This DIY mini easel features a French cleat at the top for holding a heavy sign steady during rowdy performances.

DIY French cleat mini easel

I recently completed a wood-letter sign for a great alternative folk rock band, The Mascot Theory. But now that they’re on tour, they needed a way to display the sign on stage while they performed.

The solution? A short, sturdy easel that uses a French cleat system to keep the sign from falling off. Such a stand should let the band display their sign out in front of their equipment without blocking the show.

The easel is based on an A-frame design found across the internet. The dimensions were derived from a combination of the sign size, basic easel principles, and my own knee height. The supplies were almost entirely scrounged from stuff that was sitting around. I even managed to use up some more deck wood.

Traditionally, the sign would be sitting on a ledge at the bottom of the easel. But that leaves plenty of opportunity for passing legs or jumping musicians to knock the thing off. That’s where the French cleat system comes in. Two 45 degree wedges, mounted at opposite angles, lock together to keep the sign in place. A second board, the same thickness as the cleats, is mounted to the bottom of the sign to keep it parallel with the easel. Later, the easel’s cleat can be removed and screwed to a wall for an alternate display.

French cleats work really well for hanging heavy things. I once used them to hang our headboard to great success. It’s solid as a rock. The cleats work similarly well here.

Learn more about the build in the video above. Thanks for watching!

REVIEW: French cleat mini easel

Difficulty: 2 stars out of 5. Figuring out angles like these can feel tricky. Once you get past those, the rest of the build is easy street. It’s also adaptable to your tools. For example: No router? Skip the rounded edges, or sand them as smooth as you’re able.

Skills required: Attention to detail. Minor amounts of math. Ability to saw wood.

Tools/supplies required: Wood. Saw. Drill. Screwdriver. Glue. Sandpaper. Stain. Screws. Chain. Hinge.

Cost: Mine was free. I used scrap deck wood, leftover screws, leftover stain, a scrap hinge and scrap chain.

Was this worth doing? For this purpose, yes. I could see a lot of other uses for it as well. A more delicate presentation could work for displaying a family photo on a desktop, for example.