106 – French Cleat Storage System

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frenchcleatA French cleat is as ingenious as it is simple. It involves securing a strip of wood with a 45 degree bevel to the wall, and then securing an opposing beveled strip on the back of a cabinet or anything you want to hang. Its incredibly strong and versatile. Its a great way to hang cabinetry and as you’ll see in this video, it can be used to make an awesome modular wall storage unit.

Categories: The Shop, Whisper Minis

Comments

  1. Mark Williams November 17, 2009

    Very nice. I just added some space to my garge shop by putting bikes and other stuff in the shed. I have a long narrow spot that I would like to add some shelves but we might be moving in the next sixth months so this is perfect because I can take it with! Thanks Marc! What type of Dado blade is that???

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 17, 2009

      That’s the Forrest unit.

  2. Dave Breitwieser November 17, 2009

    The french cleat is a great way to hang almost anything in your shop.

    I have a 4′ x 4′ tool board with rows of french cleats. I have two rows of french cleats around three walls in my shop that hold everything from jigs to clamp racks, shelves, speakers, pictures, even a pencil holder made from an old cigar box. I think the wood rack is the only thing attached directly to the walls.

    I usually have a few pieces of plywood already cut with a 45 deg angle on one side laying around. It doesn’t take very long to put together a hanger with scrap.

    Dave

  3. Aggie83 November 17, 2009

    Another informative mini.

    Thanks for covering this topic.

  4. Dean (aka Onboard) November 17, 2009

    Even though you can find many ways to hang things from a vertical surface, commercial and homebuilt, it doesn’t get much simpler and cheaper than a French cleat.

  5. Chad Gehring November 17, 2009

    I use these at work all the time. It is a great way to hang just about anything almost flush against the wall. Never thought to use it as a tool hanging system though. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Dan November 17, 2009

    Looks like someone had a long weekend…must have been the neighborhood clambake, ’tis the time (I looked like that after ours this past weeekend). What is the best and cheapest material for making the cleats? Is it plywood because of the alternating grain pattern or does it really matter?

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 17, 2009

      Doesn’t really matter Dan. Anything will work. But plywood is cheap and stable, so I just default to it every time.

      As for my disheveled look, lol, that was actually filmed during the week that I was setting up the new shop. I just held onto the footage for a long time. Yeah, I had a rough week that week, lol.

  7. Adam November 17, 2009

    Dear Mr. Whisperer
    This is fantastic. What did you use for the back panel? What did you use for edging? How many, and what type of screws did you use to secure the panel to the wall?

    Thanks as always

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 17, 2009

      3/4″ ply for everything. Screws were just regular square drive wood screws. Drywall screws would work just fine. And you can add as many as you like. Mine doesn’t hold anything too heavy so I used about 8 over the whole sheet.

  8. David November 17, 2009

    This is a great idea, we have a bunch of templates that we use and this will make it easier to organize them and to add or remove to the system later.

    Will have to make this in the next few weeks.

  9. Kris Lauer November 17, 2009

    Great mini WW. We use french cleat on all our upper cabinets we ship. Ours are cut at 30 degrees. Don’t know if that makes any difference. We leave a little flat spot on the pointed end 1/16th inch. Makes it easier to pull off when you have a lot of weight.
    Thanks again.

  10. Mac Lyle November 17, 2009

    I appreciate your site. I’m looking forward to more tech podcasts. Maybe one on setup/maintaining planers/joiners (changing knives).

  11. Jeremy November 17, 2009

    Like Kris said, I’ve done a few of these with a 30 degree angle which, especially if you only have a circular saw, is a little easier. The only thing about that is that it probably wouldn’t work great for the peg hooks, more for things that pull straight down.

    Also, as 3/4 plywood isn’t exactly cheap these days, I think it’s important to mention that you CAN hang your french cleat strips right on drywall. As long as you hit studs and have a good bite, the plywood is perhaps an unnecessary luxury.

    If you have larger items or heavier items, like a cabinet, you can even have them land on multiple cleats for extra strength.

    -Jer

    • Doug McPherson November 18, 2009

      Good points Jeremy.

  12. I can’t resist: Did the French invent french cleats?

  13. Tim November 17, 2009

    Now I got a project for the weekend! Empty walls, prepare to be cleated!!

  14. Gary Bell November 18, 2009

    yah great technique! I had a old plywood foot locker that I made years ago for the son to take to scout camp. weighs about 30 lbs empty. I put a cleat on the bottom and turned it up with the bottom side against the wall and now it is a huge deep cabinet. I figure it will hold about 100 lbs of stuff. A French cleat was the only way to go.

    Another good thing about this system is you can square the cleat to the wall and then when you hang the object [cabinet or whatever]and it will be square to the floor with out having to hold the heavy object up while someone else tells you if it is level.

