21 Frequently Asked Questions About Pocket Holes

Get answers now! I’m sharing the questions DIYers frequently ask about pocket holes and pocket screws so you can tackle your next project with confidence!

Get answers now! I’m sharing the questions DIYers frequently ask about pocket holes and pocket screws so you can tackle your next project with confidence!

Get Answers to Your Pocket Hole Questions Now

I love building projects with pocket holes! I also love helping DIYers like you make the most of your Kreg Jig. That’s why I created a Pocket Hole Joinery Resource Center to answer your pocket hole questions. The resource center is loaded with helpful tips about jigs, joints, and troubleshooting pocket holes. Today I’m sharing the questions I’m frequently asked about pocket hole joinery.

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Before we get into the frequently asked questions about pocket holes, be sure to click the subscribe button at the bottom of this page to sign up for my FREE weekly newsletter loaded with helpful pocket hole tricks, space-saving workshop ideas, clever DIY tips and more!

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How Do I Setup a Pocket Hole Jig?

There are two basic settings we need to adjust before we can use our Kreg Jig. Those settings are for the drill guide and the drill bit. The drill guide and the drill bit are set for the thickness of the material that we’re joining.

This means our first step will be to measure the thickness of our material. Then we’ll adjust the drill guide and drill bit to match that thickness.

You may enjoy these helpful Kreg Jig set up tutorials:


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.

Related: How to Use a Kreg Jig K5

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Are Metric Kreg Jigs Available?

Yes. My friend Whitney at Kreg Tool told me “we actually have metric Kreg Jigs available for sale!” Whitney suggests contacting their customer service team and they will help you order one. Contact Kreg Tool customer service at 800-447-8638.

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Which Holes Do I Use in the Jig?

  • 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, and drill in holes A and C.

For all other widths position the pocket holes, so they set in a minimum of 3/4” from the edge to avoid cracking the workpiece.

Related: How to Use a Kreg Jig

Pocket holes should be drilled in different holes for different wood widths

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How Do You Avoid Drilling in the Wrong Hole?

I place a piece of painter’s tape over the hole that I don’t want to drill into.

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What is the Thinnest Material You Can Join With Pocket Holes?

The thinnest material we can join with pocket holes is ½” material.

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Why Does My Drill Bind Up?

Drills can often bind up when drilling pocket holes because the wood chips are not completely ejected from the holes in the drill guide.

First, we need to be sure the chip ejection holes are not blocked when drilling pocket holes. Slightly raise the drill to clear the wood chips if the drill begins to bind. Then lower the bit to continue drilling the pocket hole.

Some Kreg Jigs have a dust collection port. Connecting a ShopVac to the dust collection port will help to remove wood chips and reduce the chances of the drill binding up.

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Using a Power Drill

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Why Isn’t My Drill Advancing?

A drill may not advance for the same reason that it may bind up. In other words, the wood chips may not be completely ejecting from the holes in the drill guide.

But there is another reason the drill may not be advancing. This may sound silly, but be sure the drill is switched to the forward position. The drill won’t advance and can burn the wood if it’s switched to the reverse position.

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Is it a Problem if I Drill Through My Kreg Jig?

No. Don’t worry if you drill through the base of your Kreg Jig. It will still work properly just as it did before.

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Why Are My Pocket Holes Rough?

Pocket holes can tearout or look rough for several reasons. Driving the bit at full speed, using a corded drill, and making sure cordless drill batteries are fully charged will help to create pocket holes with crisp, clean edges.

I’ve also noticed pocket holes drilled with a ShopVac connected to the dust collection port appear to look cleaner and have less tearout than those drilled without using the dust collection port.

Related: 5 Easy Fixes Guaranteed to Prevent Rough Pocket Holes

Prevent pocket hole tearout by driving the bit a full speed, using a corded drill, and making sure cordless drill batteries are fully charged

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Do I Really Have to Use Pocket Screws?

Yes. Pocket screws are designed to work with pocket holes. Using another type of screw could cause the pocket hole to crack or it could create a loose joint.

Pocket screws have threads on the lower portion of the shank. The smooth upper shank of a pocket screw allows it to slide through the pocket hole. The pocket hole could crack if the screw had threads along the entire length of the shank.

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 of a pocket screw seats perfectly against the flat bottom of the pocket hole and tightly pulls the two workpieces together.

Related: 7 Ways to Prevent Pocket Screws from Splitting Wood

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How Do I Keep the Drill Bit at the Correct Angle?

Kreg drill bit drivers are available in 3” and 6” lengths. Sometimes my drill rubs against the workpiece when I use the 3” driver. This causes the drill bit to be at the wrong angle to drive the screw.

I use a 6” driver to drive my pocket screws. The 6” driver positions the drill farther away from the workpiece. This prevents the drill from rubbing against the workpiece and positions the bit at the correct angle to drive the screw.

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How Do I Stop Parts From Creeping Out of Alignment When Assembling?

Pocket hole joints can move out of alignment when driving pocket screws. Using our hands is not an option to hold joints in place. First, our hands are not strong enough to hold the joint together. Second, it could be dangerous for our hands if the drill bit were to slip.

We need to use clamps to prevent pieces from moving out of alignment when driving pocket screws.

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

Pocket hole joints can move out of alignment when driving pocket screws. Using clamps is the best way to keep workpieces in position when assembling projects.

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Why Do My Pocket Holes Strip Out?

A stripped screw is one that spins and will not tighten up. Pocket holes often strip out because the screws are overtightened.

Pocket screws are not like other screws that need to be driven as tight as we can get them. We only need to tighten pocket screws until they’re just snug.

