DIY Latchboard Birthday Gifts

Our friends’ little boy recently turned one, and we have another friends’ son turning one in April, so right after Christmas I started looking for gift ideas for them. I knew I wanted something a bit more meaningful than a store-bought toy, and I love making homemade gifts. One of the ideas that caught my eye on pinterest was a latch board.

The first one that caught my eye was from liila a design’s blog (found here)

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via lilla a design

She made this activity board for her son for Christmas. I love how she included doors you can open to make it more interactive. Hers was a larger board that could be mounted on the wall.

Young House Love also made a latch board for their daughter Clara this year. They post about it here. Theirs was a bit simpler when it came to design, but I love how they added a pop of color around the perimeter.

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via Young House Love

One of my favorites came from Kristen at Woolypetals. You can find her version here. I love how she added the stripes, and I love it leaning against her wood plank wall.

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via wooly petals

Armed with my inspiration, Jerm and I set out for Menards to buy the hardware. As a bonus, we had a “coupon bag” that gave us 20% off anything we could fit in the bag. Since most everything we were buying was small, we were able to fit it all in.

Here were my requirements for the boards:

  1. I knew I wanted them to have doors—specifically one with a lock and key
  2. I thought a smaller size would be better—easier to store and put away when not in use
  3. I didn’t want anything that could be taken off the board/pieces to get lost
  4. I wanted a zipper—which required a whole separate trip to Joann’s. Not that I minded.

We found a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of birch cabinet grade plywood at Menards for about $14. Since I wanted them to have doors, we needed two layers for each latch board. We cut the board into fourths so our finished boards would be 1′ by 2’ by 1 inch thick. Our next step was to cut out the doors. I laid everything out and marked two 4”x4” doors on each of our top boards by tracing a box.
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I had Jerm carefully cut them out with his circular saw. I sanded everything with increasing grits of sandpaper to prevent any splinters, and then we glued and screwed the two layers together.

Next came the fun part—decorating them. I started out by staining the whole board, front and back, with Minwax “Early American” stain. I cut a chevron stencil to use on one of the doors with my vinyl cutter, and I made up a stencil with each of their names to personalize them. I opted to paint it on instead of using vinyl since it would be more durable.

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For the inside of the doors, I scanned an atlas to create a map of our area, and I used a metallic silver paper to act as a mirror. I used mod podge to attach the map, and I used spray adhesive for the mirror paper.

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The hole in the mirror side is there to allow the lock to turn.

To finish it off, I added two coats of low VOC polyurethane to seal the whole board.

I enlisted Jerm and his impact driver to help me attach all of the hardware we bought. We started by nailing furniture glides into the back to prevent it from scratching the floor. Then, we turned it back over and attached the rest of the hardware. We found that it helped to pre-drill the holes to prevent his screwdriver bit from slipping off the small screws we were using and gouging the wood.  My two favorite parts are the zipper and the threaded rod with the nuts and washers on it. To make it, Jerm bent a length of threaded rod into a “u” shape. He drilled two holes about the same dimension as the rod through the whole board and then drilled two large holes up from the back—stopping midway through. This allowed us to countersink a nut and washer into each hole to attach it from the bottom. We tightened up the nut and washer on the top and were good to go.

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I tried to add things like the springy door stops that would interest them now, as well as some more difficult “latches” for the future like the lock and key. I know at one, they would be a little young to get a lot out of it right now, but it is a gift that can grow with them for a few years.

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Altogether we spent about $28 on each board. The board itself was $7, the hardware was $21, and we already had the paint, stain, and polyurethane. It took a bit longer than intended to make because I added so many steps to the decorating process, but you could easily hammer it out in a night or two.

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