Kreig – A Must For Joinery

Any young lad on a construction site would be amazed at the senior carpenters who could somehow drive screws and nails at steep angles.  It’s really tough to get it right and not go broke with the amount of material you can waste.  You can imagine the excitement involved when learning about the Kreg Jig.  This thing is simply amazing.  If you enjoy building or repairing furniture or building cabinets you’ll want to add one of these to your tool box….like yesterday.  It will save you time and money and will damn near guarantee perfect results.  So how does the Kreg Jig do its thing?

 Pocket Holes = WOW!

The Kreg Jig is an awesome addition to your DIY armory and will enable you to perfectly join materials using a pocket hole.  What’s a pocket hole? According Wikipedia, a website always known for its accuracy and truthfulness, a pocket hole is the result of drilling a hole at a 15-degree angle in one piece of wood and joining it to another with a self-tapping screw.  Pocket holes allow you to (mostly) ignore more traditional joinery techniques due to the strength and reliability of the joint.  The sky is pretty much the limit with this tool as you can build furniture with ease by joining edges, bevels and face frames without breaking a sweat.

In order to get the most out of this jig, you’ll need to be sure to use the stepped drill bit that comes cabinet jigswith the kit and pocket hole screws.  The stepped bit drills the pocket hole and a pilot hole for the screw at the same time, which is great because it effectively stops the screw when it reaches the predetermined depth.  The Kreg screws are self-tapping pocket hole screws, which prevent the wood from splitting  while creating an exceptionally strong joint.   You’re going to have a long day if you attempt to drill pocket holes with a regular drill bit and drywall screws.

How do You use it?

Clamp the jig to a solid work surface.

Using the Allen key that’s included with the kit, unlock the collar on the drill bit and slide the bit to the depth of the material that you’re joining.

This bit is set to join two 3/4″ pieces of material.

Set the depth on the jig to the depth of the material that you’re joining by loosening the bronze knob and sliding the jig up or down.

Adjust the black clamp on the jig to fit the thickness of your material.

Clamp the material.  Check for square.

Drill the piece until the collar on the drill bit stops on the jig.

Un-clamp the material from the jig and join it to the second piece of material using the appropriate size Kreg screw and the Kreg driver bit.

Drink beer.

The Kreg Driver Bit

The bit that you will use to drive the screw is a 6″ square tip bit.  It’s 6″ long because it needs to sink into the pocket hole to drive the screw into place.  Sure, you can use a small square tip bit but you’ll lose it before you know what happened.  It’s extremely difficult to back the screws out once they’ve been driven into the pocket hole, so be sure that you’re happy with the joint before you remove the bit.

Some Helpful Tips:

When edge joining, you may want to clamp one of the pieces to a table top as this will help prevent the materials from moving.  Face clamps can be incredibly helpful as well.  Kreg sells face clamps but you might opt for the Milwaukee version if the Kreg clamp was not available at my local big box.
It is highly recommend that you get the Kreg right angle clamp if you are joining anything at a 90 degree angle.  In fact, buy two if you can afford it. These clamps are specifically designed to fit inside of the Kreg pocket holes and all but guarantee that you’ll get a perfect right angle.  They’re simple to use;  just inset the pin end in the pocket hole, place the flat end on the outside of the piece to be joined and squeeze.  You can adjust the pressure as needed using the screw on the end of clamp.
Another useful addition is the 3″ driver bit.  This little guy has saved me a few times on smaller projects where the 6″ bit is unusable.  If you get into a really tight space and use of the screw gun is not possible you can attach the 3″ bit to the end of a socket wrench and ratchet the screw into place.  If you must resort that this approach be sure to use a clamp as you’ll be lacking the torque to properly secure the material.
If you screw up and realize that you need to add a pocket hole, you can completely remove the sliding portion of the jig and clamp it to the area where you want another pocket hole.  Once the jig is aligned you can drill the hole and drive the screw.
And finally, two screw guns are better than one.  This will enable you to drill with one and drive with the other, which will save you time and prevent you from pulling you hair out while you search for a missing drill bit.

So how do you determine the depth of the holes and the screws to use?

The depth of the pocket and the size of the screw is based on the thickness of the wood that you’re joining.  For the pocket hole, just set the drill bit and the jig to the thickness of the material.  For example, if you’re joining standard 3/4″ stock (such as a 1X4) just set the bit and the jig to 3/4″.  It’s the same for any other material.

A word on fine vs. coarse screws:

You’ll want to use fine screws on hardwoods such as oak or cherry and coarse screws for soft woods like pine.  The Kreg website suggests that you use coarse screws for cedar, but you will get better results using fine screws for cedar.