  15. Jason November 18, 2009

    How the pegs work baffles me. It seems like any movement or extra weight can cause them to fall off. It’s just a 3/4″ triangle, which I would think causes tIhere to be a bit or torque. The higher the peg is, the worse the problem will be. Having a 1/8″ sheet of luan, just long enough to cover the cleat on the front would provide more stability. I guess it’s a matter of how much weight you apply, since the shelves did require a vertical piece like this.

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 18, 2009

      Yeah I wouldn’t use the pegs to do pull-ups or anything. lol But for hanging small tools, rulers, personal protection gear, and stuff along those lines, it works just fine. You are right in that an extra cleat in the front would increase the strength, and this is something that I do for the custom doodads that hold the heavier items. But for smaller items, the simple peg and small cleat work quite well.

  16. Claude Stewart November 18, 2009

    I’ve used the french cleat system to hang cabinets on a number of occasions but I’ve never thought of something like this. Good show and great idea.

  17. Dennis Scott November 18, 2009

    Today i used your tip to add some storage on my tables saw shelf for my push sticks, feather boards and extra inserts. thanks for the idea.

  18. Tim November 18, 2009

    Marc, how thick (deep) are the strips that you use to span the plywood? Are they 1×2′s or did you just cut some 3/4″ plywood into strips and make the 45 degree rip?

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 18, 2009

      They are just strips cut from a piece of plywood. 3/4″ thick.

  19. josh November 19, 2009

    I have been checking out your page lately and am very impressed. You have so many great tips. I just moved into a new place and have been working on my garage/shop for the last couple months when i have time. I am going to use this method for sure in one of my corners. I took a before pic and will take some after pics and send when I am complete(hopefully within the week.

    Thanks marc u r the man

    J

  20. Jim 2 November 19, 2009

    I use them to hold my crullers – they’re very heavy.
    Mmmmmmm….. crullers.

    • David Paul Miller November 22, 2009

      a small sweet cake?

  21. David S November 19, 2009

    I’m in the process of completely re-organizing my basement shop. I have some areas I’ve been trying to figure out
    how to utilize better for storage. When I saw this I immediately had a “I coulda had a V8″ moment. I’ve used french cleats for cabinets before but never thought about
    using them in this way.

    Thanks Marc!!! Your ideas solved a problem I’ve been dealing with for too long. I started on it last night and when it’s done I’ll send pics.

  22. Josh C November 20, 2009

    I’ve heard of people using the same concept but for overhead storage and using two cleats on each side (essentially a sliding dovetail joint) but use it as a modular storage system. Thanks for the great videos Marc.

  23. Great mini, Marc. I’ve used the french cleats for hanging my shop cabinets, but never thought of using them as you did. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your site very much.

  24. Terry Throop November 20, 2009

    If I wanted to hang cabinets to a cement basement wall, would this system work? Whould we need a backing, how many screws would you recommend for holding cabinets? I love this concept. We are just starting to put our shop together. I see this being used in the shop, garage and shed. Thank you so much for all you do!!

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 20, 2009

      Hey Terry. The system would actually work just fine on cement walls, even without a backing. That is, assuming you secure the strips to the wall properly. Now I don’t have a lot of masonry experience but I would imagine you could use TapCon style screws every 8-12″ and that should be pretty darn secure. But you might want to get a few more opinions before hanging some nice cabinets based on that advice, lol.

  25. Hey Mark,
    At the end of the video you asked us to send you some ideas for holders and such for the cleat system. So here are some of mine.
    At the following links you cans see that I have done my entire shop with the cleat system. On the lower cleats I have hung tool supports for my benchtop machines. The Uppers hold cabinets, tool holders and just about anything else.

    http://www.superwoodworks.com/.....pShots.htm

    http://www.superwoodworks.com/.....olders.htm

  26. Chris (http://tool-rank.com) November 20, 2009

    I would like to add that you can also buy aluminum Z Clips which are basically the same thing as a french cleat. You can buy them in long lengths and also in small segments. The advantage of the aluminum clips are the narrower depth of 3/8″ and they can also be used in moist areas and outdoors without the worry of mold growth.

    I have installed thousands of feet of both and prefer the aluminum clips due to their durability.

  27. Al Klob November 20, 2009

    I have used this system to hang the cabinets in my shop and it works very well. My current chop is only 18-0 sq/ft but I plane to add on a 252 sq/ft addition next Feb. I will probably use your sheep plywood wi french cleats in the addition.

