Kreg jig, worth it?

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Forum topic by Greedo posted 06-11-2011 06:40 PM 32605 views 1 time favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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473 posts in 3082 days

06-11-2011 06:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig

hello, i got some spare cash on a paypal account that i would like to get rid of, but in a profitable way :)
not much, a bit over €50. i have been lurking at the kreg pocket hole jig, it seems popular in the states, though practically unknown in europe apparently.
i basically have the choice between the junior kit and the mini jig, or should i invest in the master system?

so how useful is it? witch are the limits and drawbacks? does it work with regular screws, and in what types of wood?

panel wise i only rarely work with plywood, mostly mdf and occasionally veneered/laminated particle board.
solid wood wise i mostly work with pine, some oak and beech. i also have the domino joiner, i heard both are a good combination as the pocket screws make clamps unnecessary?

39 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4110 days

#1 posted 06-11-2011 06:44 PM

If you build cabinets a lot it’s well worth the money. Also it you’re not into a lot of fancy joinery it works great as a replacement.

You will probably have all your friends coming over to borrow it :-)

If you want to manufacturer things for sale and do it quickly it’s hard to beat. There’s no waiting for glue to dry.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View WayneC's profile


13773 posts in 4219 days

#2 posted 06-11-2011 06:45 PM

I Like mine. I’ve used it for a variety of things.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


7022 posts in 2720 days

#3 posted 06-11-2011 07:07 PM

Worth the money, versatile jig with lots of uses and short learning curve. You can get by without master system.

View mminella's profile


16 posts in 3082 days

#4 posted 06-11-2011 07:15 PM

I have a Kreg because I couldn’t afford the Domino. To answer your questions specifically:

1. How useful is it: Very. Mine has been used in building the facefame of the cabinet I’m currently working on as well as most of the jointery involved in my mail holder project. It is a quick way to join dimensional lumber in a variety of ways. An advatnage of this type of joint is that it can be easily tightened over time as it loosens. Any joint that depends on glue for holding things together is much harder to maintain over the years IMHO.

2. Limits & drawbacks: There is really only one I can think of. In order to use pocket screws, you need to drill a pocket which leaves a pretty big hole in your work. Yes, you can plug it but typically you are left figuring out how to just hide it in your work (the back of the mail holder looks like swiss cheese because of the pockets IMHO).

3. Does it work with regular screws: While I haven’t tried this, My bet is that if you could find a self drilling screw with the same or nearly the same sized head, it would work. A screw is a screw after all. However, you’ll probably spend more time hunting for that perfect screw than just buying pocket screws.

4. What types of wood: Since it uses screws for the jointery, I would argue that if you can use a screw in the wood, it will work. The only limitation here is that you need a board wide enough due to the angle of the screw. I think kreg requires the piece with the pocket to be 1/2” but I don’t have mine in my hand to check.

5. It doesn’t need clamps: Well, I’ve seen that also, and that is a lie. However, what you need clamps for probably wouldn’t be what you’d expect. Instead of using a clamp to hold the pieces together as in a normal glue up, you need to use a clamp to hold the pieces flush (say on a face frame) because as you drive the screw, the pieces will have a tendency to shift out of flush (is that even a phrase?).

Overall, I think that adding the Kreg to your collection would probably make life easier for you in times when you just don’t want to drag out the Domino, cut the mortises and wait for the glue to dry. The Kreg offers you a quick and easy way to join two pieces of wood in both an economical and quality package.

One more thing, you asked which version to get…I have the standard Kreg Jig which to my understanding is the same jig as the master system but doesn’t come with a face clamp to hold work flush (I have plenty of clamps) or the work support/stop. It sells for around $100 in the US. I would not bother with the mini or the junior, but that is just my opinion. Let us know what you decide!

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3408 days

#5 posted 06-11-2011 07:27 PM

I have sold lots of Kreg products. I don’t know that anyone has been disappointed yet.
It is best for cabinets, but certainly can be used for a variety of things. You can get their cheaper versions, so it is not terribly expensive to get started.


