This is How to Make a French Cleat. Of all the ways you can hang something from the wall, the French Cleat is one of the strongest. It’s also really easy to make once you know the tricks. Enjoy.
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What is a French Cleat?
For starters, let’s talk out what a French cleat really is. Basically this is a method of attaching something into a wall using a hanging bracket. The interesting thing about this bracket is that gravity actually helps make it tighter and more secure.
There are two pieces to the bracket, the receiving side, and the hanging side. The receiving side attaches to the wall, and has a 45° bevel that faces upward. The hanging side has a 45° bevel facing down, and they lock together.
As gravity pulls down the hanging piece, it’s forced deeper into the receiving piece, which locks the two of them together tightly. This is a very strong method of hanging something, and it can be used in a lot of different ways.
Selecting Your Wood for a French Cleat
The first part of the process is picking out your wood for the French cleat. In general, just about any type of wood can be used for this purpose. The only thing you want to avoid his damaged or brittle wood.
You’ll also want to avoid anything that’s a really weak. In general, Pine or better it’s going to be a perfect choice for your cleat, and the two pieces will hold together just fine for a long time. In a pinch, whatever you have in the shop will probably do just fine.
It’s easiest to start with a piece that’s at least a few inches wide, and several inches long. The wider the cleat, the better it will hold, and the more weight you can support. You can make them any size you want, which is nice too.
The length is where you really make your biggest decision. The cleat is going to have the same geometry, it’s just a matter of how long each piece is. For example, if you are mounting something big, you can use a longer piece that you can anchor into several studs.
For smaller items, a shorter length of maybe a few inches is all you would need. Vary the length based on the size and weight of your project, and you’ll be fine.
Making the Cut for the Cleat
The cut that you need to make for a French cleat to have the proper geometry is a 45° bevel along one edge of the piece. The easiest way to do this and get a two for one is to cut through the middle of your piece of wood.
This will create two pieces that each have enough wood to be mounted to the wall and mounted to the piece that will be hung. Working this way, you make one cut and get both sides of the cleat.
If you don’t like doing it that way, just make two different passes and cut off the top section of the edge of your board with a 45° cut. You can do this on the table saw, or you can also do it on the band saw.
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Mounting the Hanger on the Wall
The part of the cleat that mounts to the wall is very important. This is going to be the side the bears all the weight, and it needs to be mounted securely. I recommend finding a stud whenever possible, and a bare minimum using strong wall anchors.
Again, depending on the weight of your piece, it would be wise to make a longer cleat that you can anchor into a couple of stud locations. This way, it’s holding on directly to the frame of the wall instead of holding onto the wall board.
If you absolutely can’t get at least one stud location in your particular situation, consider the weight of the item and instead use toggle strap anchors. These are very strong, and they hold in drywall much better than screws or nails.
Mounting the Cleat on the Piece
Mounting the cleat isn’t that much different than mounting the receiving side on the wall, the only difference is you mount it to the piece that you’re hanging. You can get away with a little more here, because you can screw directly to the piece.
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Use whatever techniques you need to in order to make the cleat very strong. If this means wood glue, Brad nails, and a couple of screws, then go ahead and do it. It’s more important to be strong than anything else.
Also, since your cleat is on the back of your project, it’s most likely not going to be seen anyway. Don’t worry about using a little bit of overkill when to comes to your attachment method, because it’s better to waste a few nails then to have your project fall off the wall.
Hanging the Piece on the Wall
The way to hang your project is to simply lift it high enough that the cleat on the back of the project can seat itself over the top of the receiving plate that’s on the wall. Let the piece lower down, and the two of them a lock together.
Since the cleat on the project is facing down, and the one on the wall is facing up, they will naturally lock together and hold really securely. This is part of the design, and it’s what makes the joint so effective.
You can adjust your up and down by where you attach the cleats to the wall or to the back of your piece, or both. It really doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you line them up really well and measure carefully.
French Cleat Tips and Tricks
There are a few tips and tricks to help you when making a French cleat:
- The cleat is going to push the top of your project off-the-wall a little bit, so you may need a bumper on the backside near the bottom to even out the tilt.
- Make sure the piece on the wall has the bevel facing up, and the one on your project has the bevel facing down.
- When in doubt, make the cleat bigger than you think you needed to be. It’s better to be too strong than to be too weak.
- You can hang multiple receiving cleats on the wall, and move the project around from area to area if needed.
- Make the bevel as straight as possible, that way you don’t have any rocking when the piece is hanging from the wall.
Your Action Assignment
Making a French cleat is a lot of fun, and now that you know exactly how to do it, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. Is there something that you’ve been waiting to hang on the wall that you thought might just be a little too big?
A French cleat could be a perfect answer to that problem. Consider your weight of course, and make a cleat that’s big enough to go through a couple stud locations at least. The better you anchor your receiving side, the better your piece will hang.
If you have any questions on how to make a French cleat, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer it. Happy building.
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