Pocket hole problems

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Blog entry by clhnsn posted 07-06-2014 07:25 AM 1919 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So I was building some drawers today with my long coveted pocket hole jig and kreg pocket hole screws. After watching numerous videos over the years I thought it would be magic in tool form – idiot proof. After struggling with shifting joints and split ends I had become all but disenchanted. So I took to the internet to look for a solution. Surely I couldn’t be the only one with this problem. Sure enough there were others. And yet other’s had answers. Clamps!!! (Always the answer) I had already tried clamping a stop block on the work piece that I was screwing into to keep the joint from shifting as I tightened the screw but that had not worked. The Clamp Must Be Across The Joint!!! Just like It’s being glued.

BY NO MEANS DO I TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS. Clearly this is would be most handy woodworker’s solution to eliminate joint movement. But I would like to take the detail a bit further to explain how this gives the best joint and eliminates shifting and splitting.

The shifting part is easy. Clamp it down hard and the force of the screw being torqued will not exceed the force of the friction created by the clamps. DONE! Now for the splitting.

Normally when a pocket screw is used the screw supplies the clamping pressure. If you are using a power driver you will have the torque up high around 14-20 (whatever units) where it can really crank the screw and bring the work pieces together. HOWEVER, this causes splits and strips as the screw wedges between the grain. WITH clamps there is no need for this . Let the Clamps provide all the force, turn down the torque on the drill to <10, and snug the screw. When you release the clamp the screw will hold the force in a static position (stay put) rather than trying to increase the force while moving (2 factors which are damage prone).

Long story short:
Clamp light, line up your marks, clamp hard, snug the screw with MODERATE torque, release the clamp. NO shifting or splitting!!!

6 comments so far

View Bob_M's profile


11 posts in 1480 days

#1 posted 07-06-2014 10:43 AM

A simple and hopefully now, an obvious solution.
Thank you

-- Bob

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2125 days

#2 posted 07-06-2014 05:33 PM

Why bother. Standard woodworking technique/joinery, etc. works much better.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View clhnsn's profile


5 posts in 1480 days

#3 posted 07-06-2014 07:43 PM

Bogeyguy I hear you and there are some joints that I would only use “standard techniques”. However a very similar statement could be made about those techniques. Why bother. Pocket screws will work just fine. :)

View Grumpymike's profile


2272 posts in 2372 days

#4 posted 07-06-2014 07:44 PM

Kreg makes a clamp just for that purpose. One end of the “Vise Grip” looking clamp has a pin that goes into one of the pocket holes, clamp that bad boy down, maybe a tap or two with the mallet for alignment and sink a screw.

I have used your method till I found one of these Kreg clamps … so fast and easy, I never looked back … They like all Kreg products, aint cheap, around $30 but well worth the cost and you only need one for most projects.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View Sarit's profile


549 posts in 3196 days

#5 posted 07-08-2014 07:59 PM

Sometimes splitting can also be caused by using the wrong type of kreg screw. Remember the coarse thread is for soft woods and sheet material whereas the fine thread is used for hardwoods. Also I prefer the “washer” head as opposed to the “pan” head type since its bigger and IMO less likely to split the wood.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3288 days

#6 posted 07-08-2014 08:33 PM

I use pocket screws for face frames and sometimes, for cabinet carcase assembly where they won’t be seen. However, for drawers, I build them with half blind dovetails, rabbit joints or dadoes. Glue up, clamp, shoot in a couple of brads and set aside. Move to the next one and repeat.

It looks like you do the same as I do for the bottom. Make the drawer box back short so the bottom can be slid in last. I anchor it with a few crown staples. That makes construction just a little easier.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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