Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Review

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Kreg JigWelcome to our review of the Kreg Pocket Hole jig. I resisted buying the Kreg Jig for several years. I saw it demonstrated at the various trade and woodworking shows, but quite frankly was not impressed, primarily because of the visible pocket hole. A cabinetmaker friend however purchased one and said that it and the pocket hole techniques expounded by Marc Sommerfeld revolutionized how he made cabinets. A year later, I purchased the Kreg master kit (Wood Werks Wauconda IL.) and the Sommerfeld basic video. After watching the video (to learn the Sommerfeld pocket hole technique) I was hooked. Many, many cabinets later I still have not found a more efficient "system" for putting together face-frame cabinets.

I must underscore the use of the word "system"! I have bought into the "system", lock, stock, and barrel which I believe is essential to make the best use of the tool. And right or wrong, the system works! I challenge anyone to come up with a more efficient system that produces a sturdy, great looking face-frame cabinet. The reason I say right or wrong is that there are many ways to construct a face-frame cabinet. In the past I joined face-frames using mortise and tenons or dowels and attached them to the cabinet sides using biscuits. I attached stretchers and the like also using biscuits. Assembling large cabinets was always difficult when working alone. As we all know, glue works as a great lubricant until it sets. Once the clamps are applied, the workpieces slip and slide half way to .......

The Sommerfeld system pretty much does away with the need to clamp the cabinet parts together during assembly and greatly speeds up the assembly alignment process. As long as you cut everything square, and cut the sides, face frame members, and stretchers to equal length, the cabinet squares up almost automatically when you attach the stretchers and face frames. I typically use one clamp: A 36" one-handed vise-grip quick clamp. Occasionally, I add two Bessy K model clamps if for some reason the cabinet didn't square up right. (Bessy clamps are unique in that they tend to square up whatever they're clamping.)

Because of posts on the various woodworking bulletin boards I must add....The Kreg pocket hole system is designed to hold two GLUED pieces of wood together while the glue sets. I doubt seriously that it is Kreg's intention that one simply uses screws to secure a joint. Several detractors have noted that the angle and depth of the pocket hole created by the Kreg Jig is inferior to other pocket hole tools. If indeed it is inferior, it is only inferior if you are not planning to use glue for the primary bond. The purpose of the Kreg pocket hole and screw is to provide an efficient and convenient means to "clamp" two pieces of wood together. Once the glue cures, the screws are just added reinforcement.

Manufacturer: Kreg Tool
201 Campus Drive
Huxley, IA 50124

The Process

Here are the basic steps we follow to build a cabinet using the Kreg Tool/Sommerfeld system:

  1. Cut the cabinet side panels, face frame rail and stiles, stretchers, and bottom ledgers to final size.

  2. Drill the pocket holes in the face frame members (my wife does all the pocket hole machining.)

  3. Assemble the face frames using the Kreg Tool square head screws. Over the years I have devised a number of systems to clamp the face frame workpieces while screwing them together. Nothing has worked perfectly well. I found the original Kreg "Vise-Grip" face clamp doesn't always keep workpieces together satisfactorily. I built a clamping device, but it also is not perfect. The best bet is to assemble everything dry and then re-assemble with glue. For effiency sake, I generally do not dry-assemble. Regarding screws...I have used over 5,000 (five boxes) of the Kreg standard "fine" screws and 2,000 (2 boxes) of their Maxi-Loc Coarse screws. I have used other brands, but for the money, the Kreg screws are hard to beat. I typically pick up screws at the woodworking shows, but have also ordered a few boxes via mail order.

  4. Once assembled, I set the face frames aside (without clamps) to allow the glue to set up.

  5. Drill pocket holes in stretchers and cabinet sides (to fasten the face frame). We include pocket holes in the stretchers and sides to fasten the top.

  6. Assemble the cabinet sides using the stretchers. I typically use three stretchers: two in back (top and bottom) and one in front (bottom). Again, if the stretchers are cut equal-length everything should glue up pretty much square.

  7. Attach the bottom ledgers using glue and nails.

  8. Attach the face frame to the cabinet and square it up as necessary.

  9. Cut bottom to final size and attach it to the ledgers and bottom stretcher using nails.

  10. Set cabinet aside without clamps to allow the glue to set up.

  11. Add molding, top, etc.

What I Like About the Kreg Jig and Pocket Hole System

  • Just about everything. I would not part with it. Period. I consider it one of my most important tools.

  • Super quick easy to use. Absolutely goof-proof.

  • One motion produces both the pocket hole and the screw pilot hole.

