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Your Thoughts and Suggestions on Building a Pocket Hole Machine

7827 Views 19 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  fge
I have a Kreg K3 Pocket Hole Jig (you know, the one with the handle in the right place), and it gets a lot of use, enough that I'm thinking a pocket hole machine would be nice. However, the $900 price tag on Kreg's basic machine is kind-of holding me back!

I've been thinking about building a machine, and I think I've worked out some of the problems with multiple actions (drill on/off, clamp motion, drill motion), thickness adjustments, etc. If you want to throw in your thoughts on those subjects, that's great. But …

I'm really curious about your thoughts about:
1) Pneumatic vs. electric vs. manual: I'm leaning strongly towards manual drill advance, but I'm going back and forth between air and electric for the drill and considering all three options for the clamp.
2) Hand operated vs. foot operated: A hand operated machine would have an action like a miter saw or mortise machine, and could be entirely bench-top (space consideration is always an issue). A foot operated machine would have a kick motion like a car clutch, and would probably have to be a stand-alone machine. The only way I see to make a foot operated bench top machine would be if the drill advance was pneumatic or electric with a foot switch instead of a lever, but like I said I'm almost certain I want to use manual advance.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
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There's a guy on Youtube with about 100 video of iterations
of pocket hole "machines" he builds powered by corded drills.
Clever guy. He sure likes pocket holes.
Thanks, Loren. I was looking at his stuff earlier. He's really into pocket holes! He has some good ideas, some of which I am going to borrow. His machines are vertical, and I'm thinking of a horizontal machine … so the bit comes up through the table instead of down through the fence.
Check out the one that portercable makes the benchtop unit dont remember how much I paid but it has cut 10's of thousands of pockets and I only replaced 1 router. and very very fast. the only drawback it is set up for 3/4 stock
Thanks, dannelson. It looks like the PC 550 and 552 are no longer in production. Don't see any used ones for sale near me, either. Any chance you want to sell yours? ;) Ideally, I would like to be able to drill different thickness, but if I could get a great price on a machine that only did 3/4, I could just use a jig for odd thicknesses.
Understand that the Kreg jigs drill a hole at a different angle
than the P-C and Castle format machines.
Yeah, I'm not too fixated on the angle. Would probably go with the Kreg-style 15 degrees if building my own. There's a type I've seen that doesn't do the piloted hole, just a sort of tapered/stopped dado. That would be really easy, but I'm not sure I want to go that route.
Thank goodness I am no longer out on the fastrack, but will say that if your doing hobbiest type work I personally dont see the need for anything other than what you use now. If production is your criteria youll probably want a drill tub and frame table. There was a time when I was so overwhelmed with business that I incorporated a ritter tub and table and still barely kept up but when I closed the big shop that was the first to go. I ve seen quite a lot of this type equipment on the market for pennies on the dollar. I never heard of castle till about three yrs. ago but if I was looking I might zero in on it. If you are in a production setting it may pay you to buy a setup. Plan on dedicating approx. 300 sq. to the new addition. Enjoy JB
Yeah, agreed. The problem with pocket screws is clamping everything
while you drive the screws. The Kreg format joints tend to shift
more than the Castle format joints, which is why the Castle style
is preferred sometimes.

I got rid of my pocket hole stuff and went over to doweling
which doesn't suffer from the same alignment ambiguities you get
with pocket screws and plate joints. Furniture and cabinetry
full of pocket holes also looks, in my opinion, cheap. Doweled
joints go together squarer and doweled boxes come out squarer
too. The arguments for pocket holes are good ones in terms
of speed of assembly, but professional face frame work demands
a pneumatic clamping table if you don't want to spend a lot
of time sanding misaligned joints flush… and if the case screws
together out of square (they often do with screws) it can be
hard to track down the problem and get the box to go square.

