French Cleat System Question

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Forum topic by OleGrump posted 03-04-2018 10:38 PM 2605 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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577 posts in 1256 days

03-04-2018 10:38 PM

Some of you were kind enough to follow my “Pegboard Purge” thread, (Only some further degree of progress there as the temperatures went way down again) so you know I’m working on getting the garage woodshop into a good state of organization.
There are a couple of wall areas in the garage where I will be installing more wall storage. I’ve been researching the various cleat systems people have installed. I can see where here is a lot of versatility using this system. The question occurs to me though: How much dust gets trapped in the cleats ? The same bevel which holds the myriad tool holders, shelves and other accoutrements would seemingly also be a magnet for dust. Regular dust as well as sawdust.
Picture an average Joe’s garage woodshop, with about 75% hand tool work and 25% power tool work (approximate percentages for the sake of discussion) and NO, there is not one of those dust collection systems designed to suck the tea outta the cups in the China. There is just a regular shop vac with a shop built cyclone attached. At the most, woodworking would be done in the evenings and some weekends, so it’s like a professional shop.
I know there are a lot of fans of the cleat system, but I don’t want to have to spend a lot of my precious little shop time cleaning dust out of them. I would appreciate hearing the experience of some of our Group. Thank you in advance for any input you may be able to provide.

-- OleGrump

12 replies so far

View clin's profile


1125 posts in 1908 days

#1 posted 03-04-2018 10:51 PM

There’s no question the cleats create another spot for dust to settle on. But it’s no worse than any other surface. So take the total amount of cleat length x thickness and you’ll have the total area that will collect dust. I whole wall of cleats it probably less area than a single shelf.

I don’t find an excessive amount of dust on the cleats. And when I’m cleaning, it only takes a bit of extra time to run the shop vac along the cleats.

Given all the other crap dust can settle on in your shop, I don’t think the cleats are of any great significance.

-- Clin

View Breeze73's profile


102 posts in 1593 days

#2 posted 03-04-2018 10:58 PM

I agree, the dust buildup is minimal. You may have to run the vacuum along them (or use compressed air) every 3 to 5 years or so, but nothing to really worry about.

-- Breeze

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1832 days

#3 posted 03-05-2018 03:16 AM


Assuming a French cleat wall hanging system, maybe you could drop in the mate to the wall-mounted French cleat to guard against dust and debris. The mate to the wall mounted cleat would block most debris from finding its way between the wall and wall-mounted cleat. Since it would just set in place, it would be easily removed should another storage item need the unused wall cleat. In fact the mating cleat could be cut to the proper length and installed on any new wall unit. The cut-off could be dropped back in the remaining unused wall cleat for dust guarding duty.

View olegrump's profile


97 posts in 1134 days

#4 posted 03-05-2018 01:30 PM

Thank you for your input guys, MUCH appreciated it ! As long there is no more than the usual amount of dust, it should be OK. I’ve seen some pretty inventive uses for this system, so it’s well worth considering. I LIKE the idea of using cut-offs to fill in the voids to prevent dust from getting trapped in notch. I might even consider taking that approach a step further, and putting a downward bevel on the top of the spacers to really keep stuff from building up on the ledge….... Just thinkin’ out loud here…........
I also have to wonder why this is ALWAYS referred to as a “FRENCH” cleat system…..... Does France really have the patent on it, or does it just sound “classier”...... ??? I guess since we’ve dropped the word “French” from fries, it had to go somewhere…..

“Don’t take life too seriously, or you’ll never get out of it alive…...”

View dseidl's profile


22 posts in 1536 days

#5 posted 03-06-2018 01:48 AM

I’ve used an extensive French (er, “Freedom”?) cleat system in my basement workshop for a few years now, and dust buildup isn’t a big issue, even without central dust collection. I don’t think you should feel compelled to do anything special to account for it. If dust starts to build up, just run a shop vac along the top and you’ll be all set.

If you do place a tool that spews dust (I’m looking at you, chopsaw), you could use the cut-off approach quite easily. I tend to split 1×4 boards lengthwise for my cleat material, and thus end up with nice matching lengths – depending on what you use for your material, you might do the same thing. The nice thing about doing it that way for me has been that I always have the same amount of cleat material available to attach to things as I put up on the wall – until I cheat and snag the other half to expand the cleat system.

Finally, here’s what mine looked like when I started in case it’s helpful to you.

View olegrump's profile


97 posts in 1134 days

#6 posted 03-06-2018 12:39 PM

Thank you for sharing your experience and photos. They are very much appreciated. I enjoyed seeing your system in use. Great Work !

