The pocket hole jig makes pocket hole joinery a piece of cake. What has been a proven technique of high-quality furniture making is now made more comfortable with the proper jig.
Pocket holes are 15-degree angle holes that are drilled into one piece of wood. That piece of wood can then be joined at 90 degrees to another board with a self-tapping screw.
A pocket hole recesses the screws and hides them, creating a seamless appearance on your woodworking projects.
You end up with an extremely strong joint. Done properly, it can even make the amateur woodworker look like a pro.
When you don’t use pocket holes and simply screw into the end-grain of wood, the fibers don’t always provide the tightest bite for your screws. Splitting can also be a problem.
- Best Pocket Hole Drill Guide Comparison Chart
- Kreg K5 Pocket-Hole Jig
- Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole Joinery System
- Massca Hole Jig Set
- Kreg R3 Jr Pocket Hole Jig Kit
- General Tools 850
- Porter-Cable 560 QuikJig Pocket Hole Jig System
- Buyer’s Guide And FAQ
- Special Drill Bit And Screw Required
- Will A Pocket Jig Work On Hardwoods?
- Can You Make Pocket Holes Without A Jig?
- Proper Pocket Hole Placement
- Correct Pocket Hole Screw Length
- How To Hide Pocket Holes
- Common Pocket Hole Mistakes
With a pocket hole, your screw is less likely to split the grain of the wood. Screwing into the edge or face grain of the board is more likely to get a better grip.
Best Pocket Hole Drill Guide Comparison Chart
Kreg K5 Pocket-Hole Jig
This Kreg jig is taking all of the handy features from the well-proven K4 model and adds a few new features to help speed up the workflow of a high-volume shop. The K5 is one of the best pocket hole jigs for professionals.
You’ll immediately notice the two new wings on the sides of the jig. These wings are designed to serve as handy storage for your most frequently used screw sizes. However, they also help stabilize the jig, allowing you to work on a solid surface without having to clamp the jig in place as often on smaller projects. The Kreg face clamp will be still be recommended to secure the K5 to the benchtop.
There is also easy to use a clamp on the front of the jig to make it easier to clamp and unclamp the workpieces while getting the job done at top speed.
One of the neatest features is the vacuum port for removing the wood chips while you work. A dust collection port keeps your workplace clear so that you can see the hundredth hole as clearly as the first.
This complete kit also comes with a square drive bit for driving the pocket screws once the holes are drilled.
If you want a heavy-duty drill jig with a lifetime warranty that will let you maximize the amount of time you are getting from your employees, the K5 is the perfect solution.
Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole Joinery System
Kreg has created an industry name for themselves in the selling and maintenance of these jigs. They are the gold standard for ease of use, and we see their tools being a top pick by amateurs and pros, alike. The K4 master system is the best pocket hole jig for home-owners and hobbyists.
This jig has everything you need. Not only is it fully adjustable and with different hole patterns that make it easy to get the correct distancing on any width accurately, but it also has a built-in quick-release toggle clamp on the front, just like the K5.
It also has a removable drill guide block. If you are trying to create a pocket hole in tight areas, you can pull the guide out and go clamp it onto the wood. Then slip it back into the holder when you are finished.
The 3-hole drill guide makes it easy to set the holes the correct distance apart for maximum security.
When you have a lot of work to be done, this the tool that is going to let you set it up once and then turn out hundreds of holes in minutes. The clamping is especially handy as you can click your workpieces in and out in a matter of seconds.
You don’t have the vacuum port on this one, but it has everything else that you need. A quick-release C-clamp secures it to the workbench for a solid working surface.
With clear markings and heavy-duty construction, this is another top pick for the DIY shop as well as the professional shop that occasionally needs to turn out a large number of pocket holes.
If you are just getting started, buy one of the multi-kits that includes the screws, driver bits, and drill bits that you need.
Massca Hole Jig Set
This Massca model doesn’t get as much visibility online, and I think it is an overlooked tool.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the standardized dust collection port. So you can hook this into any of the major dust collection systems and keep your dust down to a minimum. Typically you have to buy a much higher quality tool to get this feature.
Then, you’ll notice how much metal is used in this tool’s design. The metal helps to keep the jig from flexing, which ensures that you get the correct line even when you are drilling into hardwoods. Hex wrench adjustability makes dialing in your settings a breeze.
