How to Make a French Cleat

Learn how to secure heavy artwork, shelves, fixtures, and headboards to walls with a sturdy woodworking technique known as the French cleat.

With the right tools, a DIY French cleat is well within the reach of most homeowners. French cleats are made from plywood, and they're perfect for hanging heavy or bulky items flush against a wall.

To make a French cleat, you'll need access to a table saw. If you don't already own this tool, look into renting one from a local home improvement center. The saw's angled teeth are what makes it possible to align the cleats for effortless hanging.

This easy-to-follow tutorial shows you exactly how to make your own French cleat. We use our cleat to hang a headboard, but you can also use a French cleat to mount shelves, artwork, mirrors, and more.

how to make a wood cleat

What You Need

  • ¾-inch plywood
  • Table saw
  • Saw guide
  • Measuring tape
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Stud finder
  • Wood screws
  • Wall anchors, optional

Step 1: Rip Plywood

Rip down a 24-inch piece of plywood. The piece should be 5 inches wide and your desired length.

Step 2: Set Angle and Mark

Set the table saw to a 45-degree angle. Then mark the ripped piece of plywood at 3 inches wide.

Step 3: Cut Plywood

With the saw, cut a 45-degree angle at your 3-inch mark along the length of the plywood. Use a guide (or the table saw's fence) to help keep your line straight.

Step 4: Find Studs

Use a stud finder to find wall studs. Mark the placement of studs with a pencil. If you can't find the studs, or want to hang your item in an area where there are no studs, you can also use wall anchors to secure the shelf.

Editor's Tip: Wall studs are typically spaced 16-24 inches apart. Once you find the first stud, use a measuring tape to guide you towards the next one.

Step 5: Mark and Drill Holes

With the angled edge facing upward on the larger piece of plywood cleat, mark and pre-drill pilot holes. Use a level to make sure your cleat will be level. Attach the long cleat to the wall studs with wood screws.

Step 6: Mark and Drill Holes Again

With the angled edge facing downward on the back of the item you're trying to hang, mark and pre-drill pilot holes. Use a level again to make sure your cleat will be level. Attach the smaller cleat to the back of the item you're hanging with a thin line of wood glue and screws.

Step 7: Line Up

Line up the short cleat with the long cleat and hang item on wall. Ensure the cleats are properly aligned.

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