History Stick

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This article is from Issue 12 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Keep close track of the growth of your little ones on this easy-to-make removable stick.

I was recently charged with the task of painting the trim in my kitchen and quickly realized that a little bit of history was about to be lost. If your family is like mine, you have a door frame somewhere in your house marked with the heights of your kids, their friends and maybe a dog or two. With the prospect of losing 14 years of growth records I grabbed a roll of tracing paper and copied every mark and notation. My original plan was to recopy them all after the new coat of paint dried, but I realized that eventually I’d be faced with the same problem again. 

As usual, the solution came to me as I awoke one morning. Cut a length of thin stock, tack it in the door jamb, transfer the heights, and should I have to paint again the board could easily be removed and replaced when done. Of course, I added a little detail to the piece, but overall, this is a quick project that can be finished in an hour or two.

1. Making your long-range record keeping portable is time well spent.

Choose and cut stock

Since you’ll be writing on the surface, maple, poplar or a tight grained pine is preferred, although I’ve made one of these out of white oak and it seems to work fine. If there’s a door stop in your door jamb, cut your stock to a width of 1½". If there’s no stop, or you choose to mount this stick on your kitchen wall, a 3" width works nicely (Fig. 1). Rip a piece ¼" thick and cut it to a length of 4½'. Sand all the blade marks off your stock, or smooth the surface with a jack plane (Fig. 2). While you have the plane out, put a slight chamfer on the front face edges.

Get creative

I put a modified fleur-de-lis on the top and bottom of mine by drawing one edge on a piece of stiff cardboard, cutting it out, tracing one edge, flipping it over and tracing the other (Fig. 3). Cut out your pattern with a coping or scroll saw and sand your edges. I went a little further and continued the edge chamfer through the entire pattern with the help of a set of needle files. This decorative treatment can be anything you want: a family initial, profile of a handsome father, even a family crest. 

2. Use any combination of sanding, filing or planing the edges to give this project a finished look.  
3. A simple way to make a symmetrical design is to draw one side and then copy and trace it for the other. 

Apply finish 

Since you’ll be writing on this with everything from pencils to markers you want to put a surface finish on that will stop the bleeding. Any varnish, lacquer or acrylic will do fine; stay away from oil finishes. Sand between coats to keep it smooth. I’d recommend you not stain the piece since that just makes it harder to read.

Hang your stick  

Hanging is easy; just tack it up with a few small brads. One at the top, middle and bottom should be all you need. When it’s time to move or paint, pry it off the wall, and you’re good to go!

Tools: Scroll saw, plane, needle files, sandpaper
TIME: A couple hours
Materials: ¾" thick white oak or poplar, preferred finish

Ken Kupsche is editor and publisher of Woodcraft Magazine. His spare time is spent at the lathe or on his motorcycle. He is also currently restoring a turn-of-the-century building in downtown Marietta, Ohio. While old enough to know better, he generally doesn’t.


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