Using pocket screws to secure back of desk?

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Forum topic by CameronD posted 06-27-2013 08:19 AM 1262 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 1799 days

06-27-2013 08:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pocket joints desk repairs

I am a new wood worker, going on about 10 months. A friend has asked for help repairing a computer desk. From his description, and I hope I have this right, the sides and back are particle board and the top is a heavier wood, though not sure if it is solid. The back panel has fallen, and thus the sides are no longer very stable because they are only being held up by the top.

One thought is to use a couple 2×4 cut to length use pocket screws to form back stretchers between the two side panels. Another thought is to use some metal brackets to secure the 2×4s. A third option, is to cut a new back from plywood and then securing that. Because all tools are in my garage, not his condo, cutting dadoes, mortises and tenons, or other joinery, other than perhaps a few dowels (I do have drills and forstner bits) would be very difficult.

I’ve never used pocket screws, but I just purchased the Kreg K4 MS system, so I have the capability, at least from the tool standpoint, to do them. Brackets would also be easy.

Aesthetics is not a big an issue in this case.

So my questions then are:
Would pocket screws (coarse thread for soft wood?) work to hold 2×4s to the sides and secure them? Or would the screws strip out or not provide enough strength? Would the bracket approach to secure them be better? Are there other alternatives that would work even better?

Thanks in advance for the wisdom of the crowd.

5 replies so far

View jimmyb's profile


185 posts in 1892 days

#1 posted 06-27-2013 09:53 PM

I believe you should be okay. I have used the Kreg screws in chip board and have had no problems. A little glue with them would not hurt :)

-- Jim, Tinley Park, IL

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2564 days

#2 posted 06-28-2013 01:54 AM

I’d be more concerned with whether or not 2×4 will provide the needed structural support. Cabinets, desks or other furniture typically have paneled backs to keep it from racking. You might be able to get away with a 2×4 but you’ll probably be better off using two or three 2×6s

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View 1thumb's profile


78 posts in 2157 days

#3 posted 06-28-2013 03:09 AM

cut/install a new back out of 1/4 inch plywood

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3231 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 03:21 AM

Cut a new back out of 1/2 inch plywood – Birch if available. Drill pocket screw holes along the sides and across the top. If the desk is against a wall, the holes cold be on the outside leaving a clean side under the desk. If not, reverse it and put the holes under the desk with the clean side out.

Holes for 1/2 inch plywood would require 1 inch screws. I just did this on a cabinet. I will take a pic or two and post it shortly.

This is the back of a cabinet that will reside under a miter saw station. It is very strong. I ran two stretchers across the back and across the top. Then I filled in the opening with a piece of 1/2 inch pine plywood. I used the Kreg mini jig to drill the 1/2 inch holes but your jig has the capability to do 1/2 inch also. I used the one inch screws with the round thick shoulder and not the panhead type. They pull down tight. I was screwing into 3/4 inch plywood on the sides.

Hope this helps or at least gives you some inspiration on the fix.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View CameronD's profile


17 posts in 1799 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 03:42 AM

These responses are quite helpful. It seems that the overall approach of pocket screws to secure will work, but then from there I should look at additional reinforcement. I was also considering using three stretchers, one at the top, one at the bottom, and one at the middle, but it seems really replacing the back may be the best approach.

I read on these forums and watch videos on YouTube or other sites and am impressed with the variety of approaches to every problem. Thanks again for the advice. I’ll try to remember to report back what we end up doing.

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