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Like many other woodworkers, I work in a small garage shop where every square inch is precious. So, making good use of my wall space was essential. Sure, I could have attached different tool racks or shelves to the drywall using screws and anchors, but I decided to go with the more flexible technique of hanging French cleats along the walls. These horizontal hooks can be used as versatile anchors for panels or boxes. The French cleat system allows me to easily relocate the wall fixture and move it to a new location or replace it with a different rack, box, or shelf altogether.

I started by ripping some maple wood at a 45-degree angle to make battens with one right-angle edge and one edge at a 45-degree angle. You can use other types of wood for your French cleat stock and experiment with different sizes. The cleat can be 2-½ inches or 3 inches wide, and the thickness can be anywhere from 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch.

One key part of my system is the fasteners that connect the cleats to the wall. I went with wide-head flat screws that would be able to go through the drywall and sink nicely into the wooden studs in my wall. And I wanted to use screws that would also look good, so I chose the so-called Powerhead screws. The 2” long screws work well for thinner cleats (⅝”), but the 2-½” long ones are better for thicker stock. In addition, the 2-½” screws are the ones you need for the mitered corners at the end of the cleats if you want the batten to flow from one wall to the other.

Another key part of the system is finding the studs and transferring their position to the battens. I used an electronic stud finder to find the approximate location of the studs and then employed a low-tech magnetic nail locator to zero in on the drywall nails to more precisely indicate the center of each stud. I then transferred these stud spacings to the first batten and used it as a template to mark the dimensions on the other battens.

After finding the approximate location of the stud with the electronic scanner, we need to locate the drywall screws or nails. Move the magnetic stud finder down to the approximate location until the fastener triggers the magnet. Then, slide the magnetic locator from right to left until the magnet is perpendicular to the drywall, indicating that the nail is directly underneath. Now, mark this location with a pencil.

Once the locations of the studs were transferred onto the battens, I was able to drill the counterbore holes and the trough holes on each of them.

Since I had already surveyed the stud locations on the wall, all that I needed to do now was to level the first batten and drive the screws through the wood and into the studs. Using simple math, I divided the remaining wall height that I designated for my French cleat system, marked the location of the battens, and drove them in, too.

Regarding the mitered corner detail, the ideal approach is to secure the screw through the batten, the drywall, and into the carpentry stud at a 90-degree angle. However, in my situation, I doubted whether there was sufficient stud support for the batten. Consequently, I opted to drive the screw in at an angle to ensure it would go into the corner stud, regardless of its thickness.

Finally, to hang your items once the French cleats are securely attached to the wall, attach another cleat to the back of the item, whether it’s a box, panel, or shelf.

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