Five-Minute Face Frames
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Wood Magazine

Five-Minute Face Frames

Pocket-hole joints provide the perfect combination of speed and strength for this job

Pocket Hole Solution

Pocket Hole Solution

When it comes to assembling face-frames for cabinets, there's nothing faster than pocket-hole joints -- each joint takes about 90 seconds apiece using a store-bought jig. Attaching the frame to the case hides the holes.

Pocket-hole screws give the frame all the strength it needs and then some. The angled screws cut across grain rings instead of only passing straight through the weaker end grain, making the joint tougher to pull apart.

The mechanical advantage of the screws makes these joints so strong, you can skip gluing the joints for face-frames. That's a big plus if you plan to stain the frame and don't want to bother sanding away glue smears.


How a Pocket Hole Works

How a Pocket Hole Works

Anatomy of a pocket-hole joint

In a correctly drilled pocket hole, the pilot hole should stop 1/8" from the end of the workpiece. Because the smooth screw shaft turns freely within the pilot hole, the screw threads pull the joint tightly together.


Pocket Hole Process
Blue Jig with clamp
Enlarge Image
Visually center the jig on the end of
your workpiece. Then drill pilot holes
in pairs to keep parts from twisting.
Drilling hole with out blue jig
Enlarge Image
Position the face clamp to span both
joint parts. Self-tapping screws keep
the mating part from splitting.

Pocket Hole Process

Here's how to make pocket-hole joints as easy as 1-2-3.

1 Mark an "X" on the inside faces of each frame part to avoid drilling into the appearance face of your frame. Center the pocket-hole jig on the end of a part to be drilled and clamp both firmly to your workbench.

2 Set the drill bit stop collar according to workpiece thickness and the type of jig you're using. Then drill two pocket holes photo above right. Repeat the first two steps for the ends of each rail and center stile on your frame.

3 At each joint, butt the mating parts together and clamp them solidly against your workbench photo below right. Then drive pocket-hole screws suited to the wood. Use fine-thread screws for joining hardwoods and coarse-thread screws for softwoods and composites, such as MDF or particleboard. Both types have split tips that eliminate the need to drill pilot holes in the part being joined.


Hiding a Pocket Hole
Drilling hole with out blue jig
Enlarge Image
Wooden pocket-hole plugs still need
to be sanded flush with the surface.
For a similar look, use 38" dowels.
Drilling hole with out blue jig
Enlarge Image
Molded plugs hide the pocket hole
and chip-out from drilling. You also can buy
plugs to match black, brown, and almond

Hiding a Pocket Hole

Plug or no plug?

Your case edges should hide the pocket holes after you attach the face frame, but you may want to further conceal the holes from view on some projects. In wood, fill the holes with pre-cut plugs or 3/8" dowels of the same species. With either one, trim off the excess after the glue dries and hand-sand them flush with the workpiece photo above right using a rigid-backed sanding block. Or turn plugs into accents using contrasting species, such as a walnut plug in maple.

For melamine-coated particleboard projects, use angled plugs molded to snap into the pocket hole photo below right.


Ensuring Perfect Joints
Wooded trellis fence
Enlarge Image
Driving the screw separates a poorly
clamped joint, throwing off the
part alignment even if the screw
pulls the joint back together.

Ensuring Perfect Joints

Avoiding mistakes is easy, too

Pocket-hole joints come close to being foolproof, but a few simple tips ensure perfect joints every time.
•Driving screws can push parts away from each other, as shown below, if both aren't clamped firmly in place.
•To avoid drilling through your workpiece, double-check the stop-collar setting using scrap stock identical in thickness to your workpieces.
•Too much drill torque can break loose the material between the bottom of the pocket-hole and the workpiece end. Dial down the torque setting on your drill-driver before you begin; then dial it up until it just seats the screw.
•Use specially designed screws designed for pocket-hole joints. The bugle-shaped head of a flathead or drywall screw can split the wood at the bottom of the pocket-hole.
•Does your bit look new but work like it's old and dull? Check that the chuck turns clockwise, not counterclockwise. (Yes, it happens.)



Wood Magazine