If your New Year’s resolution is to not forget anyone’s birthdays do I have the thing for you! My friend asked me to help her make her mother-in-law a birthday board to keep all of her children and grandchildren’s birthdays straight! She had seen mine hanging in my house and thought it would be a sweet gift – I do too! You can of course buy beautiful complete boards on Etsy, but I like that when you make it yourself you know how to add more and don’t have to worry about someone going out of business and not being able to get the same look anywhere else (these are the things I worry about!). The board sets aren’t always super expensive though, so I wanted to keep costs down to make it worth the time it takes to do it all yourself.
- a 2′ long board from the lumber section of the hardware store ~$9
- wooden discs ~$5/20 discs
- screw-in eye hooks
- jump rings from jewelry-making section
- vinyl lettering ~$16 (after shipping)
- craft paint (various colours)
- drill & 1/16″ bit
- number stamps & ink (optional)
- thin black marker
Anything without a price I had leftover. For the board I made for myself I didn’t spring for the vinyl (though I wish I could have) – I spent that money on the other materials.
To start lightly sand your board to get rid of any rough edges. Then go ahead and paint it – I chose white for this board because the discs were going to be bright primary colours. It took 2-3 coats to get rid of the patchy spots.
My next step once the paint was dry was to apply the vinyl. I chose vinyl lettering because I skipped it when I did my own to save money and did the lettering freehand so it’s a little wobbly. I didn’t want to fuss with the lettering again so I ordered the vinyl off Etsy. I choose my sellers based on the price of their shipping to Canada but there are a ton of people who sell custom vinyl (try searching for “birthday board decal”).
My decal came with instructions to tape it to the surface and cut half of the backing off to apply one side at a time (you can see below I removed the backing on the right side first). I tried to measure to make sure it was centred but it kept wiggling around – it ended up being fine anyway.
Once you’ve applied one half then you carefully peel the backing off the second half, making sure to smooth the appliqué as you go to ensure it’s straight and doesn’t bubble.
Once the backing is gone then take a credit card (or your Sephora card!) and firmly scrape over the vinyl lettering before you remove the transparent front sheet. This is to make sure the vinyl is actually stuck and to prevent it from coming back up with the transparent sheet when you peel it back. Go slowly and don’t panic if some edges do come up, just press that part back down and scrape over it again with the card. This happened to me a few times.
Once my vinyl was in place I took a pencil and eyeballed where the hooks in the bottom edge of the board (below the months) should go so there would be one hook under each letter (I had tried working out the math for precisely where they should go so they’d be even on my previous board but it turned into a fiasco and I gave up and eyeballed it). I used a 1/16″ drill bit as on the discs to pre-drill a small hole under each letter, then inserted a hook into each hole. These hooks will hold the chain of discs with the birthdays on them!
I would say the most frustrating part of this DIY is drilling the holes into the discs. I got a bag of 22 discs at Michaels for ~$5-6. I traced the circle, and cut it a little smaller than the edges I traced, so it would lay inside the edges of the disc, and then cut the template in half. I used that to find two end points to drill that were centered across from each other and marked it with a pencil, so it looked like this:
Now comes the hardest part. The trick is to drill the hole close enough to the edge of the disc that you don’t have trouble threading the discs together on a 10 mm jump ring, but not so close that you split the wood (this happened to me more than a couple times over the course of 60 discs!). I put a piece of scrap wood on the table beneath the disc and drilled on the pencil marks I made, like this:
Once you’ve finished drilling the discs give yourself a pat on the back – the hardest parts are over! Now there’s just painting and assembly (you can tell I took a break from the project after the drilling because my nail polish changes! This is definitely a project to do over a couple days).
I used 10mm jump rings I got at Michael’s (they were probably only a couple dollars; I had them leftover from when I made my own board). And you can see I painted and stamped all my discs (stamping isn’t necessary, it just makes the numbers uniform. You could always draw the numbers on if you don’t have the stamps).
Assembling isn’t hard but it is time consuming. You use needle nose pliers to open each jump ring, insert it into the top hole of one disc and then put that same jump ring through the bottom hole in the disc above it. Use your pliers to carefully close the ring again once both discs are on (you can see mine aren’t perfectly closed – just enough so they won’t fall off is fine).
I connected all the discs in each month first and then got someone to hold the board in the air while I threaded the top disc onto a jump ring with the hook on the board. This step is finicky. You could also start by attaching the top disc straight to the month and working your way down the chain, whichever you find easier.
Finally, I think it’s the most cute to present extra discs with the board (and an offer to help assemble!). The thing I love most about this board is that it can always grow! There is always room for more love in our life, and I like to think there are many people we will love that we haven’t even met yet.
Do you have a way of keeping track of birthdays that works for you?