Reply by ferstler

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Posted on Kreg jig, worth it?

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342 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 06-12-2011 12:25 AM

I have the basic, K4 version and it works fine. Some points.

1. There are aftermarket drill bits (Steelex offers one that can be found in the Grizzly catalog, along with the Kreg versions) that will work, but be careful. One I have has the 1/8-inch tip slightly longer than the Kreg version, and if you do not adjust it to compensate it will drill a short hole in the bottom of the jig base. It is cheaper than the Kreg version and includes a depth collar.

2. Standard, tapered screws will work, but to do the job right you need a drill bit with a tapered sholder instead of the flat one Kreg offers for use with their screws. I have used tapered screws, but since the shoulders are tapered they cannot be tightened as securily as the flat-shouldered Kreg versions. OK for light work, though. Steelex offers one of those, and it is in the Grizzly catalog with their flat-shoulder version.

3. The standard, K4 jig seems able to work as well as the more deluxe K3 model, at least that is what seems likely, given the way the deluxe model appears to operate. The K3 looks like a simpler design that might have advantages.

4. While Kreg says you will do best to drive the screws with a drill/driver and their bit, you can also do a final tightening with a hand screw driver that has that kind of square tip. (This is a standard kitchen-cabinet mount screw driver.) This guarantees uniform tightness with a line of screws. I have even used a small impact wrench, but you have to watch things with that approach.

5. Clamps are pretty necessary, since the tightening process does pull the parts slightly out of alignment. I use both clamps to hold the workpieces against the table surface to prevent shifting, and also against themselves to eliminate as much as possible any need for the workpieces to be physically pulled closer together and cause shifting.

6. Cabinets and shelves are the most common uses. I used my jig to build a desk (it can be seen on the projects part of this site) and audio equipment cabinet (still in process), but it can also be used on smaller projects like moderately large and larger picture frames (I think I had one of my frame projects posted here, too). Since frames require drilling into mitered frame edges, some care is required.

7. While the manual offers suggestions for screw types, screw lengths, and drill settings, one can easily experiment to get combinations that work with workpieces of different thicknesses and materials. One must be careful when working with mdf, which tends to bulge or split if the screws are too close to edges or surfaces. I suggest drilling pilots holes in case there is any question of bulging or splitting in any wood. Needless to say, watch out for drilling those pilot holes too deep.

8. The version I have was illustrated in a Kreg video, and the markings for drill-bit sizing were engraved in white. However, my particular unit had no white, and was just engraved. I am not the only person who has noticed this. To solve my problem, I took a very fine Sharpie pen and simply went over the engraved markings in black ink. Problem solved.

9. Kreg makes good clamps for use with the device. I have two table hold-down clamps (one standard and one extended reach) and they work very well, and include a key-hole plate that you can recess mount in the bench surface. Kreg also has clamps for basic freehand work, but I discovered some at Harbor Freight versions that appear to work as well, and they cost half what the Kreg version does. Kreg also makes a special clamp with a prong on one leg that is designed to fit into the pockets and help hold shelves in place while clamping. However, the tool looks like it would be impossible to use on inner shelves on wider cabinets. It ought to work just fine on those pockets it can reach, however.

10. While the device obviously does leave visible pocket holes, this is no problem if the operation is used on the underside of shelves that cannot be easily viewed. (If your house guests tend to get down on the floor to look at your work, this might be a consideration.) Kreg does make plugs, but you can make your own out of dowels, and then you just flush cut and sand them. However, those would only be used on partially visible surfaces, I would think.

11. The Kreg ads I have seen show the K4 jig and its accessories in a package. One item that is shown is the fitting for a vacuum hookup. However, the package I purchased did not have the vacuum device, and the shipping box had no way for one to be included. I have read of this discrepancy elsewhere. The ad is misleading.

12. In normal use the screws should be strong enough to not need glue. However, glue certainly will not hurt, and will keep the final product a bit more rigid. The advantage of using just screws is that workpieces can be disassembled if there are complications.

Finally, I have a biscuit saw (and biscuits), too, and I have not used them since getting the Kreg jig.

Howard Ferstler

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