Are you ready to start using a Kreg Jig? I’m sharing all of the important pocket hole instructions and essential Kreg Jig settings that you need to know!
Using a Kreg Jig
Using a Kreg Jig is one of the easiest ways to build with wood! In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to set up and use a Kreg Jig. Plus, I’ll be sharing important Kreg Jig instructions and Kreg Jig settings that will help make building with pocket holes even easier.
You may also enjoy 9 Pocket Hole Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make.
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Table of Contents
What is a Kreg Jig?
If you’re into DIY projects, you’ve probably seen or at least heard about the Kreg Jig. They are all over the web! But what does this piece of blue plastic do?
In a nutshell a Kreg Jig uses pocket holes to join pieces of wood or workpieces. Before we get too far into looking at the Kreg Jig let’s look at another way to join wood called mortise and tenon joinery.
Mortise and Tenon Joinery
One of the most common methods of joining wood is called a mortise and tenon joinery. A tenon, or tongue, is cut with a handsaw or table saw in the end of a piece of wood called a rail.
The tenon fits inside a mortise. A mortise is a hole cut with a chisel or by a machine inside a piece of wood called a stile that matches the shape of the tenon. Glue is added to the joint and the result is a very strong connection.
Mortise and tenon joinery has been used for years. Mortise and tenons are a great way to join wood. The only downside for many DIYers is that it takes some tools, some time and lots of practice to make perfect mortise and tenon joints.
Pocket Hole Joinery
Today we have an easier and quicker way to join wood. We have the Kreg Jig and pocket hole joinery. I use pocket hole joinery to build nearly all of my DIY furniture projects. I even used pocket holes to build my DIY truck camper!
A Kreg Jig or pocket hole jig uses a guide block with preset holes to drill angled pocket holes into a workpiece. A pocket screw, specifically designed to be used with pocket holes draws the two workpieces together to form a strong joint.
Pocket hole joinery is quick and easy. Compared to mortise and tenon joinery, using a Kreg Jig only requires a few simple tools, a small amount of time, and essentially no practice to make perfect pocket hole joints. Pocket holes are a simple way for nearly any DIYer to join wood.
The Basics of Using a Kreg Jig
Below are some basic Kreg Jig instructions that I think are important to know no matter which Kreg Jig we’re using.
Kreg Jig Settings are Based on Material Thickness
Many of the Kreg Jig settings are based on the thickness of the material that we’re joining. There is one exception when it comes to setting up the Kreg Jig K5.
The K5 drill guide is set for the thickness of the material we’re joining but the K5 drill bit is set for the length of the screw we’ll be using to join the material. Learn more about the Kreg Jig K5 in this post.
We’ll need to know the thickness of the material we’re using both when drilling our pocket holes and when we’re joining our workpieces with pocket screws.
For instance a 1×4 is actually ¾” thick by 3-½” wide. A 2×4 is actually 1-½” thick by 3-½” wide.
It’s handy to have a tape measure on hand because we’ll need measure if we don’t know the thickness of the material we’re using.
Use a Corded Drill
I recommend using a corded drill to drill pocket holes. The reason is a corded drill has an advantage over a cordless drill. That advantage is a constant supply of power.
As the battery of a cordless drill begins to lose its charge the drill begins to slow down. A corded drill has a constant supply of power. That constant supply of power keeps a corded drill running at a consistent speed no matter if we’re drilling one pocket hole or one hundred pocket holes.
What does all of this mean for drilling pocket holes? I’ve noticed as my cordless drill battery starts to lose its charge and the drill begins to slow down that the drill bit appears to tear at the wood rather than slicing through it.
This tearing or tearout makes the edges of the pocket holes look rough or jagged. For the best looking pocket holes go with a corded drill.
Use the Dust Collection Port
I recommend connecting a ShopVac if you’re using a Kreg Jig with a dust collection port. First, with a ShopVac connected we can drill pocket holes in one pass.
Second, I’ve noticed pocket holes drilled with a ShopVac connected to the dust collection port appear to have cleaner edges than those drilled without using the dust collection port.
Third, the drill bit has an easier time drilling pocket holes when the ShopVac is running and connected to the dust collection port.
