How To Make A French Cleat Hand Tool Holder


French cleats are awesome. Just pure awesomeness. Everything I make from now on that will hang on the wall will hang via french cleats. The ability to mix, match, and move whenever I need to is great. But, I think the most overlooked feature of a French cleat system is in the hanging process. Have you ever struggled to hang something pretty big on the wall? With a french cleat you simply attach the easy to hold cleat to the wall, attach a cleat to whatever it is you want to hang, and hook them together. Brilliant! Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. Now on to the project.

With my saw blades in their new home I had this open space on the wall where they used to reside.

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This project started out with me just wanting to get in the shop and make something. I didn’t care what. So I found a decent size piece of scrap 3/4” plywood and looked around for what I could hang. I needed something that would be used frequently. I came up with the idea to have a few tape measures on top. A rack of chisels in the middle. And a floating bar for random plier type tool storage.

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To hang the tape measures I went with a thin aluminum floor transition strip. I have several 18” cutoffs from my day job. If you don’t have one they are pretty cheap and come in many lengths.

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With a plan established I went ahead and mounted a cleat to the back side. No glue. This project will be light enough that screws only are just fine.

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To elevate the aluminum strip off of the platform I used a small scrap block. I didn’t want these to split so I took them and the aluminum strip to the drill press for pre-drilling. A cheap parallel wooden clamp is absolutely perfect for holding smaller parts like these at the drill press.

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And the tape measure rack mounted. It will hold my two most used tape measures. I really wish I wouldn’t have tightened the screws as much as I did because it flattened out the aluminum but oh well. This is just shop project. Not a deal breaker.

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And now to layout the rest of the hand tool holder. At the bottom I used another strip of the aluminum to hold the pliers. I found a scrap piece of poplar and cut it in two. Then rounded the corners. I thought that was good enough to use.

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So I screwed it on from the back.

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And attached anther strip of the aluminum transition. I like using the aluminum here as it will take the abuse better than a thin piece of wood and it is much thinner than a similar strength dowel so the pliers rest at a position closer to closed.

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For the chisel holder I used another scrap piece of poplar. I eyeballed the spacing and marked the front corners to be rounded over.

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Then I drilled 3/4” holes about 1/4” deep and followed that with a 1/2” drill all the way through.

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Then cut the corners off.

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And from the bottom I made slots into each hole. I slightly increased the slot width from right to left. My chisels fit in snugly and require you to pick them up about an inch before they can be removed. This way they won’t easily be bumped out of the holder.

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I sanded all the edges smooth and screwed it on from the back.

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It does the job just fine and was a fun way to spend a few unallocated shop minutes. The project is pretty self explanatory and you can change the sizes to fit your tools. A much wider platform would allow for many more tool options but I was just using scrap that I had. For those who are interested in this particular design I have a free PDF download below with all of the parts dimensioned.

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Download

Although this plan is free to you remember that it isn’t free to produce. If you would like to show your thanks please consider using the donate button at the bottom of this page. If you liked this project and found it useful please share it so others can do so as well. Thanks for stopping by folks and have a great day!

hand tool rack featured size

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12 Comments

  1. Chuck

    Glad you’re feeling better. But, I can tell you are still not 100%. This project doesn’t have pocket holes!

  2. Mark

    Could you do a short write-up on the actual French cleat installation? What vertical spacing between cleats, distance between screws holding the cleats to the wall, material thickness, types and grade of materials etc. I know it could be highly variable, but you probably have reasons why you did what you did or new thoughts having done it (lessons learned).

    Thanks!

    1. Jay Bates

      Hey Mark. I may write something in the future but for now cleat spacing doesn’t really matter much. The more cleats you have the more layout options you will have though. Any 1x material is fine such as a 1×4 or even strips of plywood like I used. Plywood will remain the same shape longer than dimensional lumber. I used a screw at every wall stud.

  3. OldEd

    Jay, I find it very difficult to believe that this is the first time you have run across the French Cleat. REALLY difficult. And I find it almost equally difficult to believe that anyone would need any more instruction about the idea than seeing it for the first time.

    I mean, REALLY?????

    Just how obvious can an idea GET?

  4. Jay Bates

    This isn’t the first time I’ve run across the “French cleat”. I’ve used it on my toilet cabinet and on my acoustic guitar display case. The only reason I used it in those projects is for the ease of hanging the project. It’s the first time I’ve used a “french cleat system” in the shop where it is setup for multiple layouts and easily customization.

  5. George, B.

    Jay, after watching many of your video’s I have ripped everything off my walls in my garage and now all I have is the French cleat system. I like it because of the smaller sectional sizes make it easy to handle by myself and I can take it off the wall and put that section on my large rolling table and roll it out the door and on to my drive way for making or maintenance other projects. This is just one more project I will make soon and add to my wall and cart use. Again thank you for all you put into these projects, it really does make the difference. Just awesome and keep up the great work!

  6. Jerry

    jay I really enjoy your website. have already made the trash bin , welder cart & saw blade caddy . keep the good ideas coming !!

  7. Bill Howard

    sorry to be a pain Jay, I have subscided to your youtube stuff for a bit now…. really inspiring. I just built a shop/garage and want to do the “french cleat” thing for wall storage along with pegboard ? where do i find what angle and how wide the cleats need to be ? Thanks for your time and patients in advance, Bill

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