How To Make French Cleats? The Best Method For Hanging A Cabinet.

If you’ve ever had to hang a heavy cabinet on the wall and thought to yourself; “How am I going to get this heavy thing hung up and level on this wall?”

Then the French cleat is the perfect method for you.  Here is a boiled down simple process of steps to help you speed through hanging your cabinet.

How To Make French Cleats?

  • Start with a 3/4 piece of plywood.
  • Tilt your table saw blade to a 45 degree angle
  • Draw a line approx. where your cut needs to be at the center of the board. A 3” board would need to be cut at 1’ 1/8”
  • Set your blade height slightly above the piece of wood.
  • Use a push stick to push the wood through the blade.
  • Use a hand plane to smooth out any rough pieces left on your cut.
  • Mount the french cleat to the back side of the cabinet.
  • Make sure to mount the cleat so that the groove piece fits on the underside to attach it to the wall.
  • If you add a 2nd mount piece with the same thickness to the bottom of the cabinet this will allow the cabinet to be flush and not move around when hanging on the wall.
  • Mount the 2nd piece of your cleat on the wall and use a level prior to fully anchoring the piece into the studs with multiple wood screws in each stud.
  • Now take the cabinet and hook it onto the clean.

Using a French Cleat allows mobility for whatever your mounting on the wall because it is so easy to add and remove by just lifting and hooking onto the mount.

Watch this video below to see these steps in action.

How To Make French Cleats?

Woodworking Tip:

If you want your custom cabinet to lay snug against the wall you can set your backing of the cabinet in from the edge enough to fit the cleat piece snug with the edge of the cabinet leaving a flush tight fit against the wall.

5 Mistakes When Building A French Cleat.

#1 Don’t Accidentally Glue Your Cabinet To The Wall.

Be careful when gluing your cleat to the back of your cabinet because glue can squeeze out of the edges underneath the cleat after pressing it firm. 

If you place the cabinet onto your wall mount prior to the glue drying or wiping away any excess glue you can accidentally glue your cabinet to the wall mounted cleat.

#2 Don’t Forget To Add A Spacer To The Bottom Of Heavy Cabinets.

If you only have the French cleat mounted toward the top of your cabinet there will be a gap at the bottom preventing the cabinet from sitting flush against the wall.  With heavier cabinets they can start to rock back and forth.

Eventually this will wear out your cleat and it could fall off the wall damaging the cabinet and materials inside. Remember to add an additional piece of wood the same width as a spacer to the back of the cabinet to avoid this.

#3 Make Sure Your Wall Cleat and Cabinet Mounted Cleat Are The Same Thickness.

If the thickness of your pieces aren’t the same size this will also allow your cabinet to rock back and forth causing the same potential damage to your cleats as well as potential for the cabinet to fall.

#4 Make Sure Your Wall Cleats Are Correctly Spaced Apart.

This is important so that you have enough space in between the wall mounted cleats to fit the piece you want to hang on each cleat because it has to fit in and slide down over the cleat.  If you hang the wall mounted cleats too close together your mounted pieces won’t fit and you will need to rehang your wall mounts to allow for enough space.

#5 Don’t Make Locking Cleats.

You may be thinking it will be extra sturdy if you add a locking mount at the bottom of your cabinet.  It’s always best to think of the safest way to build something but this can be problematic. 

It is difficult to attach your piece to the wall mounted French cleat with the locking mount at the bottom unless you slide it on from the end of the wall cleat.  Depending on your design or the mobility of the piece this will become difficult if you have to slide it on and off each time instead of just lifting.

What Type Of Wood Should I Use For A French Cleat?

French cleats are made out of plywood.  ¾ inch plywood is the most common size used for French Cleats but you can use any size you have available as long as the cabinet mounted cleat and wall mounted cleat are the same size.

It is best to mount the same size piece of plywood as a space to the bottom as well to prevent the cabinet from rocking back and forth.

How Strong Is A French Cleat?

The wooden cleat itself isn’t the main concern when it comes to the weight your holding up. ¾ inch plywood can hold quite the load. If the item your mounting is more front heavy then something more thick is suggested.  The main component taking the brunt of the stress from the weight is how you mount the cleats to your wall. 

Make sure to locate the studs in the wall to mount the French cleats to instead of just the drywall.  Drywall screws may be more affordable but make sure to use #10 or #12 wood screws and the heavier the item the more screws per stud. 

Overall if you are hanging a heavy item on the wall using the French Cleat method it is the easiest to level because you just have to level the wall mounted cleat instead of holding the heavy item on the wall to level then screw it into the wall studs.

How To Make French Cleats Without A Table Saw.

#1 Use A Circular Saw:

When using this method choose a 1 X 8 piece of wood because you need to place a straight edge along this. If you use a smaller piece of wood there is a higher chance of getting cut. It is suggested to cut the edges of the wood first then going back and cut down the middle.

Line up your straight edge and clamp it and your wood down to your table so everything is secure.  Tilt your circular saw blade to a 45 degree angle. Then make your cuts starting with the edges.

#2 Use A Jigsaw:

Not as fast as circular saw but you can tilt the base of the jigsaw and make a slow straight cut. 

Set up a straight edge/fence then clamp it and your 1 X 8 piece of wood to the edge of your table and check for room underneath so you don’t cut into anything. Make sure your jigsaw base runs along your straight edge/fence. Take your time to get the most accurate cut.

#3 Use A Miter Saw:

If you have a sliding miter saw you could do longer pieces but if not it is best for smaller cleat pieces. This can be a dangerous method because when the blade is coming down it puts a lot of pressure on the wood which could cause it to move with smaller pieces. 

It is safer to cut your 45 degree angle cut on a longer piece then come back later and cutting the long piece to the smaller size needed.  With a sliding miter saw you will be able to cut the length of a longer piece of wood.

#4 Use A Bandsaw:

Set your saw base at a 45 degree angle to make the French cleat cut.  If your bandsaw doesn’t come with a fence you can create one by clamping a straight piece of wood onto the bandsaw table base. Slide your piece of wood slowly along the fence through the bandsaw blade to make your cut.

#5 Use A Handsaw:

 A basic pull saw is recommended because you will have more control.  Place your piece of wood in a vise to hold it in position while you cut. Use a speed square to measure the 45 degree angle on the end then draw a straight line down the wood as a guide for your cut. 

It can be helpful to score the start of your cut to help get it started.  Once you have cut down the edge of the vise remove and flip over to finish the cut.

If you want to make the cuts extra smooth you can always run a hand plan over them to smooth out any rough edges.

Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

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