Shop Organization – French Cleat Wall

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If there is one theme among the folks that I’ve spoken with regarding what their number one need is, it would have to be Shop Organization. I must admit there’s nothing I enjoy more than entering a clean and organized workspace. Unfortunately, those days have been few and far between! French Cleat Wall project to the rescue… let’s hope.

French Cleats… what’s that about?

The French Cleat has become a very common method for hanging everything from picture frames to kitchen cabinets. But where in the heck did this term come from? The history behind the French cleat as it turns out is a bit unclear. Many believe the French Cleat was invented sometime during the 1800’s by French ship builders who used long wedge shaped wooden pieces to mount items to the walls of their ships. The wooden wedges or cleats prevented the items they hung from them from falling off the walls as the ship navigated rough seas. While there are other theories out there, it’s this one that resonates with me as the most likely.

So what’s wrong with Pegboard?

Several people I’ve talked to have asked me why I would replace my Pegboard with a French Cleat system. It’s really a tough one for me, as I am sure it might be for some of you as well, since I’ve had pegboard in my shop since for close to 30 years. What I can say for sure is that I will not be removing the pegboard in my entire shop. There are definite advantages of Pegboard for hanging and storing certain items. As someone who lives a bit further out, stopping in the middle of a project to run in to town for something tends to take the wind out of the sails of productivity. As a result, I often pick up items I might need when I am in town. Given the nature of the packaging, pegboard works out quite well to store those items until I need them.

One of the main disadvantages from my perspective is when it comes to hanging heavier items. I have had the Pegboard hooks bend. I’ve seen the Pegboard bow over time and in some cases had the hooks break through. Heck, I have even managed to break a few hooks while bending them to compensate for the sagging over the years.

French Cleat Advantages

Given that the cleats themselves are anchored directly to the studs, hanging heavy objects is of little concern! The cleats themselves are easy to make by simply ripping a board at a 45° angle. Generally speaking you can remove the item you hung without first taking everything off or out of it. If after a bit of use you realize there’s a better arrangement to fit your needs, it is super easy to move things around. Just about anything can be hung up by adding a corresponding cleat to the back of the item. If adding a cleat directly is not an option, you can throw together a quick and dirty holder of some sort that you can put a cleat on!

Summary

After having built the French Cleat Wall in my shop, I’m really glad I finally took the plunge. I’m having a good time thinking about, researching and planning the organizers that will eventually find their way on the wall. Heck, I am even thinking about creating a few organizers out of some of my old Pegboard hooks just to try it out! What kind of holders or organizers have you found useful in your own shops?

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