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How to make a simple shelf hung with a french cleat.

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This instructable shows how I used an old oak table leaf to construct a simple yet durable wall shelf which is hung using a french cleat. I know there are lots of intructables about how to make a shelf, but I am particularly fond of the french cleat hanging method due to it's simple construction and how much easier it is to hang a shelf.

Needed:
Some scrap lumber
1/4" wood dowels
wood or hot glue
sandpaper
tape measure or ruler
saw (preferably with a tilting table or blade to allow for angled cuts such as band or table saw)
drill
stain
wood screws
 
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Step 1: Select some lumber.

Picture of Select some lumber.
Here are a couple of the oak table leaves I found in my attic which were missing the rest to make a table.

Step 2: Cut the surface area.

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The leaves were about 12" wide and several feet long so first I cut the leaves into 15" lengths.

Step 3: Divide to make 2 shelf surfaces.

Picture of Divide to make 2 shelf surfaces.
I then cut the 15" length so that I now had 2 15" x 6" surfaces.

Step 4: The cleat "hanger"

Picture of The cleat "hanger"
Now cut several 1"x3/4"x9" strip(s), depending on the number of shelves you plan on building. I cut more than enough because spares never hurt.

Step 5: Cut the cleat at a 45 degree angle.

Picture of Cut the cleat at a 45 degree angle.
Next I cut the strip(s) at a 45 degree angle leaving a 1/4" area to drill holes in for mounting. This will make more sense later.

Step 6: Sides

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I took a 12"x6" length of wood and cut it in half to make two 6"x6" square pieces. I did this because I am making several shelves. You could simply cut one 6" piece.

Step 7: Draw a pattern

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Using a pencil I measured and drew the lines to make the side support brackets. I decided on a triangle using slightly different dimensions for each side. They are as follows: 4-1/2"x5-1/2"x6-1/2" The bottom I cut so that it is flat and does not come to a point. Again the pictures are worth at least several sentences.

Step 8: Cut the pattern.

Picture of Cut the pattern.
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Cutting the first angle. I decided to cut the inside out and make the angles 3/4" and 1" to keep in the spirit of making this using a bunch of different dimensions. I should also point out the lack of point at the bottom is 1" wide as well.

Step 9: Copy the side.

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What's an easy way to make sure that both sides would be the same? Trace the first one of course!
When cutting the traced second side be sure to cut directly on the line to ensure a nice duplication.

Step 10: Round the shelf surface edges.

Picture of Round the shelf surface edges.
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In this picture I am rounding the edges with my basic 1/2" round over router bit. I only rounded the top front, left and right side. All other exposed edges I sanded lightly using my large dremel sanding drum so that the edges had a slight uneven round to them.

Step 11: Light sand.

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I gave the edges of the sides a slight round by using my dremel sanding drum. Since these were table leaves in a previous life they have a fairly heavy dark finish on them. Initially I was going to sand them bare, refinish and polyurethane them but then decided to dull the finish by lightly sanding with 80 grit paper and than stain with Old English dark touch up stain. Here I am sanding.

Step 12: Drill the shelf cleat and shelf top.

Picture of Drill the shelf cleat and shelf top.
I then flipped the shelf top upside down and center the angle cut 9" piece so that the angled portion faces the front. Using a 1/4" wood drill bit I drilled 1 hole on each side so that they went completely through the angled piece and 1/4" into the shelf top. I secured the angle piece using two 1" long pieces of wood dowel which I glued into each hole then sanded them even with the angled surface.

Step 13: Cut the dowel.

Picture of Cut the dowel.
Cutting the wood dowel. Note: I sometimes disregard safe power tool practices during my projects. This pictures shows one of them. Cut your dowel by hand, with the use of a fence or other Safe means unlike the way I do it.

Step 14: Insert the dowels with glue and sand even.

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Here are the dowels glued in place and sanded even.

Step 15: Attach the sides.

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Using the same drill, cut dowel, and glue method I attached the side supports to the shelf top. Line each side up evenly, trace around the bottom using a pencil, then draw a line from each corner of the square to make an X. The middle of the X is where you drill the hole. Use this method on both the shelf top and the joining end of each support.

Step 16: Drill the other portion of the cleat to be attached to the wall.

Picture of Drill the other portion of the cleat to be attached to the wall.
I then drilled 3 holes through the bottom of the mate to the angled piece. This piece has a flat 1/4" area which will be flush with the wall. This particular type of mounting bracket is called a French Cleat. It is simple and strong. As you can see I have the shelf stained at this point. I didn't get a picture of the staining process. Basically I just used a rag and wiped the whole thing with Old English stain and allowed it to dry.

Step 17: Level and mark.

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To make sure that the shelf was level I held it in against the wall in the position where I wanted it hung and placed a level on top. I then drew two small lines at the bottom of the shelf cleat.

Step 18: Screw the mounting cleat to the wall.

Picture of Screw the mounting cleat to the wall.
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Next I screwed the bottom half of the cleat to the wall slightly covering the lines using three 3" multipurpose screws. I used a level once more before driving in the last screw.

Step 19: Hang the shelf.

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Finally I simply slid the shelf down onto the cleat which is attached to the wall. The only thing I plan to do differently in the future is to countersink the screw holes and plug them after the cleat is mounted.
I think you'll find that while there are a few extra steps to make this type of mount, it pays off when it comes time to hang the shelf.
Tagwatts11 year ago
You make this very simple, I hope I can build something close to what you have designed. I need to make the shelves a 48 inches in length.
steven_t_953 years ago
i am doing this project in highschool and i have to wright abunch of stuff down for the presentation but some of the stuff was missing like, how much the shelf can hold and the size. but i could find everything else.
mattl (author)  steven_t_953 years ago
Hi, the surface of the shelf is 6" deep and 15" wide. I have placed potted plants that weigh as much as 5lbs on it when watered. I would think you could put as much as 10lbs of weight on them. The key is whether you are able to drive the screws into a wall stud or something of similar strength. French cleats can bare a large amount of weight due to how they distribute it evenly over several anchors.
Hope this helps and good luck with your project!
-Matt
Dipankar6 years ago
What I would give to have a workshop like yours except money. Here it will cost a fortune. Your work is good, should be with tools like that.
mattl (author)  Dipankar6 years ago
I can appreciate that. I have purchased major power tools one at a time as I can afford them or have requested them as gifts for birthdays etc. Honestly, a $100 band saw is an extremely worthwhile investment; a tie is a good drill (drill press or hand drill) followed by a table saw. The band saw is great because it has a small footprint and is very versatile.
mattl (author) 6 years ago
Thank you for your kind comments. I'm all about detail.
Sandisk1duo6 years ago
Very well documented!
shooby6 years ago
This is far more elegant than the use of two solid right-angled triangles, nice job.