Pocket Holes With a Kreg Jig – Tool Tutorial
Pocket Holes With a Kreg Jig – Tool Tutorial
About Pocket Holes
This is a short tutorial on how to create pocket holes with a Kreg pocket hole jig. I own the Kreg K5 Pocket hole jig, but there are several variations to chose from depending largely on the nature of your work and the frequency you will use it. The basic jigs are quite manual to set-up and don’t really lend themselves to high volume work. The professional grade option is the Kreg Foreman which include a large work surface and an integral drill motor so you don’t need to use a hand drill. The are many options in between, including the Kreg K5 Jig that I use. It allows for easy set up, positional stops enable easy repeatability, and a wide work platform accommodates wide work pieces.
Pocket holes are an easy alternative to more complex joinery, typically used where you have two boards meeting at a butt joint or a corner joint – usually a 90 degree joint.
Types of Butt Joints
The basic principal of the the pocket hole joint is that it reverses a typical screwed joint where the screws are going through the long grain and into the end grain. This is a notoriously weak joint because the screws do not hold well in end grain. The pocket hole creates a seat in the end grain and screws into the long grain, which is a very strong joint. One of the bigger downsides to the pocket hole joint is the it will leave a long elliptical hole on one face of one side of the joint at each screw location. You can buy or make plugs for these holes, but they won’t ever be an attractive solution, and this is why they are most frequently used where the holes will be concealed, such as on face frame, internal carcass joinery, or shop furniture or jigs where appearance isn’t so important.
The Kreg K5 Pocket hole Jig
This is the Kreg K5 Pocket Hole jig. It’s a mid-range priced jig that includes enough features to accomplish most pocket hole task with high quality and consistency. It is easily disassembled for easy storage and can be mounted to a bench or board to create a wide, stable platform. This is the model I will be using for this tutorial where I teach you how to create pocket holes.
Pocket Hole Jig
The K5 jig uses the same core drill guide that is used in other Kreg jigs. But in the K5 jig it is assembled with a lever-action self adjusting clamp, extension/storage wings to handle wide boards and store your accessories, a fixed/variable removable depth stop, and the standard pocket hole drill and depth guide.
Special Pocket Hole Drill
The first step in learning how to create pocket holes is laying out your joint. You need to decide how many screws are required to provide the strength you need, and then lay out the spacing accordingly. Depending on the material you are using, you will have to be mindful of splitting the wood, especially when the screw will be entering close to the edge of the receiving part. Screwing into the edge of any wood increases the risk of splitting, especially when the joint is close to the edge – closer than ~3/4″. It is best to test the joint with the exact spacing to the edge on some off-cuts of the same material you will be using for the piece. The total number of screws in the joint depends on the use of the joint. The possibilities are too numerous to detail out so it’s best to use your judgement, but as a rough rule of thumb a screw every 2 to 6 inches is reasonable.
Setting up the Jig
The main consideration in setting up the jig for a pocket hole is the thickness of the material. The first selection is the length of screw you will use. Kreg offers a couple different types of screws that are specifically designed for pocket hole joinery, but it is possible to buy your screws separately if you know what you’re looking for.
Pocket Hole screw length chart
The next adjustment is the drill length and drill guide height. These adjustments determine the exact position and depth of the pocket hole. First adjust the height of the drill guide as shown in the video below. This unit also had a spacer block affixed to the bottom via two dovetail slides that sets it for 3/4″, since that thickness is used so often. If you want to go thinner that 3/4″ then you need to remove that spacer block before setting it in the jig.
thickness, For example if you buy 3/4″ plywood only to find it is 11/16″ then use the setting for 5/8″, unless you specifically test the larger setting on some scrap. Once this is set, move to the next step of setting the drill depth. The drill depth will be adjusted according to the screw length. The jig comes with a small blue plastic depth stop that is marked with the length of screw. The drill will come with a collar that will be fixed in place with a set-screw. See the video below to see how to set the drill depth.
The Kreg jig also has a small edge stop for positioning your work piece at a consistent distance from the edge. This is especially useful when using pocket holes on narrower pieces where you want to make repeated holes consistently on multiple work pieces. It is held in place with two small pegs that fit into key-hole slots. This stop works okay but I find that it can be difficult to lock it in place. It could probably be fixed by lightly filing or sanding the slots but I haven’t tried that yet. See the video below for how it works.
Drilling and Assembly
Now that you know how to setup the jig, you can start producing simple pocket hole joinery in your projects. Here are some useful tips for layout and assembly.
When laying out your project, consider what surfaces will be visible and which will be concealed in the final product. Joints where on face will be concealed either inside, beneath or against a wall are good candidates for using pocket hole joinery.
When laying out your joints, consider the required strength of the assembly. If the joint requires a high degree of strength you can also use biscuits in between the pocket holes. These will add strength and also help with alignment during assembly. Otherwise 2 or 3 pocket screws ever foot is probably a reasonable starting point for most applications. For frames and other narrow assemblies I would suggest 1 pocket screw every 1.5-2″ of width.
When assembling the joint it is a good idea to use clamps to keep the two pieces aligned while the screw is inserted. Otherwise pocket holes can have a tendency to shift the two pieces slightly in the direction of screwing. There are clamps specifically made to fit into pocket holes as shown below. These clamps are also made by Kreg. They can be quite useful for assembling large assemblies, but they are limited is use to where the clamp can actually reach the joint. For example they would work well on a corner joint but not so well on a ‘T’ joint. Depending on the material you are using, I also recommend applying glue to the joint as this will add significantly the the strength of the joint. Although gluing end grain is considered a relatively weak joint, it still adds a lot of strength and stiffness to the joint.
I hope you enjoyed learning how to create pocket holes with a Kreg pocket hole jig. Please contact me with any further questions.
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About The Author
Greg Harper is a father, husband, homeowner and all around swell guy. Raised by a frugal, self-sufficient jack-of-all-trades, he has been using tools to build, repair and create since shortly following his birth. He was educated as a millwright, mechanic and a technician and grew professionally into an accomplished design engineer in the automotive fuel systems sector. He also moonlights as a part-time builder/fixer of things - from kitchens, furniture and cutting boards, to plumbing, electrical and heating, to fences, decks and landscaping.