Instead of the depth collar, this one has an easy drill depth adjuster, which lets you adjust the stop points for each job.
The quick-release clamp makes it easy to hold your craft in place while you are drilling. You’ll want to clamp the portable base of this tool to a benchtop or other solid surface.
It’s a high-end tool that challenges the Kreg kingship of the pocket hole market.
Kreg R3 Jr Pocket Hole Jig Kit
For a lot of our DIYers, they just want a cheap option. You are only going to be making a few pocket holes, and you don’t mind spending a little more time measuring and clamping.
This one is an incredible option for these users. You can get your holes lined up with minimal measuring, and you’ll want to use some quick-release clamps to hold it in place while you drill.
If you need to drill holes more closely together, you can remove the center spacer. And, you can even separate this tool in two and have separate jigs for you and an employee or spouse both use.
It all comes in a convenient carrying case so that you’ll know right where your tools are when the right job comes up.
It also provides the ultimate level of portability. Slip it in your pocket, and you are ready to go.
General Tools 850
The General Tools 850 caught my eye while I was comparing the other ones on this page. It’s simple, and Spartan design means that you can throw it in your toolbox and let it rattle around until the next time you need it.
The General Tools 850 is probably the simplest — and most foolproof — jig on this list. You clamp it to the end of the board, adjust the stop collar on the screw to the correct depth, and drill your holes.
There are some downsides. The clamping system that it comes with will take quite a few turns to tighten and loosen it. And the little clamp end can bite into the wood and leave marks if you aren’t careful.
But for an easy-to-use model that is quite affordable, the General Tools deserves a place on this list.
Porter-Cable 560 QuikJig Pocket Hole Jig System
This Porter-Cable is a fun addition to the standard Jig model.
It’s a case of over-engineering a design to make your day easier.
All you do is slip the wood in, and twist the knob down to both secure the piece and set the correct depth. Drill your hole and move on to the next piece.
It is an absolutely amazing tool.
Unfortunately, it tends to be out of stock. You can see if any are available by clicking the link above.
Buyer’s Guide And FAQ
The first thing that you want to look for is a highly-accurate guide. If you wanted something that left crooked holes, you could try to freehand your holes.
The next thing you are looking for is speed. The entire purpose of a jig is to help you turn out to work more quickly. Once you start making pocket holes, you are going to find yourselves using them a lot. The right jig will help you get a large volume of work completed more quickly.
The final — and most important — consideration is durability. Both the Kreg and the Massca models that we discuss here seem to hold up well. However, the Kreg has been around a long time and has more market recognition.
Special Drill Bit And Screw Required
To use this technique, you not only need a jig to help you get the correct angle, but also a special drill bit that has a two-stage diameter.
This two-step drill bit creates a specialized lip that the pocket hole screw head will rest on.
If you use a standard drill bit, there is no supporting surface for the screw head to hold onto, and you won’t get a usable joint.
Most of these kits are going to come with the drill bit that you need to create these pocket holes.
Will A Pocket Jig Work On Hardwoods?
Pocket hole joints will work on hardwoods, but you will need to get the proper screw type. For hardwoods, like Oak, walnut, cherry, maple, mahogany, and hickory, you will want to use a fine-threaded screw that offers more holding power without as much risk of splitting. The coarser screws are still a great choice for soft pines, MDF, and plywood.
Additionally, a cordless drill will not have enough power. You will want to use a corded drill or impact driver with more torque. You may even find yourself using a hardened drill bit to do most of the drilling, and then follow up with the pocket hole bit to finish the job.
We were ripping a tongue along the length of a 12-foot piece of cherry, and we just about fried the table saw. It tripped the reset, and we had to slow down and wait between the boards to let the tool cool for a minute. Moments like this make you respect the durability of this lumber.
Most of us are working with softwoods like pine. But, for heirloom-quality work, you will want to use the higher-end hardwoods like cherry and walnut.
Can You Make Pocket Holes Without A Jig?
Sure, you can, but why would you? It’s difficult to drill holes at consistent angles without a jig. Additionally, if you don’t use a pocket screw, you aren’t going to have that flat screw head surface that works so well to draw the boards tightly together.
To do this, start with a small bit. Drill down and then tip the drill back to pivot it and drill at an angle. Try to get the most consistent lines that you can and then follow up with a bigger bit. Using pocket screws, and this method, you will get a tighter hold than you will just be toenailing it together with regular screws.
