If you’re like me, you’d rather be working on a project instead of organizing your tools. However, there comes a time when enough is enough. The motivation to whip my shop into shape came after looking for tools that are always in the bottom of a drawer covered by everything I don’t need at the moment. As of late, my woodworking time has been hijacked by a mix of poo filled diapers and less than optimal sleep. So, I figured it’s time to stack the deck in my favor and add some French cleat storage area to my shop.
French cleats are a great modular storage system that allow you to rearrange objects without hunting for studs in the wall every time you need to hang something. By adding these to my workbench, this is a two-fold win. For one, adding a plywood sheet to the bench that the French cleats will attach to covers up the back of all those drawers I recently installed. Secondly, I now have a roughly 3′ x 2′ area of modular storage on one side of the bench and 1.5′ x 2′ on the other side!
So what is a French cleat? It’s simply a board that has been cut with an angle (I used 45°) on it’s long side and attached to a surface with the angle sloping in. The other half of the board that’s been cut is then attached to something, be it a bracket for tool storage or the back of a cabinet for mounting on the wall. Yeah that’s right…you can hang cabinets with French cleats! This system is really handy for small shops because as your needs change or new tools are acquired, you don’t have to spend hours finding studs to rehang cabinets shelves or whatever else you keep on your walls. It’s gonna happen, trust me 🙂
For my project, I took a piece of 3/4″ plywood that was 5″ wide and ripped it on a 45° with one half being about 3″ wide and the other roughly 2.5″ wide at the widest points. Now, if you want your life to be a little easier, just rip both pieces to be the same size 🙂 Also, the length of these rails is determined by your needs. If you have a 2′ section that you’re wanting to hang french cleats on, then your board would be 2′. See how that works?
The piece that’s 3″ wide is then mounted to either the wall, or in this case, a sheet of plywood. Mount the rail with the 45° angle sloping towards the wall/plywood as shown below.
Now take the 2.5″ cleat and attach it to a bracket or whatever it is that you’re wanting to hang. The orientation of the cleat should reflect what’s shown in the image below. The cleat’s placement on the item you wish to hang is of some importance. Generally when using just one cleat to hang your items from, you want it to be located towards the top of your bracket, cabinet, or whatever you’re hanging up. At a minimum, the item to be hung should extend past the support rail when everything is in place. See steps 3 and 4 in the pdf below for further clarification.French-Cleats-Diagram-Rev03
I’m mainly intending to store woodturning accessories and tools on these french cleats since it’s located close to Big Blue. So lets build a couple hangers!
The first one is for storing a tool that cuts the center out of a wooden bowl in one solid hunk! First off I grab the three knives and arrange them how I’d like them to be stored and decide that I’d like to store them in a vertical orientation. In the photo below, I’m simply tracing around the knives onto a piece of 3/4″ plywood.
With the knives traced, I cut out the inside on the bandsaw and tested the fit. This needs to be just snug enough that the knives won’t wobble around too much, but will still slide freely.
Now, with another block of plywood that’s the same size as the last, I draw a rectangle that corresponds with the previous cut. I then head over to the bandsaw and again cut out the center.
I glue up the two pieces and throw in a couple brads to hold everything together while the glue dries.
I now cut two pieces of 1/4″ luan for the front and back and again glue and brad the piece of luan in place.
Before gluing on the front, I insert the knives and temporarily clamp the front piece of luan in place to see how everything fits. Good thing! I discovered that the knives weren’t held securely enough and would lean forward when in the vertical position. No good, so I added a small spacer as shown below.
Now with everything as it should be, I used glue and brads to attach the remaining piece of luan. It is shorter in the front to allow the knives to slightly pivot as they are removed.
Now onto mounting this bad boy to the french cleat! Very scientifically, I hold the piece & cleat in position against the rail and mark where the cleat should be attached to by tool holder. I could have just measured about 3 1/4″ from the bottom of my tool holder and mounted the cleat accordingly, but I wanted to maximize my usable space around these knives.
I used two #8 x 1.5″ drywall screws to attach the cleat to the tool holder. Here we are all wrapped up with this one! Like a boss!
The above process is simply a guide and can certainly be modified as needed for whatever specific needs you may have.
This photo shows how I utilized the french cleat system to hold a 24″ handle and the tool rest used with my hollowing knives.
Lets say you have lots of similarly shaped items you need to store, but making individual brackets just doesn’t make sense. What I did was just grab a piece of 1/2″ MDF and layout the items in the most practical way possible and used screws to support everything.
Works like a charm! I even made a little bracket to hold the armrest for some woodturning hollowing tools. Note that for this bracket, the cleat that sits in the rail is much longer than needed to simply hold the bracket. I did this because otherwise the bracket would be rather unstable, plus I had the available space and didn’t want to take chances. 🙂
To store all of my hammers and mallets, I again put a series of screws into a board of mdf with all of the items laid out. I’m very happy with the result.
Well, there you have it! Now, go run rails all around your shop and feel the infinite flexibility that this mounting technique offers. Ok, maybe not all over the shop, but you get what I’m saying!
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.
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