Step 5: Create and fit the Cleats

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Make sure you read this whole section in its entirety as there are tips and tricks as well as warnings and “got-chas” contained within the following description of my completion of this phase.

As mentioned in the list of materials used, the cleats were made from red oak but they could have been made from any wood as long as the finished dimensions of the cleats were 1″ thick by 2″ wide by 59″ long (since they will go from one side of the wall to the other).

To create the cleats, I had the lumber yard take the 5/4″ x 8″ by 10′ piece of lumber and slice it 4 times: three times to slice off 2″ wide strips the whole 10′ length of the board and then one more cut to half these strips into 5′ lengths. This left me with 6 pieces which basically filled my needs plus some left over scrap (to be used on another project). I would have to trim the cleats from their current 5′ length down to the needed 59″ length, but I would do that once I had them in place and could measure them exactly against the actual wall panels.

Once the basic wall panels had been constructed. as per step 4 of this discussion, and after the final two smaller sections of plywood decking had been measured, cut and screwed down onto the bottom sections of the panels, it was time to prepare and fit the cleats.

To start this process, I decided to attack the top cleats first (since they were going to be the most challenging). The specifications for the wall stated that the top of the top-most cleat was to be located 10″ or 25cm from the “top” of the wall. This was somewhat strange. 25cm is actually about 9.75″, not 10″. So I decided that if I hit somewhere between these two values, I’d be “within standard”.

The next question was, where was the “top” of the wall? Determining this posed a bit of a problem as this definition is a but fuzzy in the new design. I “raised” the wall up to the regulation 71″ height and examined the way the sides were then positioned relative to the actual “top” of the wall (which I took to be the top-most point of the PVC or of the rounded end of the main support beam — the highest point on the wall). I chose to use the top-most point of the rounded end of the support beam since that was easier to measure from. I measured about 9.75″ from that point and marked where the top of the top-most cleat would have to be located. I did the same thing on all 4 main support beams.

My top cleat positions marked, I thought about how best to attach the cleats to the wall. As per my original design, the general plan was to drill holes down the middle of back-side the cleat, screw in the inserts, drill corresponding holes through the decking on the wall panels and attach the cleats with bolts screwed through the decking from the underside into these inserts in the cleats which would be positioned on top of the decking. Upon reflection, I decided that instead of attaching the cleats at the absolute middle of the cleat, I would offset the inserts by 1/4″ towards the top of the cleat. My reasoning was that there is more pressure on the top side of the cleat since dogs would be scrambling up and pulling down on the cleat or would be scrambling down the wall and bracing themselves on the way down on these cleats. I reasoned that due to this fact, having the “pivot” point higher up on the side of the cleat would result in less pressure on the cleat overall. So that is what I did.

To move forward, remembering that I had marked where the tops of the top-most cleats should be located on the side of the wall panels (having measured down from the top of the rounded ends of the support beams), I marked a points 3/4″ down from those marks on the 4 sides of the wall (the 4 outter most edges of the wall). I then drew a line across the width of the wall panels between these newly added markings. When the cleats were finally put in place, these lines would run 3/4″ from the top of the cleats and would line up with centers of the set of 5 inserts which would be screwed into holes which would be drilled into the backside of the cleats to accommodate them. I then measured out and marked where to drill pilot holes on the front side of the panel decking at 5 evenly spaced points along these lines. Actually, the center hole was not exactly in the center of the panel (since a 2×4 support ran along the absolute middle of those panels. Instead, on the first (top) cleat, the “center” hole would be drilled just to the left side of that center support beam, on the second cleat it would be drilled just to the right side of that cleat and the bottom cleat would return to having it drilled on the left side of the center beam again. The end cleats where marked so that they would be on the inside of any of the outer support beams providing at least 1-1.5″ clearance on all sides under the plywood decking to allow a socket to be used to tighten the bolt which would be inserted from below through those holes.

"Guide hole" for cleat mounting bolts drilled in wall decking

"Guide hole" for cleat mounting bolts drilled in wall decking

Repeat the above process of marking the tops of the other two sets of cleats (the middle and bottom ones for each panel of the wall) noting that the tops of the middle cleats must be 12″ below the top of the top cleat and the top of the bottom cleat must be 12″ below the top of the middle cleat. I again used the 3/4″ mark below the top of each cleat to locate the line for the pilot drill holes for each cleat.

