How to Make a French Cleat

By Mason Howard

A nail will not properly support weighty artworks, hidden-bracket shelves or other protruding objects on the wall. Safely hang larger items on the wall with French cleats. A French cleat consists of two pieces that lock together with corresponding, angled edges. One attaches to the wall and the other attaches to the back of the item to hang. Create a French cleat out of wood, using a saw with an adjustable blade angle.

Cut a board to the necessary cleat length, using a chop or hand miter saw. Cleat lengths can range from one quarter width to the same width as the item.

Set a saw blade to a 45-degree angle and rip the board down the middle with a table, jig, band or circular saw. Sand any rough edges with sandpaper.

Pick one half of the board to attach to the back of the item to be hung. Drill two pilot holes through the top side of the board (the side with the angled cut), at either end. Use a countersink drill bit, which will allow screw heads to lie below the surface of the wood. Add a third pilot hole in the center of a board that is longer than 12 inches.

Place the board at the back of the item, against the inside, upper edge with the angle of the cut pointing down and out (where it will be against and pointing toward the wall). Screw the board in place.

Drill two pilot holes through the side of the other board.

Hold the board against the wall in the desired hanging location, with the angle of the cut pointing up and out. Place a level on top to ensure that the board is even, then screw it to the wall.

Hang the item on the board on the wall, fitting the angles of the boards together.

About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.