    Thanks

    Al

  28. Greg G November 21, 2009

    Have been using the “French Cleat” System for years to hang all the cabinets in my shop. The thing I love most is the “extra 3/4″ storage space” you have “behind & between” the cleats on the rear of the cabinets.I store my large carpenter square,hand saws ,even small sheet goods. Anything that is less then 3/4″ thick and will fit between the cleats.

  29. couchy November 21, 2009

    I personally think peg board is better for two reasons.
    1) If you use white pegboard then your shop will be brighter.
    2) You have more flexibility on where you put things vertically.

    It may not have the strength of the french cleat but in most cases it is strong enough for hanging most things on the wall. My shop walls are covered with peg board.

  30. Sean November 22, 2009

    I have used the French cleat for years. I even used it to hang my HDTV to the wall. I added a locking pin so it would not fall or lift off with out the pins removed. The result is a near flush fit to the wall.

  31. dan rightler November 28, 2009

    this is a great idea. i have already cut my pieces and am ready to start hangin’

  32. CrackPotWoody(Gregg) November 28, 2009

    Nice little project. I guess I need to add one to my todo list.

  33. Dave Charron November 30, 2009

    For something like a heavy tool cabinet, is a 3/4″ cleat thick enough to handle the load? At what weight should a thicker cleat be considered? Also, for a standard 2×4 wall, is there a concern with adding too much weight? I guess the question there is whether the cleat directs the force down the wall verses away from the wall. Maybe it’s only a concern if you hang a very deep and heavy object.

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 30, 2009

      You might want to consult a structural engineer for answers to these questions Dave. But I can tell you from experience that a heavy tool cabinet hangs quite securely from a 3/4″ baltic birch strip. I suppose there is a limit, though I have no idea what that is.

      And I also have no idea about the max load on a couple of studs. But I can’t imagine hanging anything so heavy or deep that it would be an issue (at least in my shop).

  34. Geno November 30, 2009

    I have a 26″ flatscreet TV. I grabbed some bolts that fit the threads where you can install a hanging system. Instead went with a french cleat from some scrap 1″ ply and it worked great, and is very stable. Wouldn’t go much heavier though. Better than using the $120 factory system (what warranty?).

  35. John November 30, 2009

    I saw an article in a woodworking magazine by Jock Holmen where he did the same type of wall system. He used 3/4″ plywood with a larger 1/4″ plywood front to make a slot system. I was going to use this in my garage workshop, but then I stumbled across this video. Your system seems alot quicker and easier. Which system do you think would be stronger? Thank you for the great ideas!

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 30, 2009

      Hey John. Hard to say since I don’t completely understand the system you describe by Mr. Holmen. Do you have a picture or something that I can see what the system looks like?

      • John December 2, 2009

        http://americanwoodworker.com/.....-shop.aspx

        This is the link that opens the site. Let me know if this doesn’t work.

        Thank you,
        John

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer December 3, 2009

          Well, after looking at his design, I would might be a little stronger. But I am only guessing. I don’t think that its so much stronger that it justifies all the extra work though. To me, the beauty of a French Cleat is how easy it is to make. And although the article calls that process “easy”, its no where near as easy as making two cuts on one piece of ply and being done.

        • John December 5, 2009

          Thanks! That’s about what I was thinking. Thanks for the great ideas and awesome website

  36. Robert Palmeter December 3, 2009

    I have used the french cleat to hang cabinets, headboards, framed art, etc. I think your modular wall unit is the best use yet.

    Robert

  37. David December 15, 2009

    Amazing…so simple. I have been working in shops for 20 years and hadn’t seen this. Called my Dad and asked why he hadn’t shown me. He didn’t know about them. Amazing, I finally get to show him something. He’s coming to visit and I think we’ll line my garage with them and cut enough while he’s here to line his. Thanks, hopefuly, I can do a before and after.

  38. Mike January 3, 2010

    I am in the process of re-organizing my garage/workshop. This is going to save me lots of time and money. Thanks for the great tip.
    Mike

  39. Christopher February 25, 2010

    I love this! I’ve been hanging cabinets with French cleats for years, but I never considered making a storage rack. Brilliant!

    Now I’m looking at my shop and wondering which wall it’s going on…why is it that our shops are never big enough!?

    Awesome video-
    Christopher

  40. Christopher March 25, 2010

    Just put up my new (nuts and bolts) open shelf cabinet with this method. Works great, but one word of advice…watch your fingers when lining up a heavy cabinet. That pinch hurts!

    • Nelson May 21, 2010

      Blood blisters suck.. OWWW!

  41. Gary July 17, 2010

    love this system – I have used it sparingly – but have always known that I should wrap certain walls with these cleats. Just a great and super simple way to get stuff off the floor or table tops that are really meant for other things.