With the locations for the tops of all of the cleats marked and lines drawn 3/4″ below those marks for all 6 cleats, I returned to preparing the top cleats to be drilled. Since the 3/4″ down line had been marked on the top side of the decking, drilling the pilot holes in the decking was relatively simple. Just make sure you drill the holes perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the decking (or as close as possible). Drill with a very small drill bit, say, 1/8″ or smaller. All you want to do is mark the positions of where the holes will be. You will enlarge these pilot holes to their final width / size later.

Next, take your cleat (the top one, in this case), pick which side of the cleat will be “up” and sand the two “top” length-wise running edges to slightly round them for safety. A very slight rounding is all that is needed or desired here. Don’t be too aggressive. Then VERY slightly round the bottom two edges. You are only seeking to remove any slivers from those last two edges. Mark the bottom of the cleat with pencil indicating whether the cleat will be on the left-hand-side or right-hand-side panel of the walll and whether it is the top, middle or bottom cleat on that side. Since all these holes are hand-marked and drilled, each cleat will be unique and will match up with only one set of holes in the wall so you have to mark the cleats so you know which is which.

Align the top of the cleat with your marks (marking the tops of the cleats, not marking the 3/4″ line below those tops). Position the cleat so that one side of the cleat is even with one side of the wall panel. Mark the underside of the cleat on the opposite side of the wall where the cleat meets the outermost edge of the wall panel. Then remove the cleat and trim that cleat to length. It should be almost exactly 59″ if all has gone well and according to plan. Sand the 4 end-edges on each end of the cleat to remove any rough spots or slivers rounding the “top” edges more than the bottom edge (which will rest against the decking of the panels). Replace the cleats on the panel aligning their tops with the “top” marks again. The line that you drew across the width of the wall panel should now be 3/4″ below the top of these two top-most cleats (one on each side panel of the wall). Clamp these cleats in place.

From the underside of the wall panels, take your drill (which ever one you used to drill the pilot holes in the panel decking earlier, 1/8″ if you did what I did) and drill back (JUST A LITTLE BIT) through the holes that you had drilled from the outside or top of the panels along that 3/4″ down line earlier. Note that you want to stop drilling almost as soon as you meet any resistance. All you are trying to do is mark the positions on the underside of the cleats in which you will have to drill the shallow holes which will eventually be used to house the threaded inserts. You don’t want to drill through the whole cleat. The max you want to drill is maybe 1/4″ into the cleat. Make sure you drill back through those hole such that the drill bit is held perfectly perpendicular to the underside surface of that decking.

With this done, you can unclamp the cleats and take them to your drill press. Again, make sure you’ve marked each cleat as to which side of the wall it is for and whether it is the top, middle or bottom cleat for that side. You are now ready to drill the holes for the inserts.

To prepare to drill these holes in the cleats, you must calibrate and set up your drill press. I would not recommend trying this with a hand-held drill. You must have these holes drilled perfectly perpendicular to the bottom surface of the cleats or this won’t work so well :) I used one end of one of the pieces of scrap lumber left over from when the lumber yard cut up my 5/4″ red oak to calibrate my drill press. That way, it was calibrated with something exactly the same thickness as what my final “product” would be made of. So, most drill presses have a depth gage on them with set screws, sliders or locking washers/nuts which will allow you to set the drill press to only drill down to a set depth. Insert a good 1/2″ drill bit into your drill press’s chuck and ensure it is securely held by the tightened chuck. Place the “scrap” or test piece of wood on the drill press’ work platform and adjust that platform’s height so that the drill bit is hovering just over the surface of the test piece of wood and lock in the height of the platform. Set one of your work support stands on each side of your drill press and level them to the height of the drill press’ platform. Position the end of the scrap so that it is just under the drill. Bring the drill down so that it’s tip touches the surface of the test scrap. Note the reading on the depth gage on the drill press (*). Release the drill press. Set the depth gage set screws or other such mechanism so that the max depth of the drill press is whatever the height reading was at (*) above plus length of one of your inserts for the cleats + a little bit more (say, 1/16″ more). You don’t want to make the holes too shallow (see pics below for why that is bad) but you want to leave as much wood as possible between the top of the insert (when screwed fully into the cleat underside of the cleat) and the top surface of the cleat. Once set, drill a test hole in the test wood piece.

