Beginner’s guide to pocket hole joinery | WOODWORKING BASICS

Beginner’s guide to pocket hole joinery | WOODWORKING BASICS


Big award show this weekend. I really hope Leo wins for his riveting performance as … Love it or hate it, pocket hole joinery has made making things a lot easier for a whole new generation of builders. There’s a lot to like about the technique. You can build things that are very strong with no special skills or experience needed. And the cost of getting started is relatively affordable. My show is mostly project based. Usually I’m more interested in getting something made rather than the process of making. I do like to find a balance between enjoying the process and having fun, yet not getting bogged down in complex skills. However, there are a lot of people whose focus is tilted more towards technique and fine craftmanship. I admire those of you who will spend six months or more working on an amazing heirloom quality project with hand-cut dovetails and mortise and tenon joinery. Making things is fun and rewarding no matter how you approach it. This video is for people who are new to or inexperienced with woodworking but want to get started making and completing projects without a lot of fuss. And maybe after completing a few quick and easy projects using pocket screws, you may gain the confidence to explore more complex joinery techniques. The possibilities are endless. One thing I want to mention is that all of my pocket hole tools are from Kreg. Kreg does not sponsor Woodworking for Mere Mortals, nor am I compensated for this video. There are other brands that make pocket hole jigs too, I’m just familiar with the Kreg jig. Sometimes screwing into the end-grain of a board is fine but it isn’t the strongest connection. Think of the end-grain of wood like this stack of pencils with all of the fibers running in this direction. When you screw into them the wood fibers can just separate without giving the screw much to bite into. Screwing into the edge- or the face-grain of a board will give you much better holding power. So in a situation like this the problem is how to join the boards together this way so that the screws aren’t going into the end-grain. The solution is to drive a screw through this face-grain at an angle into that face-grain. To make a strong connection you need a special drill bit and a special screw. This is a stepped bit; it has a narrow tip for guiding the screw, and a wider part for making the pocket hole. This area where the two sections meet creates a flat ledge that the head of the special pocket screws rest on. I’ve cut away this board so you can see how the wide, flat head of the screw holds tight against that ledge. It’s kinda like a screw with a built-in washer. It’s a good idea to attach the jig to something so it doesn’t move. First, you’ll need to adjust this thing to match the thickness of the wood you’re using. There’s markings on the side and positive stops I’ve rarely had to adjust that because I almost always drill pocket holes in three-quarter inch thick boards. Next you need to set the depth of the hole by adjusting this collar on the drill bit. You loosen it with a hex wrench. Then drop the bit into one of these guide holes. I let it touch the plastic base, then I back it off just a hair. Then I can lock down this collar. So that’ll stop the bit from drilling into the base. And this is also something I rarely need to adjust. Adjust this part to the thickness of your board. One other thing I highly recommend is this vacuum attachment. It’s amazing how much of a mess drilling these holes makes. Hooking up a shop-vac removes almost all of it. Using the pocket hole jig is simple. There are three guide holes that help you to space apart your pocket holes however you like. Then you just set your board in place and lock it down. With your drill set to its highest speed, drill into the board until the collar stops it. Usually you’ll drill on the ends of the boards. But sometimes, say if you want to join two boards together like that, you may need to drill along the edge. The important thing to remember is that the point of the screw needs to go into the edge-grain, or the face-grain, so a connection going this way would make for a weak joint. On the packages of the screws there’s a chart to help you figure out what length of screw you’ll need. Obviously you want the screw to go into the board as far as possible without poking through the other side. And running a couple of tests on some scrap boards is always a good idea. Most of the time I use inch and a quarter screws since I most use three-quarter inch thick lumber. Also the screws come in fine or coarse thread. I use the fine thread screws only for hard woods like oak or maple. For almost all other lumber and plywood use the coarse thread screws. Basically I just keep a supply of the inch and a quarter coarse thread screws on hand at all times. To join the boards they need to be clamped together while driving the screws. If you don’t, the twisting motion of the screw will shift them apart, and they won’t be flush. For joining together flat edges like for a picture frame or the face frame of a cabinet I use this clamp right across the joint to keep the boards in place. These are square drive screws, and one of these long drivers makes it easy to drive them. Set your drill to a slow speed. I usually drive the screws in by feel, stopping just when I feel them tighten. Be careful you don’t drive them too fast or with to much torque which can cause them to blast all the way through the wood. For that reason I also don’t recommend using an impact driver. If you’re afraid you might drive the screws in too deep, the safest technique is to adjust this clutch on your drill – you know, this thing that you probably never use and maybe you didn’t even know what is was for. Set it to a low number, then it’ll tighten the screw but stop before it drives it in too far. You’ll probably be surprised how strong that joint is. Now let’s say you wanna join your pieces together at a ninety degree angle, say for a bookcase or a box. You still need to clamp them together but obviously this kind of a clamp won’t work. One method is to use a bar clamp or a pipe clamp. You can also use one of these specialty clamps that works like this. Be aware of the direction your screws are going. Always make sure they’re going into the meat of the wood so to speak. In other words, you always want the screws angled in toward the main part of the board, not toward the end. There’s just not enough wood there to hold it. One of the drawbacks to using pocket holes is that they can be an eyesore. Usually it’s pretty easy to conceal them in the back or underneath projects in such a way that they’re not visible. But sometimes on projects it’s just impossible to avoid placing them in a visible location. The easiest way to hide them is to plug the holes. You can either buy these pre-made wooden plugs or you can just use a dowel, glued into place and sanded flush. For painted projects especially, that’s a good solution. Once it’s painted over you’ll never see that patch. So let me know what you think about pocket hole joinery. Do you use pocket srews, and if so do you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share with others? Please leave your comments and questions about pocket holes down below and I’ll answer some of those early next week on More Minutes. Thank you for joining me for another basics video. Have a great week, and I’ll see you next Friday.

