Several years ago when my daughter was born, my wife and I decided that we wanted her room to be modular and flexible enough to grow with her through the years. I have seen similar mounting rails used in Craftsman style bungalows to hang pictures (without banging nails into the beautiful paneling), DIY magazines have used variations for garage organization, and carpenters call it a "French cleat" when they utilize it to securely hang fine cabinets.
The idea is to mount a board on the wall (ideally screwed/bolted to each stud) that has a bevel cut into the top sloping toward the wall. Larger items such as chalkboards, easels, bookshelves, etc. can be easily mounted on the rail and locked in place and moved around without any hassle to any location in the room.
The best thing about this system is that you can create new or modify many existing items to work with it and have nearly infinite possibilities and combinations.
Step 1: The Prep Work
1.) Determine how high you want to place the rail on the wall.
In my example, it is 48" from the floor to the bottom of the rail. The spacing was to accomodate the light switch in the room, but otherwise, there were no obstacles. I found that when my daughter was younger (shorter) this was a little too high for her, but she has grown into it. Mark a level line along a single wall, or all the way around the room as we did.
2.) Select materials.
I used 1/4 kiln dried Douglas fir to keep it economical. For light duty I do not see why MDF wouldn't work, but if you are going to be hanging moderate to heavy items, use a real wood or even a hardwood like oak for strength.
3.) FInd your wall studs.
I like using a rare earth magnet: it picks up the nails/screws that hold the drywall in place. I have had better results with it than the sonic stud finders and it never requires batteries.
Step 2: Elbow Grease
Alright, so even with basic tools you should be able to knock out a project like this. I used a table saw, but a circular saw will do the job fine.
I took my 1x4 stock and ripped a 45 degree bevel on one edge. When I mounted the rails, I put two 3" screws into each stud. It is important to plan ahead so that joints overlap on top of studs. All in-line joints were scarfed as well.
Note the grain direction in the photo. The bevel goes with the grain. This will result in a stronger "tooth" on top of the rail. if you cut the bevel across the grain, it will still work, but you are weakening the board unnecessarily as the wood will tend to break between the growth rings.
As you begin to mount the boards, you will need to decide whether to putty over the screw heads (like I did), plug them, or leave the heads exposed. At the very least, ensure the heads are counter-sunk flush with the surface of the rail so that any hanging objects don't get caught up on the screws.
Step 3: Finish Work
After you get the rail mounted, prep for paint and get to it. We used the rail as a chair rail moulding to divide the wall. Remember that if you paint the inside of the bevel, it will need to dry for a week or more before hanging anything from it, otherwise the paint with adhere to the object you are hanging and it will be stuck in place (that's experience talking...two days wasn't enough). With the 45 degree bevel, though, you honestly cannot tell if the inside of the bevel is painted at all unless you put your face against the wall.
Step 4: Accessorizing and Final Thoughts
I have been very happy with the performance of the rail so far. I have only built a couple of units for it, but I plan more in the future. If you are going to attach heavy items, be sure to use strong enough materials and the appropriate number of rails so the whole thing doesn't rip out of your wall and come crashing down.
The safety of your system is up to you after all.
Some ideas I have had for add-ons going forward are:
- small desk (for grade-school years)
- general purpose shelves
- attaching floor furniture to wall (we do live in earthquake country)
- guitar/instrument wall mount
- shadow boxes
The list goes on and on.
Some recent magazines have used this same basic system (multiplied x 100) to clean up a garage too. I thought that was awesome, since we built this before that was published.
Have fun and let me know what you think. We are always entertaining ideas for other add-ons to build or upgrades!