If you wish to make a French cleat, but do not have a table saw, then this guide will show you how.
Although the most common way to make a French cleat is using a table saw, it can be made using several other tools you might have.
In this guide, I'll show you five ways of making a French cleat without a table saw.
Depending on the tool you have and the size of your French cleat, you can choose your method.
Method 1: How to Make a French Cleat Using a Circular Saw
In this method, I'll be showing you the method of making a French cleat using a circular saw.
After making the French cleat, you can fix one piece permanently to the wall.
The other piece should be connected to the object you intend to hang and should be mounted on the lower piece.
Place the sacrificial sheet on the work surface.
Now place the material to be cut onto the sacrificial sheet.
Here we're using birch plywood for making French cleats.
Begin by selecting the angle for the French cleat.
Any bevel cut with angle between 30 degrees to 45 degrees is fine for making a French cleat.
In this example, we'll be cutting a 45 degree angle with the circular saw for the French cleat.
Fix masking tape lengthwise on the wood and draw the cut line on the tape. This ensures that the wood is free from splinters after cutting.
Measure the offset of the saw blade from the edge of the base plate.
Transfer the offset onto the plywood.
Using the edge of the wood as a reference, set the depth of the saw blade.
Clamp a level or a speed square at the offset point to guide the circular saw.
You can also use a straight edge for guiding.
Align the blade with the cut line.
When the edge of the base plate touches the offset point, the blade will fall on the cut line correctly.
Begin cutting through the material and complete the cut.
Remove the masking tape after.
Now your French cleat is finished and ready to be used.
Here's the French cleat we made being mounted.
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Method 2: How to Make a French Cleat Using a Jigsaw
Begin by placing the plywood/material on the table.
Tilt the base of the jigsaw to make an angle of 45 degrees.
You need to leave space for the offset of the jigsaw blade because, much like the circular saw, the jigsaw also will require a guiding mechanism.
Clamp the wood on the table along with a straight edge or level for guiding the jigsaw
Begin cutting with a jigsaw, and remember to be slow and careful as the blade might flex or break if you force it through.
Ensure you apply plenty of pressure towards the fence so the blade doesn't change course or veer off the path.
Here's the French cleat completed with a jigsaw.
Method 3: How to Make a French Cleat Using a Miter Saw
Although the miter saw is efficient at cutting wood, its size makes it ideal for working on small-sized materials.
If you need to make large French cleats, you'll need a sliding miter saw.
In this guide, we'll be using a non-sliding miter saw.
Begin by placing the wood on the bed of the miter saw.
Adjust the miter saw to cut at 45 degrees.
Fix masking tape on the plywood to prevent splintering.
Draw the cut lines using a speed square and pencil.
If the material being cut is too small, the piece could get lifted off after cutting.
To prevent this, we made it from a bigger piece.
We made the 45 degree beveled cut length-wise first.
The cut has been made but the piece has not separated yet.
Next, rotate the wood 90 degrees and place it again on the miter saw.
Now set the miter saw back to 90 degrees and cut the wood and separate the pieces.
With that, you have made French cleats using a miter saw.
Method 4: How to Make a French Cleat Using a Band Saw
Begin by placing the plywood on the bed of the bandsaw.
Set the base of the band saw at 45 degrees.
If your band saw comes with an inbuilt fence, then you may use that.
If not, then consider clamping a straight edge or a level onto the band's base saw using two quick grip clamps.
Remember to set the fence on the side that's lower and not anywhere else.
Measure and mark the cut line onto the plywood using a speed square and a carpenter's pencil.
Turn the band saw on and slide the wood onto the band saw blade slowly.
With this, your French cleat is ready to be used.
Method 5: How to Make a French Cleat Using a Hand Saw (Without Power Tools)
If you don't want to use power tools, this is a reasonable option for making a French cleat.
Begin by taking a piece of wood for the cleat to be made.
Fix masking tape on the line of cut to prevent splintering.
Using a speed square and a carpenter's pencil, draw a 45 angle mark on the wood's edge at your desired length.
To draw the 45-degree line, draw using the slanted side of the speed square as it's already set at 45 degrees.
Once both edges are marked, join them lengthwise so you have a straight line as a reference.
Use a speed square for this.
Clamp the wood on a bench vise.
If you don't have a bench vise, clamp the material on the side of your work table using a quick grip clamp.
But makes sure its tightly secured. Any movement can cause inaccuracies in the cut.
Using a utility knife, score the wood's edge to give the hand saw some grip when beginning the cut.
Align the hand saw with the edge of the wood.
With one hand gripping the hand saw and the other firmly on the wood, begin sawing the wood lengthwise along the cut line.
Now you have a French cleat made using just a hand saw.
Note the lack of perfection compared to methods with power tools.
Tips to Remember While Making French Cleats
- When selecting wood to make cleats, make sure the wood is free from knots as the knots will separate over time and cause the French cleat to fail.
- The best wood for making cleat is plywood as its free from all wood defects and already comes with straight edges (factor edges).
- Trim the sharp edge to around an 8th of an inch because the sharp edges can damage the other cleat and become stuck.
- Ensure the wood used for making cleats are completely dry as both pressure-treated wood and wet wood will shrink as time passes.
- Remember to wipe the excess glue off the cleats before hanging them, as excess glue may cause both cleats to stick together.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can you use MDF for French cleat?
You can use medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for a French cleat, but they don't offer the same strength and durability as plywood. Plywood has much better moisture resistance and hence can handle much more load than MDF.
How can you hang a 100 pound mirror without French cleats?
In the absence of a French cleat, toggle bolts are an alternate choice for hanging a heavy mirror when there is no stud behind the wall. Mirrors heavier than 100 pounds need to go into the stud or you need to use toggle bolts.
What are French cleats for?
A French cleat is a way of securing a cabinet, mirror or other object to a wall. It is a molded with a 30–45 degree slope and can be used in pairs, or with a cleat mounted to the wall and a matching edge cut into the object to be hung.
How thick should a French cleat be?
Cleat is usually ¾” of an inch thick, it needs to be inset into the object by that amount, leaving the surface flush with the back of the mantle. Otherwise, the mantle will sit ¾” away from the wall. That is not desirable.
How much weight can two wall studs hold?
A single lag screw in a wood stud will handle a weight of between 80 – 100 pounds; two screws can hold 160-200 pounds. The wall cleat will be wide enough to fit two lag screws and span a minimum of two studs.