Cleats are one of the simplest methods of hanging something on walls, but they’re often overlooked. Attaching them requires slightly more time and effort than attaching cupboard hangers, keyhole hangers or picture hooks, but their capacity to support heavy loads, particularly when the cleats are attached to wall studs, makes the effort worth it.
I’ve used a French cleat, which includes two interlocking parts cut most frequently at a 45-degree angle, many occasions over time for various types of projects, including a TV cabinet, a headboard and just a birdhouse.
How Cleats Work
Cleats in general attribute two parts. One is joined to the job (job cleat), and one is attached to the wall (wall cleat). Here it isn’t hard to observe how the two parts of a French cleat fit together. The base part is attached to the wall socket (notice the screw holes). I advise attaching hefty projects to as many wall studs as you can.
It is possible to base your screw placements on the width of the job (along with the cleat), and also the job of the screws relative to the studs. For smaller projects that can’t be placed at a stud, use heavy-duty wall anchors.
French cleats have long been used by cabinetmakers to hang cabinets, but they might be useful for any number of endeavors, even something as simple as a birdhouse.
Here again you can see just how the two parts of the cleat — one on the back of the birdhouse, the other on the fence post — come together. See that the job cleat is briefer than the cleat attached to the fence post. That is to encourage the base of the birdhouse and keep it from tipping back toward the post. You might also add a smaller filler strip (with the same width as the cleat) near the base.
Cleats Included in the Structure’s Layout
A French cleat also can be incorporated as part of the simple structure of a job, rather than being a component added to the back. As you can see here, the top rail of this frame has the 45-degree bevel cut on one border. For thick cabinets two job cleats are often used. This necessitates two wall cleats.
By adding the cleat this manner, the entire frame is flush against the wall. In this design the wall cleat isn’t as broad as the job cleat. This allows the job to be set on the cleat more easily and corrected slightly left to right as required. If the wall cleat matched the width of the job cleat, it would be too tight to set in place.
Making a French Cleat
Start by marking a centerline Throughout the thickness on the conclusion of a board. Then mark a 45-degree line bisecting this centerline, as you see. Line this up mark with the saw’s blade.
Remember to allow for the thickness of the blade (kerf) when trimming, as this will slightly impact the width of the cleats. As a general guideline, allow ⅛ inch for the blade.
Rip (cut lengthwise) that the cleats as you would ordinarily tear any board. It’s generally recommended to tear a cleat first, then crosscut it to match afterwards. Why? Longer boards are generally easier (and safer) to tear on a table saw, and you are able to cut off any imperfections which occur on each end of the board.
Here, with security equipment eliminated for clarity, you can see the blade cutting through the board.
More: Watch how to use a French cleat to hang out a headboard