Wooden Ruler

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • Wood scraps with straight edges, at least 12” long
  • Non-toxic paints and/or stains
  • Pencil
  • Craft/utility knife
  • Square
  • Rulers (metric and imperial)
Tool list
  • Saw (table, band, hand)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint brushes (small one for details)
  • Optional – permanent marker
  1. Choose a scrap of wood of your chosen length (12” or 14” long, ¾” to 2” wide or so). Using the square, check to make sure the piece is perfectly straight, and if needed, cut the bottom end square with a saw.
  2. Measure out and mark your ruler using the square or another ruler. You may choose to mark it in metric or imperial units (or both!). Make your marks in pencil, and then use the utility knife to carefully mark your units with a shallow cross-cut onto your ruler (this will be especially useful if you plan to use an opaque paint to cover your ruler).
  3. After you finish marking the last unit on your ruler, cut the top end square right along the last unit line.
  4. Sand your ruler until your desired smoothness.
  5. Apply your background finish and allow to dry.
  6. In a contrasting colour, mark the unit lines and numbers with paint or a permanent marker, and allow to dry. Your ruler is now ready to use!
Extension Challenges
  1. Design a ruler that incorporates both metric and Imperial units (you could put the different units on opposite faces of the ruler, or both on the top).
  2. Make a class set of rulers and gift them to a local Kindergarten classroom (or send them to a school in another country!). You could even design a worksheet to include for the students with pictures that they have to measure with their new rulers (ie, “How many centimetres tall is this tree?”). Don’t forget to include spaces for them to write down their answers.
  3. Experiment with using paints, a wood burning tool, chisels, etc, to make designs or words to customize your ruler.
  4. Make a giant version of this to hang on a wall as a growth chart to record kids’ heights as they get older.
  5. Do you or anyone you know go crabbing or fishing? Look up the local regulations on minimum size requirements, and make a customized ruler that makes it quick to determine whether you can keep your catch or need to throw it back. Paint identifying tips on the ruler (for example, how to tell the difference between a male or female crab, as you are only allowed to keep and eat males).
  6. Look through your math set and try your hand at making some of the tools such as a protractor, a square, or even design a giant-size compass to draw big circles for future projects.
  7. Try making a wooden case for an old tape measure: https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/how-to-plans/how-to/a21385/how-to-build-a-wooden-tape-measure/
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