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How to Setup and Use a Kreg Jig for DIY Projects

February 10, 2016 by Scott - Saws on Skates

If you’re into DIY projects, you probably have seen or at least heard about the Kreg Jig. They are all over the web! But what does this amazing piece of blue plastic do? In this tutorial I’ll show you how to setup and use a Kreg jig.

how to use a kreg jig

For your convenience this post contains affiliate links to products or tools I used to complete this project. Click here to visit my site policies.

What does it do?
Back in the day, before the Kreg Jig, one of the common methods of joining wood was with a mortise and tenon joint. A tenon, or tongue, would be cut in the end of a piece of wood (usually called a rail). The tenon would fit inside a mortise, a hole cut inside a piece of wood (usually called a stile) that matched the profile of the tenon. Add a little glue and mortise and tenon joint formed a very strong connection. While this joint provides for a strong joint, it does take some time to form the mortise and tenon before assembly.

Today we have the Kreg Jig and I use it for nearly all of my DIY furniture projects. The jig creates a joint that outwardly looks like a standard mortise and tenon joint, but the actual connection is a butt joint attached using screws through pocket holes. The jig allows you to drill pocket holes in the end of a rail. The rail is clamped to the stile and pocket hole screws are used to connect the two pieces together. It’s an easy joint for any DIYer!

How to Use the Jig
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of using a Kreg Jig, I have a suggestion for you. If your jig doesn’t have the numbers highlighted in white, make your life easy and do it yourself. Check out this easy tutorial by The Pursuit of Handyness featured on sawdustgirl.com for more info.

Step 1 – Set the Drill Guide
The first step to using the Kreg Jig is to adjust the drill guide to the thickness of your lumber. If your lumber is 1-1/2″, set the jig for 1-1/2″. For this example, our lumber is 3/4”, so we’ll set the drill guide to 3/4”.

Step 2 – Set the Drill
The next step is to set the drill depth. Again, you’ll want to match the drill depth to the thickness of your lumber. For this example, our lumber is 3/4”. Loosen the collar with an Allen key and move the shoulder of the drill bit to correspond with the 3/4” mark and tighten the collar.

kreg jig 2

Step 3 – Drill Pocket Holes
Next clamp the lumber in the jig to correspond with the appropriate drill holes (see hint below). Chuck the drill bit in your drill and insert the drill bit into the guide block until it hits the wood. Slightly raise the drill bit and bring the drill up to full speed. Then gently lower the bit into the wood and start drilling the pocket hole. Keep drilling until the collar on the drill bit contacts the drill guide.

kreg jig 8

Here’s a hint: For wood that is 1-1/2” wide, center the wood between holes B and C, and drill in holes B and C. For wood that is 2-1/2” wide, center the wood between holes A and B, and drill in holes A and B. For wood that is 3-1/2” wide, center the wood between holes A and C, an drill in holes A and C. For all other widths of wood, make sure your pocket holes are set in a minimum of 3/4” from the edge to avoid possibly cracking the stile to which you will be attaching the rail.

kreg jig 4

Step 4 – Join Lumber
Clamp the two pieces of wood you wish to join. I prefer a bar clamp over the Kreg face clamp or the Kreg right angle clamp, but that’s just personal preference. The screw hole can easily be stripped, so it’s a good idea to set the clutch on your drill to a low setting – mine works well on 3. Check out this post to learn how to easily fix stripped pocket holes.

kreg jig 9

Insert the screw and drive it in until it’s just snug. That’s it – your joint is complete!

kreg jig 9b

Helpful Hints
Pocket Screws – Please use Kreg brand pocket screws or another authentic pocket screw by another brand. Pocket screws only have threads on the lower portion of the screw. This allows the upper portion of the screw to slide through the pocket hole in the rail and pull the joint tight to the stile. Regular screws have threads along the entire length and this may not only crack the rail, but not pull the rail tight to the stile, yielding in an ill fitting joint.

