Is Scott Phillips (American Woodworker) preventing new woodworkers from learning proper Joinery ?

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 07-05-2015 12:25 AM 12348 views 0 times favorited 172 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118162 posts in 4702 days

07-05-2015 12:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Having a rather lazy 4th of July I decided to watch some TV. As I flicked through some channels I saw Scott Phillips making a project,so I thought I’d see what he was up to and wanted to see if he changed his approach to joinery from the last time I saw his show(years ago),he had not changed his aproach.
At this point, I have to admit I’m not a fan of much of his workmanship. Scott seems like he would be a great guy to know and be friends with. My issue with Scott and his show is that no matter what casework project he makes he always uses pocket screw joinery. As joinery goes pocket screws are relatively strong for what the are(a butt joint with mechanical fasteners). But when I open a door or look inside cabinets and see pocket screws my first thought is the builder is a very new woodworker and or they want to only make quick projects that are not top quality ,products like those made for Walmart.
I believe Pocket screw joinery has its place ,mostly in hidden locations like the back of face frames.
This brings me back to my question. If a newB only watches “American Woodworker”they may think that since Scott has been around for years that pocket screw joinery is the do all woodworking joint, and not bother to learn other types of joinery that takes some time and practise to learn.
This approach has been brought to my attention by a few of my new students saying,” why not pocket screws” for almost every project they want to make.
Does all this mean pocket screws are evil and should never be used? No! But if you’re a new to woodworking or not and you want to keep improving your woodworking skills then look into and learn some more time-tested Joinery. To those of you who love pocket screw joinery for its ease and ability to make quick projects.Enjoy!

What’s your take on this subject?


172 replies so far

View bandit571's profile


28821 posts in 3808 days

#1 posted 07-05-2015 12:36 AM

When Kreg is your major sponsor… has to use and show how to use THEIR products as much as one can.

Simple as that, now IF someone else were to foot the bill, and didn’t have pocket screws for a product, but say a mortise 7 tenon jig, and a dovetail set up…...

Three kinds of woodworkers are on the tube nowadays….Scott (Mr. Kreg) Phillips, Tommy Mac (Woodcraft), and Underhill. I’d suggest a season or four of Underhill, then a season or so of Tommy Mac. If all they want to do is power tool stuff…..there is always Woodsmith. Then maybe Phillips

I still remember the old shows Scott put out, long before the Kreg Plague showed up. back before the new house was ever built.

BTW: halfway between Sidney,OH, and Piqua,OH, south of the Lockington Dam….is scott’s new home. Since I tend to take the “backway” to Piqua, instead of I-75…..I drive right by the place….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


787 posts in 4398 days

#2 posted 07-05-2015 12:38 AM

Well said!

While I own a pocket hole jig from Kreg and use it on occasion, I don’t like the looks. If I choose pocket holes, it is because I won’t normally see the pocket holes again. Even with plugs.

I understand the strength of the joint. But if I’m going to take the time and pride in a project, I want it to look good as well as being well made. That’s why I choose real wood instead of particle board! Of course, particle board has it’s place, but I digress.


-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

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118162 posts in 4702 days

#3 posted 07-05-2015 12:50 AM

The first time I saw Scott 27+ years ago he made a shaker clock with pocket screws in the door,long before Kreg took off and he refused free tools from any sponsors back then. I beleave it was his choice of joinery even then,nothing to do with Sponsors .

BTW his show is also sponsored by Woodcraft

Besides all that are new woodworkers just going to belong to the pocket screws only set?


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118162 posts in 4702 days

#4 posted 07-05-2015 12:51 AM

View TheDane's profile


5976 posts in 4788 days

#5 posted 07-05-2015 01:07 AM

Jim—I have to admit I have wondered the same thing.

There is no question (in my mind) that Scott Phillips uses way too many pocket screws. But the same could have been said years ago when Norm Abram was pushing biscuits. If you look around the net, you’ll find other woodworkers who use dowels on pretty much everything, while other guys are high on Dominoes. They all have their place.

In the end, I don’t know that it makes much difference. The best we can hope for is that it will get more people interested in woodworking … once you get them into the tent, you can talk to them about different, better joinery options.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jerry's profile


3488 posts in 2773 days

#6 posted 07-05-2015 01:10 AM

Jim, I am more of the galoot persuasion than the power tool persuasion, although I do use power tools.