100 thoughts on “Beginner’s guide to pocket hole joinery | WOODWORKING BASICS

  1. Awesome video as usual Steve. You are a fantastic instructor. I’ve been watching you for years now and you have inspired me to start my own YouTube channel. Thank you!

  2. I really really dislike that
    Matthias Wandel made a comparison video of dowels with glue vs pocket screws WITHOUT GLUE. Man that really grinds me gears.

  3. I'm just starting in some wood projects and ran across this video–can't wait to see more of your videos! You really speak to the beginner.

  4. Hey Steve, great instructional vid! No, muss, no fluff & just the right amount of instruction to set a guy off in the right direction without a bunch of further study.

  5. Steve: you are “the man”! I enjoy your videos and Have been a subscriber for about six months now. I learned so much about pocket joinery from your video. Thanks for posting and please, keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks for your simple explanation, I build small furniture from “Pallet Wood” and now have a better picture on how to take advantage of Kreg Jig K4…Regards

  7. Wow what a pleasure to find a complete, slick, informative, gimmick free video on this – so many superficially glossy or shambling or poorly lit videos about pocket joinery on Youtube. This one nails it perfectly. Thanks Steve.

  8. This is such a helpful guide for someone who has never built stuff before and has been confused about the jig. Great explanations for how and why to do things!

  9. Tried and failed in my attempt to make Cornhole board using pocket holes. Thanks for the tip on using the 90* clamp. Exactly what I was looking for.

  10. I still have one question. Do you rest the end of the jig against the end of the board? I have the kreg mini, so I need to know.
    Awesome video and thank you so much for your information! I'm about to start using this technique to complete my "Project Pretty Place." It's an accessible beauty product storage unit/makeup table and stool. I designed it without any references, and I'm doing everything myself.

  11. Hi

    I recently purchased a k4 kreg jig and I was trying to join two 1.25"x1.25" red oak pieces

    The manual says to use 2 inch fine thread screws ,but I keep splitting the wood. Kreg doesnt offer those screws, so i just got other ones that are fine threaded and 2 inches.

    Do you have any recommendations?

  12. I received a Keegan pocket hole jig for a retirement gift, and thanks to your video I’m breaking it out of mothballs and finally using it.

  13. Nice! First time user here.
    Short but comprehensive video about pocket hole jig.
    Thank you. Shalom

  14. I bought an aluminum pocket hole jig from Harbor Freight a couple years ago. I used it for a couple projects and it worked well and was cheaper than the Krieg jig. I do use the Krieg screws.

  15. Thanks Steve now I’m ready to try this system. I wonder this system does with staining since the plugs don’t look like the same color as the board.

  16. This was a really fantastic video! Answered all the questions I had about starting to use pocket screws and your presentation is extremely clear. Thanks a lot for the video!

  17. Definitely well explained by Steve. And yes, I didn't know about adjusting that drill speed/torque.Thanks a lot!

  18. Thanks for posting this. How would you recommend using this method to join two 4×4 posts in the same manner? Any help from anyone? Thanks!

  19. as a swiss Carpenter/Joiner I always admired pockedholes, as the concept is so easy and gets the job done quickly. Here in central europe this method is not widely used. Either it's done by doweling or biscuitjoining.. We could do with some learning from abroad:) cheers

  20. First of all, this was a GREAT video! You have convinced me to by a Kreg jig. Second, your TARDIS is AMAZING!!! WOW!!!! Thumbs up for sure!

  21. What a great tutorial my friend, very nice indeed……really nicely done, thank you…. from woodworker in UK.

  22. Hey Steve, watched about 15 videos from you today great job!!!! Very useful information and love seeing you enjoy what you make… Thank you!!!!!