  • Unlike the far less-expensive jigs, the Kreg need not be positioned or clamped in place. The guide hole angle is fixed. The depth is easily set using a stop bushing on the drill bit. The clamp is built in.

  • May be attached to workbench and its base height allows you to add 3/4" thick extension wings to support wide stock.

  • It cut two-thirds off my time to build face-frame cabinets.
    • Everything squares up virtually automatically.
    • No need to leave clamps on workpieces while the glue sets up.
    • Can attach face-frames to cabinets almost immediately following glue-up since the screws, not external clamps are holding everything together.
    • Can move assembled cabinet out of way, without clamps, immediately following glue-up.
    • One man, two hands, and one clamp can assemble even large cabinets with little difficulty.
    • Helper or other cabinet-maker can be milling other components while other assembles.

  • My expensive inventory of bar clamps are available for other clamping chores and are not taking up floor space hanging off face frames and cabinet carcases.

  • Accessories such as the Kreg line of square-head screws are excellent and fairly priced.

  • Great video will enchance your cabinet-making techniques. (Currently Unavailable)

  • You'll find lots of other uses for pocket hole joinery.
    • Built-up table legs
    • Mounting edges to counters and table tops
    • Drawer construction (heretical I know, but they stay together forever!)
    • etc.

  • Great people to do business with.

  • Great web site. Get their catalog.

What I Don't Like About the Kreg Jig and Pocket Hole System

  • Chips don't evacuate well when drilling. This is fixed on later Kreg jigs. Kreg will add the evacuation holes on older models for a reasonable fee. Problem is I use the jig so much I don't want to part with it for the machining.

  • Face clamp is okay. Works well for some users all of the time, works well for me some of the time. Make sure you clean the glue off of its faces during and after each use.

  • Sometimes when the planets and stars are aligned just right, I have difficulty with workpieces shifting when screwing them together. Kreg Tool Info Regarding Clamping.

  • Pretty monotonous if you're making lots of pocket holes. Thanks Luzimar for taking over the pocket hole drilling!

  • Pocket holes are ugly. Most customers-observers don't notice them. However, if in view, plug them. Kreg sells plugs for dirt cheap. For convenience, I make my own, here's how:
    1. Drill a pocket hole in a piece of scrap.
    2. Fill the hole with a piece of 3/8" dowel (approx. 1-1/2" long)
    3. Sand the dowel flush to the scrap using a disk/belt sander.
    4. Remove plug, insert another dowel, repeat steps. I can make dozens of plugs in an hour.

  • Expensive inventory of Bessy clamps pretty much remain stored on the wall.

  • Expensive biscuit jointer gets little use.

  • Why didn't I think of that! (The Kreg Jig)

Helpful Hints

  • Keep the drill bit sharp. Buy an extra drill bit. That way when one gets dull, send it back for sharpening and use the spare.

  • Make sure the workpiece does not rock on the base.

  • Make sure your workpieces are exactly the same thickness and that mating edges are square.

  • Attach the jig to a workbench and add 3/4" x 5" x 18" wings to each side of the jig.

  • Buy and watch the basic cabinet-making video. (Currently Unavailable)

  • Build a frame of one by twos or a clamping system to support the face frame pieces for assembly.

  • Additional Kreg Tool Info Regarding Clamping.

  • Don't let customers know just how easy it is to build a cabinet with this system.

The Bottom Line

The Kreg Jig and the Sommerfeld/Kreg Pocket Hole joinery system greatly simplifies the task of building and assembling cabinets. It has definitely revolutionized my cabinet-making process. It makes "production-level" cabinet-making and assembly a possibility for small shops. I have several expensive purchased jigs and the Kreg Jig is by far the most useful.

Rating: out of 5!

Kreg Tool Discussion Group

Kreg Tool hosts a discussion group. Check it out at: Kreg Tool Discussion Group.

Source for Screws and Cabinet Hardware

A note from Gordon Jackson of Jackson Custom Woodworks....

"Again let me say thank you for the info about pocket hole jigs. It has changed the way I make cabinets (and everything else). I thought you may like to know that I have found a great source for pocket hole screws. It is Custom Service Hardware (262)375-7960, (800)882-0009 . I bought 8000 #7 x 1- 1/4" coarse screws with the auger point for $85. They also have great prices on tons of cabinet hardware."

I have not tried these screws or this source for cabinet hardware, but evidently Gordon is happy with them. I checked out their prices, and for #7 lubed 1-1/4" screws, Custom Hardware charges about 1/2 the Kreg price.


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