As a kid, I loved making those paper ring garlands to help count down the days to Christmas. They weren’t much, just strips of red and green construction paper, one looped inside another and held together with a swipe of glue stick, but, buddy, I loved the ritual of ripping those suckers off as soon as I woke up every morning.
So, for this holiday season, I wanted to embrace the idea of a countdown craft, but update it to something a bit more adult, a bit more masculine, and reusable season after season. Counting things is no longer a novelty, so I decided to make something bold and typographic, that I could glance at across the room and realize just how many days I have left to finish making all my presents. And so – a modern rustic holiday countdown typographic advent calendar. Let’s go.
Materials and Tools:
- 1/2″ birch plywood
- 8.5 x 11″ sticker sheets, or vinyl letters
- Spray paint
- 2x 8d nails and hammer
- Computer and printer
- 8.5 x 11″ brown kraft paper
- Hole punch
- Picture hanging hardware
1. Begin by cutting your plywood to size. If you don’t have a table or circular saw, have the associates at the hardware store make your cuts for you. I cut mine at 12 x 14.5″.
2. I sketched my design in my trusty notebook (hooray for graph paper) and determined I wanted my number cards to be 4″ wide, with 1.5″ on each side and 1″ in the middle. So I made a mark at 3 1/2″ and 8 1/2″, and hit my tool box to grab some nice big nails. And…I didn’t have any. I try to use wood glue whenever I can, plus wood screws or my pneumatic nailer, so I’m not really a hammer and nails kind of guy. So, I hopped on my bike for a sunny but very, very brisk ride to True Value and snagged a nice big 3 lb. box of 8d galvanized nails with a lovely dark metallic color and nice big heads. Hopefully they’ll last me a couple of years. I got home, defrosted my fingers, and hammered those suckers in. (See how cold my hands look?)
3. For the text, I opted for “Sleeps Til Christmas” a nod to another favorite, The Muppet Christmas Carol.We sing that one a lot in my family and it, well, warms my Christmas heart and makes me smile. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Feel free to adjust your text to whatever works for you and your traditions. I printed the image out onto a full sheet of sticker paper and cut out the letters with an X-acto knife. Alternatively, you could buy vinyl letters from the craft or office supply store, and apply them directly or make a stencil if you want to use a different color.
4. Take your stencil outside and tape off and cover all exposed wood. Use light strokes to spraypaint the stencil, directly above the stencil. That way, no paint will sneak underneath. Also, when spray painting wood, be careful not to use too much paint, or the fibers will start to soak it up, all osmosis-like, and make little fuzzy lines on the outsides of your letters.
5. While the paint dries, create your number cards. I made mine 8×4″, so I could print them two to a sheet. If you pair 0 and 1 (rather than with 9), you can print off the first two cards twice and have a 0,1,2, and 3 for both the “tens” and the “ones” column.
I chose a nice tall gothic font here, since I wanted it to have a rustic, woodcut-type vibe to match the natural, unbleached paper and the exposed woodgrain.
6. Print out your letter and cut to size. I rounded my corners with a favorite tool, the Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper. Snag one next time they’re 50% off at the craft store. Then, use a hole punch to make a hole along the center, 1/2″ from the top.
Once the paint has dried, attach a sawtooth picture hanger to the back. The included nails will probably be longer than 1/2″, so just hammer them down to the sides to create a “staple” to hold everything down tightly. Make sure it’s nice and level, so your number cards won’t hang all wonky-like on the final product. Trust me – I learned this one the hard way.
Then, hang it up, and let the countdown begin. Happy Holidays!