All I'm saying I guess is that if you're looking at pocket holes as
an efficient production method, it's worth looking at other options
favored by industry as well. A lot depends on where your stuff is
positioned in the marketplace and where you want to go in terms
of marketing to more affluent customers.
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I have an older porter cable pocket hole mach. wouldn't trade it for any of the others
Thanks for the input. I use a variety of joinery methods (including dowels, M&T, etc), depending on what I am building. Like I said in my orignial post, I use pocket screws enough that I'm considering something more than the jig and drill routine, but not enough to justify a huge investment of cash or a lot of floor space in my shop. The cost is why I'm thinking of making my own, and the space is the reason I'm thinking something similar to the basic Kreg machine - the Foreman - which uses 14×23 of bench space and can be put on a shelf when not in use.

One thing I didn't mention was that my biggest issue is panels for cases. Standing a panel up in a K3 type jig or a woodentoolcompany style machine is far from ideal, in my opinion. Using the jig with the faceclamp on panels is a hassle, too. Being able to control a panel laying down on a stationary machine seems to me to be the best method. Of course, if I'm going to build/buy a machine, the capability to use it on other parts would be nice!
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thought I saw a pc knock off by general or woodtec recall it being green and yellow hope this may help. I would think that you can build on pretty easy off the pc design it uses one router for the swing(to cut the pocket from underneth and a trim router withe a drill bit to bore the hole into the piece.
I got heaps of holes in my pockets… :) I to lazy and cheap to buy new jeans…

Oh wait… as you were…. what the above said… :) lol
Thanks, dannelson. I found this machine from Castle. It looks kind of like the pictures I've found of the PC machine, but in yellow and green. The price tag is even more than the Kreg machine.
I am in your same position. I really could use a pocket hole machine, but don't really have the extra money for it at this time. I do appreciate being able to build some of my own machines if I am able to and this sounds like something that can be built easily. I have always thought about using some kind of vise on a drill press that held my material. We build around 15 or so kitchens per year. We use a face frame pnuematic table but drill holes with kreg jig.

I have been told the smaller kreg bench top machines are not worth the money and that they are under powered.

I don't have a lot to offer with advice but I do know if I were choosing between electric and pnuematic drill action, I would certainly go towards the pnuematic because electric motors will have more wear and tear issues in the long run.

So I will be anxious to see what you do, please keep us posted and let us know what design you end up doing. Maybe I can learn from you and make my own machine.
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Thanks, Jerry! It's nice to know I'm not the only one in this position! I've seen drill press jigs that hold the part at 12 or 15 degrees and have a guide hole for the drill bit. I considered doing that, but it looks like a case panel in that jig would be so much in the way that I wouldn't be able to operate the drill press. What do you think?

I appreciate the feedback on the pneumatic drill. I am leaning in that direction. A high-speed pneumatic drill should punch those holes in a big hurry.

I'm still in the planning phase now, but I'll be sure to let you know when I get going building it.
yes that the one Castle> I have seen the pneumatic ones used and have considered bidding but so many other tools to buy . you might want to check out EX FACTORY its a used machinery site also WOODWEB dont yet know how to get those to highlight in blue and be a link. Ill work on that
Peter, I agree that the drill press idea would be difficult to work with on case work. But I only pocket hole face frames. I dado my case work and run screws through the sides. All of my visible sides on case work is dressed with finished panels on my jobs so no screw heads are ever seen. So using the drill press would work with face frames but I am not sure if that is the solution or not, but drill presses are often so inexpensive and typically readily available on CL a lot. Just tonight a fella has a 3/4 HP floor model drill press for sale for 100.00. The drill press is 16 speeds. Something like that set up permanently for face frames for the cost of 100.00 plus a 50.00 vise might work well for what I want it for. Just thinking out loud.

But for case work, I think you will need to continue thinking of a way to work with your peice laying down horizontally. Hope it goes well for you. It will be neat to see what you come up with. You will have to message me when you get it together, I would be interested in seeing what you come up with.
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Jerry - somewhere I have plans or drawings for a pocket-hole setup on the drill press. I'll have to look around for it and see if I can get a copy to you. I'll be sure and post pictures of whatever machine I eventually build!
Thanks Peter, just send me a message. I will look forward to your message.
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