Save time with pocket holes
With all of the great woodworking joints at our disposal, most of which don’t require hardware of any kind, a woodworker has to wonder: Why use a pocket-hole joint? The answer is simple: Pocket holes offer the quickest way imaginable to build a face frame, assemble a cabinet, or join parts that would be difficult to clamp. And they provide plenty of holding power, too.
Of course, you could try to drill the pocket holes freehand, but a commercial jig helps you do it far more accurately and efficiently. Let us show you the basics, using a Kreg K2000 jig as our main example. (Kreg’s Mini jig is represented in the drawing below.)
A pocket-hole joint at a glance
A pocket hole enters wood at an angle of about 15° to the workpiece surface, allowing you to drill toward the end or edge of a project part as shown in the opening photo. A specially designed drill bit equipped with a stop collar (Drawing 1, above) creates a hole large enough to accept the head of a screw, while also drilling a small hole for the shank.
Use screws with coarse threads to join softwood, plywood, or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and fine threads for hardwoods (see photo below). Pocket-hole screws have a self-tapping auger point. This point, combined with the untapered profile of the screw, allows you to drive the screw into the adjoining part without a pilot hole. Even dense woods, such as oak, should not split.
The screws also feature a round washer head (so named because it has extra bearing surface built into the bottom of the head). This design, which prevents the head from being pulled into the wood, guarantees a tight connection.
Drill at least two holes to resist twisting. Add glue to the mating surfaces if you don’t intend to disassemble the parts later. Use clamps to ensure flush surfaces, as shown in Drawing 2, above. Now, insert the screws, and drive them to full depth, drawing the two parts together.
Let’s put it to use
Face frames come together quickly with pocket-hole joinery, as shown in Photo A, below. As you can see, we built a support platform out of 2×4s to make the process go even more smoothly. The platform holds your workpiece up off the bench, creating space for clamps.
Pocket holes save a lot of time when you build basic cabinets, as shown in Photos B and C, below. Pocket-hole joinery also stands out as a way to assemble angled, hard-to-clamp joints, like the ones found in a multiple-sided frame. See Photo D, following, for an example.
Pocket-hole joinery creates long, unsightly surface holes at each joint. That’s not a problem for concealed surfaces. For sometimes-seen surfaces, you might decide to fill the holes with commercially available plugs, as shown in Photo E, below (or make your own plugs from dowels). The result might not be acceptable on highly visible project surfaces, though. In such cases, another joint type, say biscuits, might give better results.