Screw a “test” insert onto the end of the T-wrench which was purchased from the same place as the inserts were obtained. Insert the end of the insert into the test hole and screw it down into the test wood. It should go in all the way so that the top surface of the insert is level (or even a hair below) the surface of the underside of the cleat.

Inserts for cleats shwoing packaging

Inserts for cleats showing packaging

Inserts for cleats (view from above)

Inserts for cleats (view from above)

NOTE The inserts have two different ends: One has “slots” in it (one on each side of the hole) and the other end of the insert has a smooth ring as the end of it.

Note that the inserts are designed to be screwed into the cleats with the end that has the ‘slots’ in it facing out so that, if you needed to remove it and had a flat-head screwdriver wide enough to engage both sides of the insert at the same time and, thus, span the two slots, you could unscrew it from the wood and remove it from the hole.

Inserts for cleats (3/4 view from above)

Inserts for cleats (3/4 view from above)

Inserts for cleats (side view)

Inserts for cleats (side view)

Insert for cleat next to freshly drilled hole in cleat

Insert for cleat next to freshly drilled hole in cleat

Insert for cleat partially inserted into cleat

Insert for cleat partially inserted into cleat

Insert for cleat partially screwed into cleat (close up)

Insert for cleat partially screwed into cleat (close up)

T-wrench for inserting cleats with cleat on the end of it next to hole for insert

T-wrench for inserting cleats with cleat on the end of it next to hole for insert

Screwing insert into cleat with T-wrench

Screwing insert into cleat with T-wrench

Screwing insert into cleat with T-wrench (1/2 way in)

Screwing insert into cleat with T-wrench (1/2 way in)

I found that, towards the end of screwing it in, it got very tight and difficult to screw the insert in any deeper. I then employed a short piece of copper tubing (1/2″ would be ideal, I only had 3/4″ but it worked) over tone end of the T-wrench handle and use that to develop more torque and make it easier to screw the insert into the wood until the desired depth is reached.

Cleat being insert with T-wrench with copper pipe slipped on T-wrench for more leverage

Cleat being insert with T-wrench with copper pipe slipped on T-wrench for more leverage

If your hole is not deep enough, you will find that it almost becomes impossible to screw the insert further into the hole regardless of the force your exert. Either that, or you will hear some “cracking” and possibly notice the end of the cleat develop visible cracks (see photos). You can prevent this by reversing the screwing motion quickly which loosens the T-wrench from the insert and allows it to be unscrewed from the insert leaving the insert in the wood where it was. You can then look down inside the insert to see approximately how much hole is left below the bottom end of the insert — i.e. how much further you can screw the insert in before it hits the bottom of the hole. If it is not deep enough, if you have a big enough standard/flat screwdriver, you can back the insert out of the hole, reset your depth gage to be a little deeper, drill the hole deeper and try again. If you can’t get the insert out, you will have to drill a new hole with the new depth setting and test it with a second test insert. If the insert goes in all the way as you would like, unscrew the T-wrench as described above and check to see if the hole was too deep (too much space between the bottom of the insert and the bottom of the hole. If so, reset your depth gage, and drill another hole and test with a second test insert (or, if you can, take the first insert out of the first test hole and re-use it). This is why you need extra inserts. Also, I found that, with the hardness of the wood I used, the fine wood threads of the inserts at the bottom of the inserts (the first threads to go into the wood) would almost “shave” off resulting in a curlie-cue of metal being produced as I screwed the insert into the hole. This was because the fragile thread material (it is tapered to almost nothing for the very first part of the thread) sort of “breaks off” when you apply a lot of side-to-side or rocking-type of pressure to the insert as you attempt to ensure that the insert goes into the wood perfectly straight. If this happens stop screwing in the insert immediately as soon as you notice this and remove the insert from the hole by screwing it back out. If you don’t have a big enough screwdriver to do it, usually this happens VERY early in the screwing in process so a pair of pliers will usually work to unscrew the damaged insert from the wood. You will notice a metal shaving type of thing hanging off the side of the insert or it might have already broken off. In either case, if you take a smaller flat head screwdriver, and use it to sort of clean the end of the broken thread out, you can sometime salvage the insert and try to use it again but be very careful to get it in straight right away so you don’t have to try to apply side-to-side pressure to straighten it as you screw it in. That way, you minimize the chances of it peeling the threads off again.