  23. DO NOT BY ANY MEANS TAG YOUR OS WITH POCKEHOLE EVEN ALONG WOTH WOOD THATS WORSE. No i didn’t find this video by accident I just see things and find all possible meanings (good at riddles[sometimes])

  24. Very good video. I have been a carpenter for 25 years. Though I would not call myself a cabinet maker because that is not what I specialized in. I did like the way you started this video stating there are various levels of cabinet building, and of course to each his own as we all have her own specific needs. You made this video very accessible to newcomers. Thank you for this video my friend.

  25. DAMN!!! I was looking to learn a bit about screws, someone mentioned pocket hole screws. Didn't know what they were, found this at the top of a google search… within minutes, you taught me loads. No rambling on and on. Just the details, high quality video and enjoyable! If you get tired of woodworking, you could teach video making skills!!!

  26. So happy I found this video. Best instructional on using the Kreg jig that I found (including the ones that came in the package. Well made and easy to understand.

  27. Are pocket holes a good solution to put together plywood boards or should they be left for solid lumber?

  28. With this many subscribers, Ramsey has to be consistently excellent. He is. Plus, there is a practicality mixed with enthusiasm that certainly helps me. Bravo mere Steve!

  29. I saw this video a while ago, then again before aquiring the tool, then again to understand what I am doing wrong. Today I took notes.

  30. WOW, I learned so much with your video.I think thing that surprised me the most is The Drill driver- "drill clutch #'s" Mind blown! thank you

  31. I am a beginner but I have had good luck with pocket holes! This is an interesting video covering all the main points

  32. Hello steve! I've been a subscriber to this Chanel a little bit long ago, but this the first time i make comment,,, it amazingly answers my questions about applying pocket holes since I'm new in wood working,,, thanks! Your awesome….

  33. Im enjoying your vids men great job 👌🏼 Im learning a Lot and looking forward to use it at my house when I finaly finish it … great inspiration keep going 👏🏼😎

  34. Thank you so much for this video!! It answered just about every question I had about this technique. 👌🏽👍🏼👍🏼

  35. I don't want to get carried away, but you really have gift for effective instruction. I needed a refresher on pocket hole joinery and with your video I was back up to speed in minutes.

  36. This is awesome…
    Getting back into woodwork since school.
       (35 years ago).
    I'm trying to build a frame for "Flight Sim, Plane X" at the moment.
    What is a good Pocket Hole Jig ???
     NOT THE CHINA ONES !!!!!!!!!
    I don't need a big ass complex one…
    Just a good quality simple 2 hole jig.
    Shazbot………. NanuNanu…

  37. I use mt Kreg on almost every project, it is a great tool. There is a collar setting guide on the kreg website which is downloadable.

  38. I'm sorry, but "real" woodworking requires ducktail joints, homemade glue, and billowing clouds of pipe tobacco smoke! This newfangled stuff is for people that don't revere the ancient code of woodworking from the Dark Ages. Sheesh!!

  39. I use my Kreg to make joints drilling towards the corner fairly frequently, so that the holes are more concealed. I've never had a problem. Maybe its because I use many screws in this situation. For example, you can attach a face frame to a cabinet from the backside.

  40. VERY INFORMATIVE !! I’m soo frustrated with my KJ that I end up using another method😩😩 Thanks to you- I’ll give it one more go!! New subbie 😉Tmika

  41. New to the Kreg system. The included directions weren't the greatest. Your video cleared up my questions. Thanks for doing this!

  42. I have a Kreg pocket hole jig and tried to make the hole in a 1"x4" board and it rips the wood apart what causes this. Plus I wish you would give the size of board that can be used to place a pocket hole. The board you where using looks like a 1" board. I'm confessed. Love your videos

  43. I came here after getting a Pocket hole kit, but was ripping through the timber. I will not use my driver after your recommendation, will use my normal drill with clutch on low settings. Thanks for making such a clear video.

  44. Not a fan of pocket screws. Tedious, time consuming and specialized screws are needed, not to mention there are two giant holes on your delicate work piece. I just use glue and drive into the end grain with an angle for utility oriented projects. Mortise and tenon and dove tails for others.

  45. Good starter video that goes in detail, but not too much to bore you. Nice, now I feel confident enough to try this technique

  46. i'm sorry but i have a man crush….not on you but your videos…always fun to watch and so helpful and informative…keep up the great work you do….

  47. "…instead of getting bogged down in complex skills…"
    Definitely not a channel I'd be interested in. Acquiring skills is part of the enjoyment of building.

  48. Practically speaking, is there significant strength difference between two screws in the end grain + glue VS two pocket screws+ glue?

  49. Recently I started using pocket joinery on MDF and particle board, and it works really well, it just needs a few minutes of adjusting everything. Great video and explanations!

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