Monday, May 15, 2017

French Cleat Wall Shelf System

For 3 years now I've been living in Arizona, and have thoroughly enjoyed my workshop garage. 


In the photo below you can see my workshop as it appeared about a month after I moved in.  All I had were 2 work benches, 2 saw horses and a 2x4 screwed to the wall to hold clamps.  The garage walls themselves were unfinished, and had several patches where the previous occupants obviously hung stuff from.


I have also played a big part in knocking holes in the walls with all my shelves and whatnot, and recently I decided to take it all down...


...patch up the holes and repaint the walls.


I'm no expert at painting walls so it took me some time to do...


...plus my workshop is pretty packed with stuff...


...I had to somehow put all my stuff somewhere where it wasn't in the way while painting each wall.


Between my job and working in my 90-100 degree+ garage, it took me 3 days to fix up and paint the walls.  While painting I thought of ways to make better wall shelves without punching so many holes in the wall.  So I thought I'd add French Cleats to the walls.

For those that might not know what French Cleats are, they are simply a long piece of wood screwed to the walls (at each stud).  The top of each piece is cut at a 45 degree angle, like the image below.  The cleat (seen in yellow) has the point of the 45-degree cut pointing up and outwards away from the wall.


Then you put another cleat (also cut to 45 degrees) onto whatever it is you want to hang on the wall, similar to whats pictured below in red.  This cleat's point is downward and pointing towards the wall.


The 2 cleats interlock, creating a strong hold that won't easily come off.  Anything you put on these cleats can also easily be lifted, taken off, and moved.


So my plan is to add these cleats on each wall of my garage workshop.  To add 3 levels of cleats to each of the 3 walls in my workshop shouldn't require too many pieces of 8-foot long lumber, cut in half (at a 45-degree angle) lengthwise.


So once I finished painting all the walls, I went out and bought the wood that I needed.  I opted to get 1x4 lumber cut to 6-foot lengths since it was only $2 a board and easily fit in my car.  I can actually fit 8-feet-long lumber in my car at a diagonal, but on this trip my fiancee was in the car with me, so 6-foot lumber will do.


Then I took everything that was on top of my table saw off (I was using it as storage space for all the stuff that once was on the wall shelves).  I set the blade angle to 45 degrees, using my speed square.


Then I ripped one board, creating 2 cleats.


Next I looked around my messy workshop and found my stud finder and measuring tape.


I found a stud at one end of the wall and made a mark with pencil.


Then I measured how high I want the first cleat - 75" from the ground.  I made a mark at the 75" point where the stud is.


Then I drilled a hole in the cleat and screwed it to the wall, at the stud.


Since my garage floor is uneven, I used my long level to get the cleat straight.  Again I used the stud finder to help screw the other end of the cleat into a stud.


Once both ends of the cleat were screwed to studs I used the stud finder to find the other studs in the wall and drove 2 more screws, thoroughly clamping the cleat to the wall.


I repeated the process for the second cleat, 12 inches below the first one.


At this point in the day it was late and getting dark, but I wanted to see how well the french cleats work.  So I actually found a smaller piece of wood that was already cut at a 45 degree angle.  I cut that piece in half and attached it to both ends of one of my wall shelves.


Then I hung it on the wall and the cleats work!


The 2 small cleats on the back of the shelf do a great job despite being small.  I placed some of my tools on the shelf to see how well it holds the weight and it did so just fine.


Feeling accomplished I cleaned up for the night.  Tomorrow will be a big day.
The next morning I went about cutting more strips of wood.


I repeated the processes from the night before and attached 3 rows of cleats.


I only did one wall for now just to test out everything.


Once that was done I began putting cleats onto my old shelves.


Then up they went.


As I began putting stuff back on the shelves, I felt I perhaps put them up a little too high.  So I made a 4th row underneath.


This will be a good spot to put things like power strips...


...or extension cords.


After a short while of putting things back, my workshop was starting to feel right again...at least this wall does.


So I began working on the next wall.  This time I decided to make a spacer to easily space the cleats.  The bottom of this spacer was cut at a 45 degree angle so it would fit in the cleat below.


I then ran out of all the 6-foot pieces of wood I bought the day before.


How did I run out when I thought I bought enough wood for the whole garage?  Simple:  I bought enough wood for all the cleats that would attach to the walls.  I forgot about the cleats needed for all the shelves that I want to hang.  But it was still enough to make one more shelf hang-able.


After going to the home center and picking up a few more boards, I finished up the second wall and one more shelf.


An hour or so later as it began getting dark I put up an additional smaller shelf, and made a small shelf for smaller power strip I had and also a place to hang my dusting brush, pick up and a small extension cord for my shop vac.


Tomorrow I'll start on wall 3!
Like the previous day, I started out by making space around the wall to work and cutting the extra strips of wood I bought the day before.  I attached the cleats like the others.


Then I added cleats to the remaining shelves and put them up.


Then I spent the rest of the day cleaning up and putting my workshop back together.  With the few pieces of leftover cleats made, I created some simple things for the new wall system, such as hangers for my battery charger, hooks for holding things like extension cords...


...hand saws...


...dusting brush, pick up and another extension cord...


...a magnetic holder, my hammer...


...cork board...


...power strips...


...small shelves...


...and even somewhere to put all the free flashlights I get from Harbor Freight.  Some of my stuff didn't need hangers and could simply lay against the cleats like my circular saw guides.


I still have yet to repaint my door.  This will probably happen very soon as I am a little disgusted at the color difference.


And I definitely need to clean up all the dust everywhere.  But I love how things are looking now.


All of my shelves are the same height and can easily be moved now.


It took me a total of 5 days to do everything and it was worth it.  My workshop looks so much nicer than before.


One last thing I had to do was to put all the helmets I have left back on top of each shelf.


I spent a good amount of time cleaning these off, as dust had really collected on these guys.


But now they're back at home until someone buys them all from me.


This whole project took several days to do and cost me around $100 to do it all (including the cost of wall paint, brushes, spackle, etc).  It was hard doing everything myself, but that just makes me appreciate it all the better.

In retrospect I think this project would have been easier using plywood for all the cleats.  A lot of the boards I used were warped or bowed, which created some problems here and there.  Plywood and even particle board would have cut and hung straight, but would have been more expensive.  Perhaps in the future, in my dream workshop I'll do it all over again.  For now I am content.