  42. Hi,

    I designed a few specific and generic holders based on the french cleat system.
    For those who are interested I attached the sketchup plan in the forum at:
    http://woodtalkonline.com/topi.....ge-design/

  43. John October 24, 2010

    Gonna use the system in my cargo trailer. It looks to be a good option for transfering screws, hardware and tools from trailer to jobsite to shop.

  44. Stephen Hoppe December 13, 2010

    Great video, was wondering if it is possible to use 1/2″ plywood or 5/8″ instead of 3/4″ is kind of pricy. Not going to hold anything above 5lbs/tool anyway.

    Already did the frame work, going to paint the boards in between white. This is too make my small shop brighter. In the basement, the wall is the other side of staircase, which I shored up with 1×2″ strips for stability. This tool rack is above my work table. Space is important,because my shop is only 10 x 10′ every tool is on wheels and so far is fine.

    thx (the hoppe woodworker)

  45. Lori December 14, 2010

    Thanks for the ideas Marc!!! I cut my first cleats (sp?) yesterday and I will probably have to complete the system after the holidays..but I’m looking forward to being more organized in the shop, which allows me to spend more time on actual woodworking!!! :)

  46. Carlos Siu December 15, 2010

    Hi Marc, let me tell you; your website is the best I

  47. Tom January 2, 2011

    Marc: I guess I’m a bit late to this party, but this is a great tip. I was going nuts trying to figure out how to store my various jigs. This approach made it a breeze to turn some scrap plywood into a simple storage solution. My jigs are now hanging in an alcove behind a door!

    Thanks for all the great tips!

    -Tom

  48. Bruce March 13, 2011

    really great storage system, I will definitely be using this is my shop to store all manner of things

    as I don’t have a table saw, could this be done using a mitre saw with bevel feature such as that on the kapex?

    thanks

  49. Oh man… thanks so much for this! I was playing around this weekend, using my scrap plywood to make a “DIY pegboard.” Now I feel just a bit foolish for drilling all those holes :)

  50. Brian May 14, 2011

    Thanks for this. I so wanna make a setup like this. It’s easy and extremely effective. My shop ie. half of a two car garage is getting kinda crowded and a lot of that is because I made a chisel case, a holder for turning tools, and so many other things that can be mounted on the wall, and peg board won’t hold those things.

  51. Hi,
    I’m making a sliding cabinet system and am planning on using french cleats. What are ways I can make it more stable and able to carry more weight. Using thicker ply? More screws into the wall? Deeper angle? Thank you!

    •  

      More screws and thicker ply could very well make the system stronger. But by how much, I have no idea. I am guessing that a steeper angle could also make the system stronger too. But I don’t really have much in the way of data on that.

      • Tim February 5, 2013

        Love this idea, got curious about loading so Idid a quick analysis. If you want to size it, the load on the screws is:
        W x cg/L + Fc.
        W = total load cabinet + stuff
        cg = distance from wall to cg, half the cabinet depth is good enough here
        L = distance from bottom of cabinet to top of wall cleat, assumes cabinet touches wall at the bottom. If it does not touch, then this is the height of the cleat. So 3/4″ x 2″ x 3′ cleat means L = 2
        Fc = force due to 45 deg. wedge, in this case it is W/2
        Example:
        36″ wide x 30″ tall by 24″ deep cabinet.
        cg = 24/2 = 12″
        Weight = 200lbs
        Fc = W/2 = 200/2 = 100lbs
        If the cleat is mounted 24″ from bottom of cabinet:
        L = 24″

        200 x 12/24 + 100 = 200 lbs <-this is what the screws must hold
        Quick websearch for screw pull-out forces in 3/4" plywood:
        #6 = 300 lbs
        #8 = 355 lbs
        #10 = 415 lbs
        #12 = 479 lbs
        Give yourself a good measure of safety due to cost of screws and variables, longer screws will have higher pull-out forces, but I'd go at least an inch into studs.
        I'd say 4 #8's or #10's should do the trick.
        If you just hang the cabinet off a 2" high cleat the force jumps to 1300 lbs!.
        So, making the cabinet touch the wall at the bottom greatly reduces the load on the screws. If you've got a 24" span between studs I'd make the cleat much taller and use more screws, especially in an unfinished garage where there is nothing behind the cleat between the studs (doubling up thickness behind it in this case would be a good idea and easy to do). Hope this is useful, I've got a spreadsheet but no way to post it…

        • Fabiano August 12, 2013

          Tim,
          I appreciate you calculations and love to have your spreadsheet.
          I’m looking to build a french cleat or wall slat system ( http://americanwoodworker.com/.....-shop.aspx ), but not sure wich one works better.
          What do you think?

  52. Rob Schneider December 7, 2012

    French Cleat a Great Idea. Differently cheaper the buying the wall grid from sears.

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