How to Use a Kreg Jig

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!

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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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.

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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.

kreg jig 5

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.

Related: 5 Easy Fixes Guaranteed to Prevent Rough Pocket Holes

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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.

kreg jig 2

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.

kreg jig 8

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.

kreg jig 4

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.

kreg jig 9

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

kreg jig 9b


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.

Use Clamps

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.

Related: How to Prevent Pieces from Moving When Assembling Pocket Hole Joints

Bar clamps prevent pieces from moving out of alignment when assembling pocket hole joints

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.

A fine-thread pocket screw compared to a wood screw

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.

Related: 7 Ways to Prevent Pocket Screws from Splitting Wood

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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 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!

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


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!

Free Pocket Hole Mistakes You Don't Want to Make Guide


Final Thoughts

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!

Oh, and if you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? I would really appreciate it!

20 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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!

      3. 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.

      1. 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. 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!

    1. 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.

  3. Can the Kreg Jig be used to help hold 2×10 lumber together for a kitchen countertop? I bought a Kreg 3 jig in hopes it was the right tool for the job and was planning to use 2 1\2″ screws to do the job. Also how far do the screws need to be apart? Thanks for the tutorial on setup and use of kreg products.

    1. Hi Richard – A Kreg Jig can be used to build panels and table tops, so I don’t see why you couldn’t use it for a countertop. I double-checked with my friends at Kreg and although there are no hard and fast rules for spacing they recommend keeping the pocket holes about 2″ from the edge of the boards to avoid cracking the wood then spacing approximately 6″ apart. I would also recommend that you use a quality wood glue in addition to the pocket holes. I would love to see your project – please send some pics when you’re done!

  4. I have never used one of these before, so I am a little confused. I am trying to join two 2X2 boards, but the Kreg Jig I got only has settings for wood up to 1 1/2″ thick. The plans I have say to use 1 1/2″ Pocket screws. Sorry if this is a dumb question.

    1. Hi Ron – We’ll get this figured out, but first I have a few question for you. Do you know which Kreg Jig you have? What type of project are you building? A 2×2 measures 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ so the Kreg Jig you have will work for joining your project. Are you joining the 2×2 to a thinner piece of wood? The reason I ask is typically you would use 2-1/2″ pocket screws to join two 2x2s together, but a shorter screw for joining a 2×2 to a thinner piece of wood.

      1. Thank you SO much Scott for your quick reply and your willingness to help. I thought I posted a reply a couple of days ago, but it doesn’t show up on the site, so I will try again. I have the Kreg Jig Pocket Hole System, about $40 at Home Depot : https://www.homedepot.com/p/Kreg-Jig-Pocket-Hole-System-R3/202269070

        I am building a crib for my son and daughter-in-law. The baby is due in October, but want to try to finish this by mid July as that is when it will be convenient for us to deliver it to them in Portland.
        The plans are online at this URL: http://www.onhouseandhome.com/200-diy-crib-tutorial/

        The pieces I will be joining with the pocket holes are the 2X2’s that make up the four corner posts and top and bottom railings. It looks like from the drawings in the plan, that one pocket hole is used for each connecting point.

        Thanks again for your help. I have also sent an email to tech support at Kreg, but no response so far. 🙁

        Ron

      2. Hi Ron – I’m having trouble finding the step you’re referring to on the plan. Can you direct me to the step number please?

      3. Hi Ron – Typically for this type of joint you would set your jig for 1-1/2″ material and attach using a 2-1/2″ pocket screw, but I’m having some difficulty following the instructions for this plan. Have you tried contacting the author for clarification?

  5. Somehow I lost my setup piece for setting the depth collar on the drill bit. Is there a formula to follow to set it for different thicknesses?

    1. Hi Paul – Thank you for stopping by. Please check out Step 2 of my Kreg Jig Mini Guide. I have measurements there for setting the depth collar with a ruler for 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1-1/2″ material.

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