Monday, 21 September 2015

Coffee Stained Giant Ruler Growth Chart

I have long been wanting to make a giant ruler growth chart to hand in our house. You know the kind - it's been all over Pinterest. :) Something more permanent than the markings on the wall (and something much neater)!

After I'd been perusing Pinterest for ideas, I saw my sister-in-law had made one and I think my middle child was a baby at the time (about 4 months ... she's going to be 3 in a month). 

It was time I made one so we could clean up the bit of wall pictured above!

So, last November, when my Dad was here to help with finishing up the basement, Dad and Darran went out to get me a piece of wood to accomplish this. This wood then sat in our garage for months, until this past week, almost a year later, I finally started and finished this project.

First I sanded down the piece of wood so it was nice and smooth. It didn't need much sanding. Then I had to choose which side should be front. During the storage in the garage, a little chunk of wood got broken off one side (but I sanded that nice and smooth so it wasn't hugely noticeable) and on the other side there were some knots that were little holes. Which side do I use?? I chose the side with the knots - I figured I'd be able to measure things out so that none of the paint would end up in (and pooling in) one of the knot holes. I was right! :)  

First I drew the lines - slightly longer for the half foot mark and even longer for the foot mark. I started the ruler at 6 inches as we will be hanging it 6 inches above the floor. I drew these on with pencil, went over with a paint pain and over that with acrylic paint.

Since I was using a different method of transferring the numbers and text to the board, I decided to do that before staining. Also, I wasn't even sure I wanted to stain it yet.  I was trying various methods of transferring ink from a laser printer page to the wood. Some websites said it works best with inkjet, some said laser is better (as the ink doesn't run). Both said "just use water!" Water does NOT work on laser printer images! :) Another website said to use acetone. Nail polish remover contains acetone. I tried that and it didn't work. In frustration, I put carbon paper under my paper, traced the number and the carbon paper left a nice outline for me on the wood. This I traced with a paint pain then went over the outline and the inside with acrylic paint. This method (carbon paper tracing and then painting) was not going to work with the verse I chose to put on the board: "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" ~2 Peter 3:18. I had printed it in a fancier font and it wasn't incredibly large (as I didn't want it taking up the entire board). I knew I had to figure out this method of acetone over the laser printer print-out. So I left it for a night. I was shopping at Walmart when I noticed a store brand nail polish remover that said "100% acetone". I realized that my nail polish remover was a blend of acetone and something else. I thought I'd give this 100% acetone nail polish remover a try. It worked! So, what you do is print your text as a reflection (you have that option in the print menu). Put the sheet face down where you want it on the board. Paint over it with the acetone and then rub it with something hard (like the stick of your paint brush). This makes the text transfer very well. You may need to go over with acetone a few times. My only problem with this is that it still made the ink run. So, now I had a ruler with nice ruler markings and number but smeared text. NOT my idea of pretty. I went over the text with a paint marker twice. Then I thought, "if acetone can transfer the ink from paper to wood, maybe it can also clean up the wood a bit!" So I painted around the text with acetone and this cleaned up most of the smearing (but also made some of the paint from the paint marker run in the wood grain ... I cleaned that up too as best as I could).   Then I left it for a while. The raw pine colour was nice and natural. I was thinking I'd just leave it (even though I wasn't super impressed with the smearing in the paint of the text, nor the crooked verse reference). 


It didn't look bad, just didn't meet my standards! :) I had it here against the wall for a couple of days but just wasn't impressed with the look. It needed something more. 

I read on another blog post about staining with coffee. The person at that blog said she brewed some strong coffee and painted her wood with it. It didn't give a very dark stain, even though she went over it a few times. I thought there had to be a way to use coffee to get a darker stain. I had some decaf instant coffee in my cupboard - about a 1/4 cup of it. I dumped all of that in a mug and used my Keurig to add 4 oz of hot water. Mixed it all up, got my paint brush and went to work. Just one coat gave me a beautiful colour - just the colour I wanted! Not too dark and not too light! Certainly darker than what was shown in the other blog I read so I was quite thankful for that! 

I just love the colour! My girls thought it was hilarious that I painted with coffee. :) I'm really pleased with how it turned out. And, an added benefit of staining with the coffee, it hid a lot of the smearing from the ink of the text! Bonus!! :) 

So all that was left was coating it with a sealer. I had a bottle of spray on polyurethane sealer. Darran did most of this work (though I did the first coat). We sprayed about 3 coats on sealer on the growth chart and that seems to be sufficient. It looks good! 

The crooked text reference ("~2 Peter 3:18") still irritates me though. Also, apparently sealing brings out other flaws. You can see that the coffee stain didn't go on quite as dark in some sections down the centre length of the board. I probably could have gotten away with doing a second coat of coffee stain for this reason but I still think that flaw makes it look more natural and still kind of neat. :) I'd love to do this project again but I'd change a few things. I wouldn't do the transfer from a laser printer printed image with acetone (I'd probably stick with the carbon paper method). Also, the text would be in a different font and larger (or a mix of different fonts to make parts of the text pop more to give emphasis on things like "grace" and "knowledge"). :) But, generally, I'm quite happy with this project. Now I just need to decide where to hang it and how to hang it! 

It really pops on the dark wall where I took the pictures of it (the finished pictures) but we can't hang it there as then it would have to hang 8 inches above the floor and the ruler starts at 6 inches. :) We will find a place and I will update with a photo when it's hanging in its place. :)

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