You can also get a mini pocket hold jig. These take more time to use since you have to clamp it in place, but it gives you more accurate holes than trying to freehand it.
Proper Pocket Hole Placement
One of the handy things about using a jig is that it makes proper placement extremely easy. On Boards under 4 inches wide, you will want two screws in the middle of the board.
- On 1- to 2-inch-wide material, you don’t have a lot of room to work. You’ll want both screws to be at least a quarter-inch from the edge and a half-inch apart from each other. On a 2 inch board, you can set them at least a half-inch from the edge and an inch apart.
- On 2- to 3-inch-wide boards, you can set them to be at least a half-inch from the edge and inch apart from each other. A Jig makes this super easy as it has pre-selected spots that you can use.
- On 4- to 6-inch-wide boards, you will set it so that each screw is almost 2 inches from the edge of the board. On a 4 inch board, you might decrease that to 1 inch. On a 5 inch board, you can do an inch-and-a-half. Once again, a jig has pre-selected widths that make drilling this super simple.
- On wider boards — such as a railing or a countertop — you will want to put the first line 2 inches from the edge, and then every 6 inches thereafter to prevent warping.
Correct Pocket Hole Screw Length
If the screw is too long, it will poke through the other side. If it is too short, you will get a poor connection.
You’ll want to reference the screw chart that comes with your kit, but here is a simple guide, based on Kreg guidelines.
- 5/8″ to 3/4″ thickness using 1-1/4″ screw
- 7/8″ to 1-1/8″ thickness use 1-1/2″ screw
- 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ thickness use 2″ screw
- Above a 2-1/2″ thickness, use a 2-1/2″
How To Hide Pocket Holes
Pocket holes make it easy for the high-end factory or the new woodworker to make fast, strong joints. It is not as complicated as a joining method as a mortise and tenon joint.
However, it does leave these massive holes in the wood. The next level of woodworking is to fill these holes in and disguise them.
Wood filler is the obvious choice as a way to hide pocket holes. It applies easily, and, once dried, it can be sanded smooth for a seamless finish.
The other option is to insert dab a little glue in, hammer in a short dowel, and use a flush-cut saw to cut it flush. It requires a little more work, and the finish isn’t quite as smooth, but it is an easy solution. There are also pre-cut wooden pocket hole plugs that can save you a little bit of time since they are already cut with a 15-degree miter.
Common Pocket Hole Mistakes
Setting the Drill Guide For The Incorrect Depth
The wrong drill guide selection is one of those errors that is such a no-brainer that it is easy to do it wrong when you are working quickly. The better-quality jigs all have a depth selector. Simply take the time to make sure that you have the correct depth selected for the board thickness that you are drilling into.
If you are using the jigs heavily in a shop setting, you might invest in a few different jigs so that you can leave each one set at the correct thickness. Mark them with colored tape so you and your team can easily know which jig they are working with.
It is common for boards to be thinner than the advertised thickness. If you drill too deeply, the bit will pierce through the wood and destroy the lip that the pocket screw head requires for a tight fit.
You may need to back the depth down a little bit for plywood and other standard lumber sizes that run thinner than advertised.
Driving Screws Into The End Grain
The secret to a pocket hole’s strength is that it can pull the two pieces of wood together tightly, thanks to the surface that is left for the screw head to bit into.
However, the strength of the screw is lost when the tip is entering at the end of a board. The ends of boards are like a bundle of straws with all of the wood grains flowing the same direction. When you screw the tip into this “bundle of straws,” they separate and provide a very weak hold.
Always make sure that you are first drilling a pocket hole into the end board. The head will go into the end board, and the tip of the screw will need to insert into the edge of the next board.
Using A Dull Bit
Dull drill bits are something we all struggle with. We’re working along, and the bit is getting duller all the time.
Kreg DKDB drill bits are good for 4,000-5,000 holes in Oak. But, with all drill bits, they eventually reach a point where they are too dull to create a clean edge.
We keep a small round file on the shop to easily file off the leading edge. We do this every 100 holes or so. It used to be that Kreg offered drill bit sharpening for $6; however, they have discontinued that service.
Once the bit is creating flayed holes, you’ll need to buy a new step bit.