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While French cleat systems for woodshop walls are well-known, the concept of utilizing French cleats inside tool cabinets remains relatively unfamiliar to many. The limited popularity of this approach in woodworking circles can be attributed to a couple of factors. Firstly, adding a layer of cleats topped with liner-like panels within the cabinet tends to reduce its internal volume. Additionally, traditional tool cabinets often revolve around dedicated racks, drawers, and hanging systems customized to accommodate specific tools with unique dimensions. Creating a modular and flexible system based on French cleats challenges the conventional design of such cabinets.

However, for my specific needs and the requirements of my school’s shop, an empty cabinet with a French cleat system inside has proven to be the optimal solution for our ever-changing tool storage and placement demands. The system I’ve constructed relies on a few strips of French cleats connected to the back of an empty tool cabinet. These cleats can accept panels of varying lengths and widths.

The French cleat I installed inside our tool cabinet is narrower than the one installed on the walls of my garage shop.

In the case of the cabinet showcased in the pictures, I designed it to primarily house our saws and some containers for other tools and fasteners. On the left panel, I arranged our most valuable and delicate Japanese saws; each allocated a specific slot on a custom-built rack securely screwed onto the panel. The middle panel is dedicated to rasps, with some of the more frequently used round rasps placed in the rack’s holes and newly bought rasps hung over simple screws.

The right rack employs a different hanging system, utilizing cup magnets connected to the panel. This arrangement allows me to hang saws that aren’t frequently used. The magnets offer flexibility in choosing which saw to connect to, providing an easy way to pull the saw out and return it to the cabinet.

A French cleat system like this can incorporate panels of varying heights stacked one above the other. These panels can be removed and taken to the work location. For instance, a panel might contain a typical tool kit for a project, such as a saw, a few chisels, and rasps. Once finished working, you can bring the panel back to the cabinet and hang it until needed again.

Another advantage of this system is the ease of rearranging racks and hanging hardware on the panels. Instead of dealing with screwing and unscrewing hanging modules onto the back of the cabinet, you simply pull out the panel and work on it separately to accommodate new tools or rearrange existing ones.

Consider adopting this system for your needs and give it a try. One thing I can attest to is its superior robustness and convenience compared to most pegboards, with the negligible loss in inner cabinet real estate being outweighed by the advantages of modularity and ease of use.

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