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French Cleat: Plywood or Hardwood?

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Forum topic by K7TXA posted 11-26-2021 03:22 PM 598 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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K7TXA

32 posts in 155 days


11-26-2021 03:22 PM

Hi all – I’m building a new workshop in my garage and it’ll include a bunch of DIY cabinets, based on plans I got from Brad at BuildThisFixThat. Not really super pro-grade, but sufficient for my workshop. I’ve already built a pair of wall-mount cabinets and am at the point of actually mounting them.

The studs in my garage walls are not at nice 16” centers. And even if they were, I still like the idea of using French Cleats to mount the cabinets, for the sake of being able to re-position them at a later time.

Since the cabinets are fairly heavy I thought I’d go with 8” wide material on 45 degree angle. That would give me a pretty wide section to bolt to the wall and a matching piece to screw into the back of the cabinet.

My question is – is there any advantage to using 3/4” plywood as opposed to something like poplar to make the cleats?

-- Jim / Eagle, Idaho


24 replies so far

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dbhost

5864 posts in 4565 days


#1 posted 11-26-2021 03:27 PM

Depending on the plywood, it is typicaly constructed with layers of veneer that have crossed grains at 90 degrees, which in theory stabilizes the wood from warpage, and one layer protects the other from tearout along the grain. Not saying that hardwood cleats are bad, or eeven that I am right, just that is how I understand it.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/daves-workshop

View Ken Masco's profile

Ken Masco

914 posts in 4183 days


#2 posted 11-26-2021 04:16 PM

I’m thinking that quality Baltic Birch would make great cleats. Regular plywood…... not so sure

-- Ken

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Knockonit

1063 posts in 1535 days


#3 posted 11-26-2021 04:17 PM

big plus on the good quality plywood like the BB, others for me tended to delam under extreme weight

-- Living the dream

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controlfreak

3199 posts in 934 days


#4 posted 11-26-2021 04:25 PM

I did 3/4” plywood cleats around my entire shop every 7”. Overkill but as I keep evolving I have moved everything at least once if not several times. The cleats stay put but what they hold is always on the move. Just used some glue and finish nails as the clamping force and haven’t had a failure yet.

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DS

4041 posts in 3753 days


#5 posted 11-26-2021 04:47 PM

Either material should work fine for cleats.

I would think that the plywood might delaminate when brought to the point of failure, before the hardwood would fail.
Still, you should never get to that point under standard loads.

For me, it would come down to what I have available and what costs are involved.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS

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bugradx2

396 posts in 1352 days


#6 posted 11-26-2021 04:57 PM

plywood will work just fine if it’s 3/4”, I would maybe buy up a grade so you’re not using something with 4 or 5 layers. Baltic Birch is great but may be more than what you’d want to spend. Depends on your budget.

-- The only thing not measured in my shop is time

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K7TXA

32 posts in 155 days


#7 posted 11-26-2021 05:11 PM

Well I wish I had some Baltic available to use, but alas, no. One place here in Eagle has it, but they don’t deliver and I don’t have a vehicle capable of transporting it. I’ve got a couple sheets of 3/4” ply from Home Depot – not crappy exterior grade – the “Sande” plywood they carry. Its got five thick layers plus the two exterior laminates. It isn’t as high quality as the maple or birch plywood, but for the garage cabinets it works fine.

I hate destroying a $70 sheet of plywood just for a couple strips for cleats. But a 10 foot long 8” wide hardwood board won’t be chump change, either. Ughhh….

-- Jim / Eagle, Idaho

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DS

4041 posts in 3753 days


#8 posted 11-26-2021 05:42 PM

PRO-TIP:
If you have a hardwood lumber supplier in your area, you can ask for a VC mill-select option plywood.
It is whatever clearance veneer core (VC) ply they have sitting around that they want to get rid of and you aren’t picky about the species of the face veneers.
Usually, hardwood lumber stores are stocking a quality, made in the USA core and not the el-cheapo imported ply cores you see a lot in the big box stores.

This usually can be discounted 30% to 50% off the usual price. YMMV, and call ahead to be sure they have something before you go.
Sometimes, some really nice stuff is let go for a song because it is too far outside of the mainstream and it’s been sitting taking up space for far too long in the warehouse.

We buy such plywood to make toe kick frames for the cabinets we make.
Our vendors love it because they get to clear out the “garbage” and we get a great buy on decent structural plywood when it doesn’t matter what the veneer is.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS

View Ken Masco's profile

Ken Masco

914 posts in 4183 days


#9 posted 11-26-2021 06:48 PM

In Southern California poplar is the least expensive hardwood a 3-4” wide cleat, one on the Wall and one on the cabinet will be plenty strong

-- Ken

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9309 posts in 1915 days


#10 posted 11-26-2021 06:53 PM

I use pine for all my cleats. Usually 1×3 or 1×4. Have never had a problem, and the pine deforms enough that if my 45 is a 44 or a 46, it doesn’t seem to matter much.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

1457 posts in 2435 days


#11 posted 11-26-2021 08:21 PM



I use pine for all my cleats. Usually 1×3 or 1×4. Have never had a problem, and the pine deforms enough that if my 45 is a 44 or a 46, it doesn’t seem to matter much.

- Dave Polaschek


Like Dave, I have always used southern yellow pine for my cleats and have never had a problem. I have more faith it it than plywood that can de-laminate. Also, if I expect the cabinet to be carrying heavy loads, I like to use 30 deg rather than 45 deg. The edge is stronger and it is no more likely to slip off than the 45. Also, be sure that your studs are even so that when the cleat is fastened to them the cleat stays straight. Otherwise, the two cleats (what do you call the one on the cabinet?) won’t fully mesh and you will end up with pressure points.

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BFBF

10 posts in 53 days


#12 posted 11-26-2021 08:52 PM

I don’t see how this really matters, unless you are using the cleat for longterm support. A French cleat just holds the cabinet until you can screw the nailers into the wall studs. Cabinets that are hung without cleats have their back panel screwed into the studs, and these back panels or nailers are usually plywood, MDF, or Melamine particle board.

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K7TXA

32 posts in 155 days


#13 posted 11-26-2021 08:55 PM

Yes, it is for long term support. I’ve seen quite a few setups like this and it is really handy to be able to move different cabinet assemblies from one area to another over time. If you’ve screwed the cabinet directly to the wall/stud, that’s where its gonna stay for a long time. Not what I want in my case.

-- Jim / Eagle, Idaho

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K7TXA

32 posts in 155 days


#14 posted 11-26-2021 11:10 PM

I’ve opted for poplar instead of blasting a sheet of plywood that may or may not de-laminate. Rather than buying a 1×8 poplar board and ripping it with a 45 degree tilt, I opted for two 1×4 boards (cheaper); I can set the blade at 45 degrees and slice off a small edge on each.

Thanks for all the replies!

-- Jim / Eagle, Idaho

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LeeRoyMan

2378 posts in 1060 days


#15 posted 11-26-2021 11:32 PM

Personally, when I do a french cleat, I don’t like using 45’s. Too pointy at the ends, and they like to get wedged in and stuck when trying to move or slide around. I cut around a 35 deg. cut and then knock off the points.
I do them like this.

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