Inserts being screwed into test strip

Inserts being screwed into test strip

Insert screwed into hole that is too shallow

Insert screwed into hole that is too shallow

Once you have successfully set up your drill press as described above and you have a successful test insert in your test hole in your scrap wood piece, you are ready to proceed to drill out the holes in your real cleats and screw in the inserts into those holes. Take your time and be careful to get the inserts to go in straight (up and down, side to side … perfectly straight … or as much as possible) the first time, every time.

Cleat with holes drilled - ready for inserts

Cleat with holes drilled - ready for inserts

Cleat with fully screwed in insert

Cleat with fully screwed in insert

Next, using a 3/8″ drill bit, enlarge the pilot holes in the decking of the wall panels. When you finish drilling each hole, rock the drill bit back and forth a bit in the holes while going around in a circle sort of adding a bit of a bevel to the edge of the holes. This will make it easier to line up the bolts into the inserts as you screw them in from the bottom side of the panels. To “finish” the holes, I took a conical shaped grinder attachment for my dremmel tool (quite small, about 1/2″ at the base (its widest point)) and cleaned up the edges of the holes and made sure there were no slivers or big burrs either on the outside of the holes or in their centers on both the top and bottom sides of the holes. Just a nice finishing touch to make sure things are “clean” and easy to stick the bolts through them.

Finished holes in decking for cleat mounting bolts

Finished holes in decking for cleat mounting bolts

Finished hole in decking for cleat mounting bolt (close up)

Finished hole for cleat mounting bolt (close up)

Cleats bolted on to the wall (underside view showing bolts)

Cleats bolted on to the wall (underside view showing bolts)

I then placed the cleats (one at a time) into place on the top surface of the panel and, from below, insert a bolt (with a washer on it) through the plywood decking and into the correct insert in the underside of the cleat. If I find a hole/insert combination which doesn’t quite line up (they should all be very close in theory), I removed all the bolts from that cleat and widened the hole in the decking in the direction needed to line things up properly. Usually the adjustment would require increasing the hole by no more than 1/16″ in a particular direction. In most cases, everything lined up perfectly without any adjustments needed. Be careful not to tighten the bolts too much. If you gave a little extra depth to your insert holes, you should have a bit of room to play with before the bolts hit the bottom of those holes, but you don’t want to over tighten and crack the wood due to the bolt hitting bottom of the hole and applying too much pressure to the insert against the bottom of the insert hole. I found that I was able to tighten my bolts so that they were quite nicely snug (hand tight plus 1 turn with the wrench/socket) without any trouble but you have to gage what is ‘safe’ for your situation. There will be a piece of carpeting added between the decking and the cleat so that will require a little extra clearance (1/8″ or so I would think) and should allow you to pull those cleats in nice and tight once everything is in place. If not, you may have to add a second washer on the inside between the bolt head and the underside of the plywood decking in order to be able to tighten the bolt sufficiently if you did not drill your insert holes deep enough.

Cleat mounting bolt screwed into cleat insert (3/4 top view)

Cleat mounting bolt screwed into cleat insert (3/4 top view)

Cleat mounting bolt screwed into cleat insert (side view)

Cleat mounting bolt screwed into cleat insert (side view)

When you are done, you should have all 6 cleats attached to the decking. In this case, everything is now complete except for the carpeting, safety chains, axles and wheels.

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (end view 1)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (end view 1)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (end view 2)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (end view 2)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (3/4 view)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (3/4 view)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (side view)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (side view)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (3/4 view-other end)

Completed wall without carpeting, safety chain, axles and wheels (3/4 view - other end)

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  • Anonymous

    Once the basic you should have all wall without carpeting, safety chain plywood decking and into the correct insert in the underside bevel to the edge of the holes.

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