Ruler Boxes - How to Update a Box Using Rulers

14 Materials
I was inspired by a box I'd seen in HomeGoods and decided to enhance plain wood boxes with rulers. After doing a bit of research online, I found an interesting post that mentioned a source for unfinished wood rulers.
For the box in this tutorial, I used a plain wood wine box I found in HomeGoods (on clearance, of course - never, ever, pay full price!). I had 6" unfinished wood rulers at home, bought in bulk online.
1. Lay out the rulers on the top of the box. Each box is different - some require wood trim to fill in areas the rulers don't cover. The trim piece of balsa wood can easily be cut with an Exacto knife for a smooth, clean cut.
2. Choose a variety of stain colors you like - I varied the colors for an interesting contrast. I chose 4 colors, and one clear semi-gloss.
3. Cover the surface of the work area where you will stain the rulers. Wear gloves to protect your hands from being stained.
4. Decide how may rulers you want for each color of stain. For example, my box used 11 rulers - 4 of which are stained in one color, 4 stained with a second color, and three in and 3 in a third color.
5. Carefully open one can at a time to work with. If you open a can too quickly, the stain will spatter on your rulers and stain them in spots!
Tip: You can test the stain color on the back of the rulers first, to see how much you saturated color you want - apply stain, then wipe, then repeat until the desired color is reached.
6. Apply the stain with a sponge applicator and then wipe off any excess with a paper towel.
7. Close each can as you complete the amount of rulers you want to be a color, then proceed to the next color. Repeat that process until all the rulers are stained.
8. You may want to use a polyurethane finish - apply that after the stain color on the rulers as dried and set for a few hours. (Best to follow the application instructions on the stain you use for drying times).
Note: Be sure to stain the edges of each ruler so that when you place them on the box, the edges will be stained for a finished look.
9. While the rulers are drying. Paint the box in a chalk paint you color you like to complement your stained rulers. I chose chalk paint for its durability and coverage in a soft buttercream color (Whisper by Americana Decor). My box had a shiny finish.
10. I wanted the latch and hinges to be darker - and I find that working with nail polish is easy to apply in tiny spaces, and that it provides great, durable cover! The hinges of my box were stamped into it - and would have been ruined had I pried them off the box. I put painter's tape around the hinges and latch, and painted them with a dark nail polish that resembles oil-rubbed bronze. Three coats of polish were applied and allowed to dry overnight.
11. Once the rulers are completely dry (I waited about a full day), lay them out on the top of your box in a pattern that you like.
12. Stack the rulers in that pattern and set them aside. This is the order that you will apply the rulers to the box.
13. Using a clean sponge applicator, apply wood glue in thin, even strokes, to the bottom of the first ruler in your stack - carefully attach it to the farthest edge of your box top.
14. Continue to glue each ruler across the top of the box, right up to the side of the ruler next to it. Be sure to use a thin layer of glue, so the glue doesn't ooze out of the edges. Work quickly to make any adjustments, as the glue sets fast!
15. When all the rulers have been glued down, apply a thin layer of glue to any wood trim you have already cut to size and place that trim as an edging.
Note: Some boxes will require more wood trim than others.
Here is the finished box!
Here is another ruler box I made - it required more trim pieces. I chose to cover the entire box in rulers, and glued wooden feet to it. It was made using 12" rulers. The side pieces had to be cut to fit using a small, craft size miter box and saw.
This had also been a wooden wine box, which I found in a thrift store. I glued a ruler inside and framed it in trim, just for fun.
Wooden feet....just because
This box had hinges that were stamped into place inside the box - the rulers had to be placed to allow space so the box could be fully opened.
Back of hinged box, covered in rulers.
So there you have it! Decorative, practical boxes to store your "stuff" in neatly, in style! Enjoy!

Suggested materials:

  • Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in Clear Semi Gloss   (Ace Post Hardware)
  • Minwax Wood Finish in Provencial 211   (Ace Post Hardware)
  • Minwax Wood Finish in Gunstock 231   (Ace Post Hardware)
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3 of 49 comments
  • CJ CJ on Sep 25, 2016
    Nice idea!

  • Lor11718784 Lor11718784 on Dec 06, 2016
    Love this idea. I have a small vacation condo at the beach. Could this idea be used on old kitchen countertops? .

    • Anita K Anita K on Dec 08, 2016
      Thank you! They are lightly stained rulers for decorative boxes - I do not think that rulers would hold up to daily wear and tear - maybe if they were sealed with resin....I have only seen rulers used for furniture pieces that are not heavily used - or exposed to water. I always ask at the hardware store when I am doing a project.