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Pocket-Hole Joinery

Try this method for securing joints without buying an expensive jig.

Pocket-Hole Joinery

Pocket-Hole Joinery

Okay, I'll admit it. My shop here at WOOD. magazine has nearly every type of tool, jig, and accessory ever invented. So drilling pocket holes in the bottom shelf frames of a display stand I recently made didn't present a problem.

Now, that's easy for me to say, but I know that you may not own a pocket-hole jig. And usually, that's not a problem -- you just substitute another form of joinery, say biscuits or dowels, in place of the pocket screws. But sometimes, as with the display stand, only a pocket-hole joint will do. Then, do as I did in my pre-pockethole-jig days. Simply drill a series of holes -- without assistance from a jig -- that form a pocket hole. This doesn't go fast, but it sure gets you by.

- Jeff Mertz, WOOD Shop Manager

First, drill the shank and screwhead holes

Select a twist bit -- those with pilot points work best -- that matches, or is just slightly larger than, the diameter of the screw you will be using. In this example, we used a #8x1-1/2" screw requiring a 5/32" shank hole. Chuck the bit into a handheld drill.

On the end grain of the piece of wood that will be drilled for a pocket hole, mark the exit point of the screw. As shown in photo at right, we marked the exit point 1/4" from the edge of a 3/4"-thick workpiece. Then, mark a line on the edge of the piece that angles 25° from the exit point. This is the path of the screw. Start the drill bit at the exit point, angle it to follow the path line, and drill until the bit emerges from the face of the workpiece.

Center a 3/4" Forstner bit on the hole where the bit emerged from the workpiece face. Drill straight down to a depth of about 1/4" to make room for the screwhead.

Assemble the joint

Align the two workpieces, then clamp a scrapwood positioning block, as shown in photo at right. This stops the pocket-hole workpiece from sliding during assembly.

If you have access to special pocket-hole screws, you can drive them right into most woods. But, if you're working with a dense wood, or using conventional screws, you'll need to drill pilot holes into the undrilled workpiece. To do this, simply align the workpieces with the positioning block clamped in place, then use the shank hole to guide the pilot-hole bit. Our #8 screw requires a 7/64" pilot hole in hardwood, a 3/32" pilot hole in softwood.


Comments (5)
The Owl wrote:

Ooops sorry, I forgot that I had a 1/4" drill too.

9/2/2010 09:42:00 PM Report Abuse
The Owl wrote:

I remember the days when I would not have the money to buy a jig at any price weather it was worth it or not. One of my first wood working project was a modern style wall clock.... I still have it. at that time the only power tool I had was a hand circular saw and a saber saw, both Craftsman. The pocket hole idea is great.

9/2/2010 09:39:14 PM Report Abuse
NAHVHDA wrote:

Good idea if one has to do a pocket hole and doesn't have a jig. However, there are many jigs on sale that are basic and not costly. Added note about the dust collector ad by OSHA does not approve any product. OSHA sets standards to meet. They do not test or otherwise approve products. Believe it. I had seventeen years of safety work and OSHA.

8/30/2010 02:03:27 PM Report Abuse
redheartwolfchris wrote:

I love the big pictures so it doesnt hurt my eyes to try to see the small details. Thank you!!

8/26/2010 11:53:46 AM Report Abuse
woodhaug wrote:

Great idea. I like the fact that you placed a guide block behind the clamp. Hats off to your photographer.

8/26/2010 09:51:44 AM Report Abuse

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