My first experience with pocket hole joinery (besides seeing it on the underside of old tables and chairs) was when my dad bought one of the first Kreg jigs. It looked similar to the one shown here. The principle behind it is that it guides a drill bit to drill an angled hole in a workpiece. Then a screw is inserted into the hole and driven into an adjacent workpiece for a solid joint. The Kreg Jig was originally designed by Craig Sommerfeld, founder of Kreg Tool, to make building kitchen cabinets a lot easier.
I use pocket hole joinery on a lot of projects. I’ve been using Kreg Jigs almost since the beginning. Lately, I’ve been using their new K5 jig.
Pocket hole joinery has a few advantages over traditionally woodworking joinery. One benefit is that you can simply cut the pieces to size, drill the pocket holes, then assemble with screws. But there are a couple of things you need to be aware of.
First, it’s a good idea to sand all of the workpieces before assembly. It’s just easier to do it that way than have to sand into corners and tight areas after the project is assembled.
And you might consider applying a finish before assembly. Most pocket hole joints don’t require glue — they’re plenty strong. So you don’t have to worry about the finish interfering with a glue bond.
After drilling the pocket holes, you may see a little nib of material where the drill bit was starting to exit the workpiece. You’ve got to get rid of that before assembling the joint. It can interfere with drawing the joint tight. I keep a small block plane handy just for this purpose.
Probably the most important thing to remember when assembling joints with pocket screws is CLAMP, CLAMP, CLAMP! Driving a pocket screw can do one of two things: It can shift the workpiece ever so slightly, resulting in a joint that’s not flush or out of alignment or the pocket screw can sometimes “jack” the workpiece away from the adjoining workpiece. Both of these can make a religious man swear.
The key is to lock the workpieces in position so there’s no chance of either of them moving as you drive the screws. Kreg makes a variety of clamps designed for this purpose. You can use whatever clamps you have on hand as long as they can effectively clamp the workpieces in their final position before driving the screws.
Below is a SketchUp model of a simple cabinet I recently built with pocket hole joinery. It incorporates basic cabinet construction including a face frame and fixed shelf. You may have to refresh your browser window to see the model. To download the model for SketchUp, click here.
This cabinet is featured in the seminar on October 24, 2013 at the Woodsmith Store in Clive, Iowa.