View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3082 days

#6 posted 06-11-2011 07:43 PM

thanks for the quick replies all, what is special about pocket screws? i mostly use Reisser torx screws with self drilling head. a quick google search makes me think real pocket screws have a wide and flat bottomed head that helps pressing the wood. the screws over here typically have a conic head that i presume would tend to split the wood in a pocket hole. not sure i can even find such screws here.

edit, does it also work on particle boards?

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3769 days

#7 posted 06-11-2011 07:55 PM

The joints move around. Unless you have a fast clamping system that
controls movement of the parts in all directions when you are putting
the screws in, the joints will drift and you have to sand out the deviations.

The screws split wood sometimes, and especially plywoods and particle boards.

They are not a strong joint in melamine and MDF and cause more problems
in these materials than they solve, imo.

The joints look cheap and uncraftsmanlike. Looks DIY.

Still, they have their uses.

I do use pocket holes sometimes, but I’ve discovered their limitations and
regret using them in past work where I could have used something that
didn’t look so awful from the back.

View sawblade1's profile


754 posts in 3148 days

#8 posted 06-11-2011 07:59 PM

Yes it is I have the simple kit use it all of the time building cabinets :)

-- Proverbs Ch:3 vs 5,6,7 Trust in the lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways aknowledge him and he shall direct your path

View scottv11's profile


29 posts in 2685 days

#9 posted 06-11-2011 08:00 PM

It does not work well on particle board. Here is what the pocket screws look like:

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3569 days

#10 posted 06-11-2011 08:04 PM

i think regular screws would work, but the system comes with two drivers, a long and a short, that fit the heads on the pocket screws. I like the system, especially for constructing face frames for cabinets. The pocket screws are a little more pricey than regular screws.

Also, the thickness of your work piece determines what size screw to use. If you try to keep several size screws on hand for various thickness it can get expensive. There is two different types of pocket screws that i am aware of. One is for soft woods and the other for hard woods. Im thinking the finer threaded screws are for hardwoods and the coarser threaded are for soft woods.

The system comes with instructions on what size screws to use for what thickness. Be sure to follow those guidelines. I have tried to get away with using the wrong screws because i didnt have what i needed and it didnt work out at all.

hope that helps

-- RKWoods

View knotscott's profile


8122 posts in 3497 days

#11 posted 06-11-2011 09:28 PM

I have the Pro K3 and the older version of the R3. Even the most basic jig combined with a Quickgrip type clamp is useful, so you don’t need to buy the most elaborate jig to get your feet wet.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Bertha's profile


13550 posts in 2815 days

#12 posted 06-11-2011 09:36 PM

No brainer. Solid stuff. I use mine all the time for utilitarian stuff. I’ve been criticized for saying it’s not “fine” woodworking, but it’s a solid rig.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3810 days

#13 posted 06-11-2011 10:27 PM

Don’t waste your money on all of the add-ons , as the basics will do just fine…unless you plan on using it in production shop situations. Pocket hole screws are required for this system.
I bought a larger Kreg system and have yet to even set it up.
Using the mini jig , Kwiklamp, , step drill and square drive bits is all the versatility I’ve needed to date .
The rest of the kit is just sitting and collecting dust : (
MDF and Particleboard will require the use of the coarse threaded screws used for softwoods. You will want to set the torque on your driver so as not to strip out the connections in those products.
Enjoy your new Kreg system : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3196 days

#14 posted 06-11-2011 11:39 PM

I’ve used the Kreg system for many years and I continue to use it when I can hide the screws.

I even use pocket holes (drilled with the Kreg system) in construction work for securing studs in place (as opposed to toe nailing).

Also, the Kreg screws are virtually the only wood screws I use whether I am doing pocket holes or not.

Nothing beats a really good screw.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 3642 days

#15 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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