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

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

In a correctly drilled pocket hole, the pilot hole should stop 18 " 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.

Screw in board with clamp

Pocket Hole Process

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 below. Repeat the first two steps for the ends of each rail and center stile on your frame.

Blue Jig with clamp
Visually center the jig on the end of your workpiece. Then drill pilot holes in pairs to keep parts from twisting.

3 At each joint, butt the mating parts together and clamp them solidly against your workbench photo below. 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.

Drilling hole with out blue jig
Position the face clamp to span both joint parts. Self-tapping screws keep the mating part from splitting.

Hiding a Pocket Hole

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 38 " 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 below using a rigid-backed sanding block. Or turn plugs into accents using contrasting species, such as a walnut plug in maple.

Drilling hole with out blue jig
Wooden pocket-hole plugs still need to be sanded flush with the surface. For a similar look, use 3/8" dowels.

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

Drilling hole with out blue jig
Molded plugs hide the pocket hole and chip-out from drilling. You also can buy plugs to match black, brown, and almond melamine.

Ensuring Perfect Joints

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.)

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