Without a ShopVac connected wood chips build up in the drill guide. In this case it’s important to raise the bit several times while drilling the pocket hole to clear the chips. Otherwise the drill bit has to fight to get through those chips.
Another benefit of using a ShopVac and the dust collection port is the clean up is so much easier. Wood chips pile up on our workbench and spill onto the floor when we don’t use the dust collection port. Using the dust collection port keeps our workshop tidy and saves time when cleaning up.
How to Setup and Use a Kreg Jig
Below are the basic settings for most Kreg Jigs. You may also be interested in these setup guides dedicated to your specific Kreg 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 a Kreg Jig is to adjust the drill guide to the thickness of our workpiece. If our workpiece is 1-1/2″, set the jig for 1-1/2″. For this example, our workpiece 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, we’ll want to match the drill depth to the thickness of our workpiece. For this example, our workpiece 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.
Step 3 – Drill Pocket Holes
Next clamp the workpiece in the jig to correspond with the appropriate drill holes (see tip below). We’ll chuck the drill bit in our drill and insert the drill bit into the guide block until it touches 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.
How to Position the Workpiece
- For 1-1/2” wide workpieces center the wood between holes B and C, and drill in holes B and C.
- For 2-1/2” wide workpieces center the wood between holes A and B, and drill in holes A and B.
- For 3-1/2” wide workpieces center the wood between holes A and C, an drill in holes A and C.
- For all other widths make sure your pocket holes are set in a minimum of 3/4” from the edge to avoid possibly cracking the workpiece.
Step 4 – Join the Workpieces
Clamp the two workpieces we’re going 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 pocket hole can easily be stripped, so it’s a good idea to set the clutch on our drill. My drill works best when I set it to #3.
Insert the pocket screw and drive it in until it’s just snug. That’s it. Our joint is complete!
Using a Kreg Jig: Assembly Tips
Below are some helpful assembly tips I recommend no matter which Kreg Jig you’re using.
Use Wood Glue
Pocket holes don’t require glue for assembly, but I always use glue when assembling my pocket hole projects. In my opinion, adding glue to a pocket hole joint improves the quality of the joint.
My favorite way to keep parts from moving out of alignment when assembling my Kreg Jig projects is by using an assortment of bar clamps.
First, I lay out the assembly according to my plan. In the example below I’m clamping the side assembly for my DIY vanity. Then, I use bar clamps to tightly hold the pieces in place. Using this clamping method prevents any movement while I drive my pocket screws.
Clamping the entire assembly also ensures that every joint is properly aligned to the other joints for that assembly.
Use Pocket Screws
All screws are not created equally. There a few key differences between pocket screws and wood screws.
The first difference between pocket screws (left) and wood screws (right) is the shank. Pocket screws only have threads on the lower portion of the shank and wood screws usually have threads along most of the shank.
The smooth upper shank of a pocket screw allows it to slide through the pocket hole. The threaded shank of a wood screw won’t slide through the pocket hole. The threads of a wood screw could bind in the pocket hole which may split the board.
The next difference between pocket screws and wood screws is the head. The stepped drill bit we use to drill pocket holes makes a flat area in the bottom of the pocket hole.
The flat washer head design of a pocket screw seats perfectly against the flat bottom of the pocket hole and pulls the two workpieces together.
The countersunk head of a wood screw will crush the flat bottom of the pocket hole which can split the wood.
Pocket Screw Threads
Pocket screws are available in two thread patterns. It’s important we choose the right thread pattern for the type of wood we’re working with.
Fine-thread pocket screws are designed to be used with hardwoods like oak, maple, and poplar.
Coarse-thread pocket screws are designed to be used with softwoods like pine, plywood, and MDF.
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.
The plugs are glued into the pocket holes and then sanded flush. With a pocket hole plug cutter, your pocket holes virtually disappear and your DIY furniture will look more professional. This a “gotta have it” tool for the DIYer! Please check out my plug cutter setup tips and video!
Don’t Make These Pocket Hole Mistakes
Master your pocket hole projects with this FREE ten-page Pocket Hole Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make Guide! The guide is overflowing with useful hints and easy tips to help you avoid time-consuming mistakes. Click below, get your FREE guide, and tackle your next pocket hole project with confidence!
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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