Vacuum attachment – Please use the vacuum attachment. You’ll thank me later when you’re not cleaning up dust chips off your workbench, the floor and your shirt! Plus the vacuum sucks the majority of the dust chips from the pocket hole.

kreg jig 5

Make Your Pocket Holes Virtually Disappear
The Kreg Pocket Hole Plug Cutter will take your furniture building to the next level! The plug cutter makes plugs to fill pocket holes. The plugs are cut from leftover scrap wood from your project, so the plugs will exactly match the wood color and wood grain of your project.

diy-pocket-hole-plug-cutter-plugs-drilled

The plugs are glued into the pocket holes and then sanded flush. With a pocket hole plug cutter, your pocket holes virtually disappear and you’ll make your DIY projects look more professional. This a “gotta have it” tool for the DIYer! Please check out my plug cutter setup tips and video!

diy-pocket-hole-plug-cutter-insert-plug

There it is… how to use a Kreg jig in a nutshell. As always, please contact me if you have any questions or need help setting up your jig. Good luck!


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9 thoughts on “How to Setup and Use a Kreg Jig for DIY Projects

  1. Brian says:

    Nothing wrong with keeping it simple. I think as long as you glue the joint properly and like you mentioned, don’t strip the holes this joinery will last a long time. It may not out last the tried and true mortise and tenon but sometimes getting the job done and it lasting 50yrs as opposed to 100 is worth the trade off. My brother in law built an entire mission style dining room table completely with pocket hole joinery. Its a couple of years old now and you would never know it wasn’t traditional joiner unless he told you. I don’t currently have one of these jigs but its on my wish list.

    • Hey Brian – I totally agree with you. I know how to hand cut mortise and tenon joints and dovetails too, but it’s time consuming! I want my projects to last, but I also want to be able to enjoy them. Pocket hole joinery allows me to speed up the construction process and still yield a sturdy joint.

      • Brian says:

        If your ever really concerned about longevity I understand that some folks are using biscuit joints in conjunction with pocket screws to get a quasi “best of both worlds” joint. But that’s yet another expensive tool if your going to make them fast anyway.

      • That’s a good idea – I may have to try the biscuit/pocket hole combo joint on a project! I used a biscuit joiner for years before I switched to pocket joinery. I have a Harbor Freight biscuit joiner that I got dirt cheap and it still works well!

      • Brian says:

        I have my eye on one. Its just not top priority. I’m sure I’ll end up with one before too long. I generally watch craigslist for things like that. Get them cheap or don’t get them.

    • Victor Thiffault says:

      How is the plug cutter different from the conventional plug cutters?

      • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

        A conventional plug cutter cuts a round plug suitable for filling a round hole. When you sand it flush, the grain pattern of the plug matches the grain pattern of the surrounding wood. A pocket hole leaves an oval shaped hole in the surface of the wood. If you inserted a round plug in a pocket hole and sanded it smooth, the grain pattern of the plug would not match the surrounding wood. Imagine cutting a 45 degree bevel on the end of a board and what that grain pattern looks like, then cutting out an oval shape out of that grain pattern. Now insert that into a pocket hole and the grain pattern won’t match. A pocket hole plug cutter cuts a plug at same angle as the pocket hole, so when the plug is inserted in the pocket hole, it will match the surrounding wood.

  2. james says:

    I enjoyed this how-to-guide…thanks for creating it! I am planning to purchase a kreg jig to make a table. Can I do all I need with the cheapest option, the kreg-mini? Could you explain the differences between the various kreg jigs and why the prices differ so much? Thanks!

    • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

      Hi James – Thank you for stopping by and for your question! Yes, you could definitely use the Kreg Mini to make your table. Keep in mind most of the Kreg Mini kits do not include a clamp to attach the jig to the wood. So you’ll need to buy a clamp if you don’t have one. Depending on the Mini you buy, it might not include the Kreg square driver bit , so you’ll need to purchase one separately.

      The Kreg Jig K4 has a built in clamp to hold the wood against the drill guide. It also has a depth stop, so the pocket hole will be perfectly positioned every time. I would say the next biggest difference between the Mini and the K4 is time. Because the Mini needs to be reposition to drill each pocket hole, clamped and then drilled, it does take a bit of time.

      I like the K4 Jig because the spacing on the drill guide is setup for drilling into the common wood widths… 1-1/2”, 2-1/2” and 3-1/2”. So with the K4, you can position the wood once to drill several pocket holes, flip the piece and drill some more pocket holes on the other end… probably all in the time it would take to set up one pocket hole with the Mini. They are both great products, but I LOVE my K4!

      Hope this helps. Thank you again for stopping by and please let me know if you have any more questions.

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