View Lazyman's profile


5929 posts in 2299 days

#7 posted 03-06-2018 03:27 PM

A couple of things to note. First, in some ways, French cleats can be very inefficient even though they are very flexible. While dseidl makes very efficient use of the bottom 2 rails, notice that he doesn’t use the top one at all and only about half of the 2nd one from the top, this is fairly typical because larger items will obscure sections below it making large sections of the rails unusable. Before you decide on spacing between the rails and how many rails, you can save some time and money sketching out layout options beforehand. My FC system is mostly for getting larger items off the floor and I probably only use about 20% of the rails.

Second, it is important in my experience that any custom hangers you make have support against the side of of the rail. Any that i made like this

tended to pivot off the wall, especially if there was too much weight away from the wall because the point of the wedge acts like a fulcrum. They are also very easy to knock off by accident if you brush against them as you retrieve other items from their supports.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View dseidl's profile


22 posts in 1536 days

#8 posted 03-07-2018 02:12 AM

Lazyman is right, although the shots I posted were immediately after installation and it has been a few years of use since then. I’ve expanded to more of the rails, with lighter things up top, but the top rail is used less than the lower 3. I actually really like to have a lot more rail space than I need, as I move some tool holders around to reconfigure my shop around the project I’m working on. That lets me get tools up and out of the way but still close enough to fit the task.

Most of my holders have a brace against the rail, but the little one shown above is a few inches wide and only holds light things. It’s actually mostly used to hold a selection of pencils and other marking tools, and those are light enough it doesn’t pull away in a meaningful way. Again, Lazyman is dead on, it’s not appropriate for any weight, but it is very convenient to grab and move around for little things!

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3558 posts in 4349 days

#9 posted 03-07-2018 02:40 AM

A few additional points from experience.

Dust in the cleats has been the least of the issues. Don’t worry about it.

You can make some rows of good cleats that are very strong and less expensive by using 3/4” plywood. It also screws in better as you don’t have to worry about any splitting.

Also, you can make them especially stable if you make a tail on each cleated item. By a tail I mean a piece of wood that falls over the strip of cleat on the wall.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View John_'s profile


251 posts in 2618 days

#10 posted 03-07-2018 06:07 PM

I am using cleats on most of one side wall (15’) and about 10’ on the back wall of my 3 stall garage. I used 3/4” MDO and I love the versatility and just the way it looks. Does it get a little dusty at times – absolutely. But I do my best to capture the dust at the source, I then sweep up and lastly I blow the garage out with my cordless blower.

I use my garage for more than just woodworking. Currently, I am in ‘babysitting mode’ for my 2 year old granddaughter:

View olegrump's profile


97 posts in 1134 days

#11 posted 03-14-2018 02:00 PM

While researching this subject, one of the sites I’ve visited for ideas is YouTube. The Wife has named me “Ole Grump” for her own reasons, but, really, I fail to see the need for YouTube to have about 300 videos of some “Genius” Norm Abram wannabe posting a fourteen minute video of themselves reinventing the wheel by drilling six holes in a board “teaching” viewers how to make a screwdriver holder. There are some VERY informative, creative and useful French Cleat tool holding devices posted on YouTube, and I really do appreciate them. (A few REALLY think outside the box with some pretty spiffy ideas). I just wish YouTube would block any further “Screwdriver and/or Chisel Rack” videos. Talk about ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Have mercy upon us. ENOUGH ALREADY !!!

View Robinson's profile


52 posts in 3604 days

#12 posted 03-18-2018 05:05 PM

My cleat wall system is a little bit different than the regular French cleat. My shop is a basement shop. The cleats are mounted to a sheet of 1/2” OSB that hangs down 4’ from the sill plate (over 1/2” blue foam board as a thermal break and a moisture barrier). The screws holding the OSB sheet across the top are about 10” apart except at the ends where they are about 3” apart. The top cleat is about 3” down from the joist and the rest are about 14” apart down the sheet. The cleats are made from 1/2” OSB strips an inch wide with a strip of .25” OSB that is 2.5” wide which is glued and stapled (.75” narrow crown staples) to the 1” strip flush at the bottom making a open hook at the top. The cleat is then glued and screwed to the OSB sheet. The screws are long enough to pass through all of the OSB and poke through the foam board about half way. Like the regular French cleats my hanging pieces are the same dimensions as the wall cleat and just reversed.
I’ve had one 40’ wall done for several years and I’m quite happy with it. I kind of like the fact that it is a loose enough fit (but positive) that I can just slide stuff around if I wish to change something. I saw this system “somewhere”, I didn’t create it in my brain. :-)
I hope I’m making sense, I’m typing this in a room full of visiting family.


-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

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