The way I avoid overtightening pocket screws is by setting the clutch on my drill. Setting the clutch stops the drill from driving the screw when it meets a certain amount of resistance.

I set the clutch on my DeWALT drill to #3 for driving pocket screws into softwoods like pine.

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Why Do My Pocket Holes Crack?

There are several things that can cause pocket holes to crack. To prevent splitting pocket holes we need to use pocket hole screws with the right thread pitch for the type of wood we’re working with.

Use fine-thread pocket screws with hardwoods like oak, maple, and poplar. Use coarse-thread pocket screws with softwoods like pine, plywood, and MDF.

Also, drive pocket screws slowly and avoid overtightening the screws.

Related: 7 Ways to Prevent Pocket Screws from Splitting Wood

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Why Are My Pocket Screws Sticking Out?

There are several reasons pocket screws stick out from pocket holes. First, we need to be sure the drill bit and the drill guide are set for the proper thickness of our workpieces.

Second, pocket screws will always stick out of pocket holes when they are drilled in ½” material. ½” material is just not thick enough to seat the head of the pocket screw below the face of the workpiece.

Related: How to Use a Kreg Jig

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Do I Need to Use Glue With Pocket Holes?

No, but I recommend using glue when assembling pocket hole joints. Driving the pocket screws draws the two workpieces tightly together, but this doesn’t account for the wood itself. Wood is constantly moving due to seasonal changes.

Wood expands across its width when it’s more humid and it shrinks across its width when it’s less humid. We need to plan for this movement when we build our wood projects.

Related: Mistakes with Wood Can Cause Your DIY Furniture to Crack

I’ve noticed an issue when I haven’t used glue to join pocket hole projects. For example, I built my air conditioner dresser in the summer when it was humid, but I didn’t use glue to assemble the top. The top looked great in the summer, but in the cooler less humid months the joints of the top ever so slightly pulled away from each other. And the edge of one of the pieces started to slightly curl up.

We can’t stop wood movement but we can help reduce some of these issues by gluing the joints. If I glued the top of the air conditioner dresser it wouldn’t be moving as it does.

Pocket holes create a strong joint, but in my opinion, this joint is made better by using wood glue.

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Can I Disassemble and Reassemble Pocket Hole Projects?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. Pocket screws never seem to tighten up like they did the first time. We need to take an extra step if we need to disassemble a pocket hole joint. We should apply glue to a toothpick and insert the toothpick into the pocket hole. Then we can reassemble the joint. The toothpick will help the pocket screw to tighten up.

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Can I Fill Pocket Holes?

Yes. Pocket holes can be filled with store-bought pocket hole plugs, homemade pocket hole plugs, dowels or wood fillers. For stained projects, I like to fill pocket holes with pocket hole plugs. For painted projects, I like to fill the pocket holes with several applications of Ready Patch.

Related: How to Make Pocket Hole Plugs

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Can You Use Pocket Holes With Hardwoods?

Yes. We can use pocket holes with hardwoods like oak, maple, poplar, etc. Use fine-thread pocket screws with hardwoods. Also, it helps to lubricate the screws. Lubricating makes driving pocket screws easier and reduces heat.

Related: 7 Tips for Using a Pocket Hole Jig with Hardwoods

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Can I Use Pocket Holes to Attach a Tabletop to a Table?

No. Wood moves due to seasonal changes. Wood expands across its width when it’s more humid and it shrinks across its width when it’s less humid. We need to plan for this movement when we build our wood projects.

Related: Mistakes with Wood Can Cause Your DIY Furniture to Crack

Using pocket holes to attach a tabletop to the aprons of a table prevents the wood from moving. Preventing the wood from moving can cause it to split or crack. The best way to attach a tabletop is with tabletop fasteners. Tabletop fasteners securely attach a wood top AND allow the wood to move with seasonal changes.

Related: Wood Table Top Can Crack Without Proper Table Top Fasteners

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Can I Use Pocket Holes for Miter Joints?

Yes. Pocket holes are a great way to join miter joints.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Pocket Holes on Miter Joints

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Can You Join Boards End to End With Pocket Holes?

No. I checked with my friend Mike at Kreg Tool about joining boards lengthwise or end to end with pocket holes. He told me end grain doesn’t have the structure to hold pocket screws in place.

The grain or fibers of a piece of wood run the length of a board. The best way to think of these wood fibers is like a box of drinking straws. The end of those straws or the end of the board is called the end grain.

Imagine driving screws into the end of a box of straws. The straws are hollow which means there isn’t anything for the screws to bite into. This means the screws would just spin and never tighten up. The same thing would happen if we drive screws into end grain. End grain doesn’t have the structure to hold pocket screws in place.

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Can I Use a Kreg Jig on Compound Miter Joints?

No. My friend Mike at Kreg Tool tells me “there is too much complexity” to use pocket holes with double angles. But we can use pocket holes on regular miter joints.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Pocket Holes on Miter Joints

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Can You Make an Octagon Box With Pocket Holes?

Yes. My friend Mike at Kreg Tool said “this is something we don’t have a ton of information on but it can be done. There is a little bit of trial and error in the process but [there are some] guidelines in an old K2000 Manual.”

Mike mentioned “depending on the diameter of the box” that there might not be enough room to drive the pocket screws. In that case, he suggested using a 90-degree drill attachment with a 3″ driver to drive the screws.

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Get Answers to Your Pocket Hole Questions

If you didn’t find the answer to your pocket hole question in this post or in the Pocket Hole Joinery Resource Center you can ask your pocket hole questions here.

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Final Thoughts

Thank you for stopping by. If you found these FAQs pocket hole questions helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott

4 Comments

  1. New to pocket hole joinery and your info is great. Thanks so much for posting and having your website and e mails

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