After everything was outlined, I burned it all. Took me about 2 days and a few flesh burns in total but I didn’t care, it was looking GREAT! This was it! It was ready for stain! Back to Lowe’s we went. I picked out my stain and hurried home to apply it. I applied 2 coats and propped it up against a wall that I could stand quite a few feet away from to take it all in.
Aaaaaaaaand I hated it. Something was off. I left it there and walked by it all day, stopping at every pass to examine what could be wrong with it. Then it dawned on me, we had mistakingly bought a wax finish! Lesson #2: Don’t buy a wax finish. Even though it wasn’t labeled as wax, it had this fangled H2Oil compound that I suspect was the culprit. It coated everything in a bluish murky haze and went on splotchy and uneven. The burned designs were now no darker than the rest of the wood. I wrestled with the idea of just living with it and succeeded for about 5 minutes before taking the board out back and sanding it all back down to the wood. I was able to salvage some of the design so I didn’t have to retrace everything but I still had to burn the whole thing again.
This time we went to Home Depot (far away from the H2Oils) and bought some trusty Minwax in Driftwood, and Polycrylic to seal it. I applied the stain with a foam brush but immediately wiped the stain off the burned parts, using a rag, as I went so they kept their impact. I decided one coat was enough. I didn’t want it too colourful so it would go with an evolving decor as my son grows. Then I used Polycrylic (not Polyurethane as it will yellow over time) to seal it!
After all that, it turned out perfect and is ready for memories (which I will probably draw in with a permanent marker). I honestly couldn’t be happier with it despite the short falls… which I’m sure I will laugh about some day.
I would be happy to answer questions and share details, you need only ask!