Introduction: French Cleats for Exposed Studs
I recently built a shed for garden tools. I decided I wanted to use French Cleats for hangable items.
A French Cleat is a method of suspending items that involves using a base strip with a 45 degree angle on top and a hanger with a complementary angle on the bottom. The hooking action of the two angled surfaces makes for a stable joint that is adjustable and supports considerable weight.
Masonite Peg boards tend to be messy and nailing or screwing permanent supports is...well...permanent. I wanted hangers that could be moved around easily, but were fairly sturdy.
Normally the spacing of the horizontal strips is close enough to allow the vertical part of the cleat to rest on the horizontal strip below it for stability. Because I was primarily storing garden tools, I wanted the spacing to be greater, and the cleats to be more compact - similar to pegboard pegs.
Tools: 18 gauge brad nailer, 1.5" brads. (Optional, but easier to use than finishing nails or screws), Table saw.
IMPORTANT: SOME OF THE PIECES ARE SMALL. BE VERY CAREFUL USING THE NAILER AND THE TABLE SAW. BRADS IN THE NAILER CAN MISS AND POKE OUT OF THE SIDES OF THE WOOD, SO MAKE SURE THE MATERIAL IS STABLE AND KEEP FINGERS CLEAR WHILE NAILING. USE A PUSH STICK ON THE TABLE SAW.
Belt sander, Finishing sander, Foot rule or Tape measure, wood glue.
Semi gloss Paint and brush (optional)
Material: Furring strips, 3/4" plywood, 3/4 pine.(All can be scraps, but the furring strips should be long enough to bridge the 16" centers of the studs)
Step 1: The Support Strips
I ripped furring strips so one edge was beveled at 45 degrees. I then nailed them to the studs of the shed wall using the brad nailer and 1.5" brads, several at each joint.
I spaced the strips so there was approximately 8" clearance from the bottom of one to the top of the next. The spacing is not too critical, except there needs to be enough space between each strip to allow the hanger to be attached without binding.
I attached each end of the strip, using a foot rule to keep the spacing consistent. I measured the spacing on each stud while I was nailing to adjust for any warpage of the strip. I also frequently used a level and measured back to previous strips to avoid compounding errors.
I used scrap furring strips of varying lengths, so there were times that the strip didn't end on a stud. When that happened I cut the length of the strip so it and the next one both met on a stud, and I nailed each end to the stud.
Step 2: The Problem
Knowing that the premise of French Cleats is that one angled surface will hang on a complementary angled surface and provide a stable support, I made the pictured prototypes and hung them on a test jig I made.
They sort of work but there isn't enough surface area to grab the strip and provide any stability. If an item with much weight is hung on them they counter-balance and want to fall off or break the tip of the angle. When the tool is lifted off, the lack of grab causes the cleat to fall off the strip.
One problem is there isn't a wall behind the cleat to act as a back and provide a stable base. There also isn't enough length in front to bear against the next strip down and provide stability. If the cleat is put on a stud it works slightly better but it still wants to fall off when the tool is removed.
It would be possible to put a nail or a screw through the cleat into the horizontal strip, but there goes the adjustability.
Step 3: The Solution
I reasoned that if there was a piece of wood on the front and back of the strip it would add strength and stability. I had some leftover beveled furring strips that I cut for the corresponding bevel on the cleat. I used 3/4" plywood for the front and back supports to surround the horizontal strip. I had some 1" strips of pine that i cut to length for the "pegs".
Like pegboard pegs, there are numerous configurations you can make for various types of tools. Pictured are forks to support tool handles and single supports.
Step 4: Assembly of a Single Peg
This is a detail of the assembly of a single peg. All of the pieces are 1" wide. The peg is 5.5" long. The beveled piece is 2" long. The front plywood support is 2.25" long. The back support is 3" long. All of these measurements can be changed to allow for specific needs, but this seems to be a good generic design for items that can hang on a single peg.
First, put glue on the flat part of the front of the beveled piece and stand the peg up on it with one wide face of the peg aligned with the top of the beveled piece. Next, put the front plywood support against the bottom of the peg. Use the brad nailer to nail the front plywood support to the beveled piece. Make sure you don't get any nails in the beveled space, or the cleat will not seat correctly. If using finishing nails or screws, drill pilot holes.
Next, turn the cleat over, clamp the peg in a vise and nail the beveled piece to the end of the peg. If you're using a brad nailer, be careful where you put your fingers. It's possible for the brads to miss and go through the side of the wood.
Make sure the ends of the brads are flush with the wood by hammering them in or sanding with a belt sander.
Finally, add glue to the back of the beveled piece and nail the back plywood support to the back of the beveled piece. Again, make sure no nails go into the beveled part or the cleat will not sit right on the strip.
Step 5: Double Peg
The purpose of this design is to allow for a handle to hang between the pegs, or for a larger item to hang on. The beveled piece is 2" x 2". The Pegs are 1" x 5.5". The front plywood support is 2" x 3". The back plywood support is 3" x 3". As before, these dimensions can be adjusted for specific uses.
First, apply glue to the back of the beveled piece and nail it to the back plywood support with the tops even. Use the pegs to center the beveled piece. Make sure the nail heads are flush with the surface of the wood by hammering or sanding.
Next, apply glue and nail the front plywood support to the bevel with the tops even. Make sure no nails go into the angled opening.
Nail the two pegs to the beveled piece and the front plywood support.
Step 6: Making a Shelf
The shelf should not be wider than the 14.5" between the studs. All other dimensions can be adjusted for specific needs.
The front and back plywood supports of this shelf are 3" x 11". The bevel is 2" x 11". The shelf is 8" x 11"
Put glue on one surface of the bevel, nail one support to the bevel, making the tops even.
Put glue on the other surface of the bevel and nail. As before, make sure no nails go into the beveled space.
put glue on the top of the sandwich of the supports and the bevel and nail the shelf, putting nails in each of the pieces of wood for strength.
Make sure the bevel is oriented correctly or the shelf will point the wrong way. After making that mistake myself I hung the cleat on the test jig and nailed it there.
Step 7: Finishing
The cleats typically have some voids in the plywood and some minor cracks. I used wood putty to fill the cracks and smooth uneven places.
After the putty hardened, I used a belt sander to take off excess putty and sand off any nail heads or wayward nails poking through the wood. I then used an orbital sander to smooth the remaining putty.
At this point the cleats are usable or they can be painted.
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