A Beginner's Guide to Pocket Hole Joinery

Trying to connect two pieces of wood together? There are a few different ways to go about it. You can construct a mortise and tenon joint (a task for an experienced woodworker). You can glue them together (but the drying time can be an obstacle). Or, you could create a pocket hole joint! 

Using a drill, a pocket hole jig system, and pocket screws, you’ll drive a screw through the face (or edge grain) of one board into another. A few benefits of pocket hole joinery include:

  • No drying time. Instead of having to wait for the glue to dry, you can immediately get started on the next part of your project.
  • A secure, permanent fit. The pocket screw will burrow deep into both pieces of wood for a long-lasting fit.
  • Beginner-friendly. You don’t need any advanced woodworking knowledge or equipment to create this joint.

Pocket hole joinery may not be the most “traditional” way to connect wood pieces, but it’s quick, easy, and just as effective as other methods. Even if you’re just getting started in the world of woodworking, you can learn to create pocket holes that will connect two separate pieces of wood. We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to help you get started:


Choosing the Right Materials

First, you need to select the wood that you’ll be working with. We recommend using hardwood for this project. You can still create a pocket hole joint with softwood; however, you need to be especially careful to insert the screw properly. Otherwise, it won’t have enough wood to hold it in place. Make sure to select two boards that are of equal thickness. 

Next, we suggest picking up the Massca M1 Aluminum Pocket Hole Jig System. This system enables you to create pocket holes with advanced precision. With the dust spout connector, you can easily capture loose debris and sawdust. 

To drill the hole, you’ll need to use a stepped drill bit and a driver/drill. Next, you need a pocket screw that features a wide head and deep threads to create a secure hold. If you’re using softwood, use a coarse thread screw; for hardwoods, use a fine thread screw. Or, snag one of our variety screw kits that carry different types of screw threads and lengths!

For pocket-hole joints, you'll want the screw to enter in the face or edge grain of the board. If it enters through the end grain of the board, it will be less secure. The screw will wiggle around in the wood, causing the two pieces to become loose and eventually fall apart. Entering in through the face or edge grain of the board will ensure a nice and tight joint.

Finally, consider using a clamp while you connect the two pieces. Clamps will help you align the wood while you’re installing the screws. Face clamps are great for helping create a nice and flush hold when connecting two boards together.


Creating a Pocket Hole Joint

Now, we’re going to explain how you create this strong wood joint. Where the pocket screw exits one piece of wood, it merges with the next. The head of the screw rests in the first piece to keep it sturdy. 

The key to constructing the perfect pocket hole is the angle you drill it at; you want to ensure the screw has enough surrounding wood to support the connection. 

Put the end of one piece of wood against another to create a 90° corner. At this point, you can attach clamps if you have them. 

Mark the part of the wood where you plan to insert the screw. Once you’ve drilled the hole, you can insert the screw. Once the screw closes the gap between both pieces of wood, you know that it’s been inserted deeply enough. 

You can create as many pocket hole joints as you need to connect your wood pieces. Some pieces might only need one; others could require up to three. It all depends on the thickness and width of the wood. 

 

Covering Up Pocket Holes

As easy to learn and convenient as pocket hole joints are, they have one downside: Their appearance. From the outside, you can see the shallow hole where the screw was inserted. 

Perhaps you don’t want those holes to be visible in the final product. We’ve got a convenient solution for you: pocket hole plugs. These wood plugs fit in the oval space left behind by pocket holes.

To insert the plug, spread a bit of glue along the plug and the hole. Then, press it into the pocket hole. Once it dries, you can sand it until it is level with the surface of the wood. 

Are there any gaps around the wood plug? If so, you can fill them in using epoxy. The owner of KJP Select Hardwoods in Ottawa writes, “Epoxy is a great material to use when you need to fill small cracks, voids, and knots; if you have clear epoxy, add a few drops of colored pigment to help it blend in.”


Now that you’ve mastered pocket hole joinery, you’ll never sweat when it comes time to connect two pieces of wood. You might need to experiment with this method a few times before you get it right. Once you’ve practiced a bit, you’ll have no problem creating pocket hole joints with any future project!

 

By: Kayla Russel - KJP Select Hardwoods


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