I would use nothing but hand tools IF I were good enough, but I’m not, that being said, I use hand tools wherever possible, and the thing I am most proud of is my ability to make a good hand cut dovetail, mortise and tenon joint, etc., so my approach is what I believe they call a “hybrid” approach.

I don’t think it serves the woodworking community and especially up and coming woodworkers to present such a lopsided approach to woodworking as Mr. Phillips is doing, although he may not have a choice.

I’m not sure if he’d be allowed to by his sponsors, but it seems to me he would do better to make some things with the pocket joints, and some things with hand made joints and some with traditional joints made with power tools.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

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118162 posts in 4702 days

#7 posted 07-05-2015 01:11 AM

Good point Gerry
I guess to each approach there is a season.


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118162 posts in 4702 days

#8 posted 07-05-2015 01:17 AM

I agree Jerry it may be a matter of skill or even time restraints to crank out a project a week. I also noticed the only finish Scott uses is Shellac,another quick and easy approach I guess.


View DocSavage45's profile


9049 posts in 3967 days

#9 posted 07-05-2015 01:21 AM


Scott is a master of sales. He takes time to promote any and all of his sponsors. He has promoted the people who have installed equipment in his shop. LOL! He has even Hosted on of our own on his show. Charlie K.

I remember him engaging the high school class who were learning home building skills to build his first house. By the way I do not own a pocket hole tool.

Norm might have used more pocket screws if Kregg had been a sponsor? He did use a lot of power tools and I certainly liked Norm, I also bought tools to be like Norm? LOL!

Tommy Mack and Roy Underhill do similar and dissimilar things. Tommy is a hybrid woodworker, while Roy is all original.

Too bad I got hooked on James Krenov too late.

What ever way a woodworker goes, he or she should have information about all types of Joinery even if they choose not to use them?

Happy 4th of July!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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118162 posts in 4702 days

#10 posted 07-05-2015 01:26 AM

Happy independence day back at you Tom

Yes I agree that TV shows love to have the host use their products, but Scott used pocket screws on everything close to 30 years ago long before Kreg was a sponsor.


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Arlin Eastman

4549 posts in 3686 days

#11 posted 07-05-2015 01:29 AM


I agree that is his primary way of case work and I do not watch him anymore. I do have to say since Kreg is one of his sponsors he is doing a good job for them but not the rest of his spongers.

His turning is downright dangerous on how he uses his tools. I no longer tell the vets I teach to watch him if he is turning.
I am very sure him and his wife are terrific folks but would like him to get safer on his tool use.

I do like a lot of his projects tho.

So now I watch Tommy Mac on Mondays & Fridays and Woodsmith Shop on Tuesdays & Thursdays.

It is Really sad that there are more cooking shows then anything else. :(

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

490 posts in 2805 days

#12 posted 07-05-2015 01:31 AM

Pocket hole joinery is a very accessible way to assemble furniture. It can be done with minimal tools and skills and if placed carefully does produce good results. I don’t think he is hurting the hobby woodworking industry as I imagine anyone who comes into woodworking through his show and enjoys it will eventually branch out into other methods as their skills and confidence improves. Overall having easy ways to break into woodworking that don’t require a lot of tools or specialized knowledge is a good thing for all of us. I think we as woodworkers who are farther down the journey sometimes get so caught up with the tools and methods we have adopted over time that we forget that everyone has to start somewhere and it’s not always practical or wise to require a garage full of tools to even try this hobby.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4433 days

#13 posted 07-05-2015 01:55 AM

If is on TV then it must be true and right…? I guess that is why I dont watch much TV. never seen this guys show.
As a young kid I learned all my basics with hand tools before I ever used electric tools. glad I did.I never heard of pocket hole joinery back in the 1950-1960 s and not really sure when they became popular.
I do own a Kreg but it was more out of curiousity and i cannot remember when I last used it. if you like it then use it but learn other methods if you value your knowlege skills

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4702 days

#14 posted 07-05-2015 02:01 AM

There are other things that I would teach differently than the way Scott does them, the few times I’ve watched ,but I’m sure the same might apply if someone filmed what we do in the shop and perhaps on the TV show too.
I agree that we all start with what every joinery or approaches and tools we have,that’s why I said if folks want to improve their skills they might investigate some of the more traditional joinery available.
All said and done if a person wants to use pocket screw joinery only ,that’s their choice.


View John L's profile

John L

148 posts in 2289 days

#15 posted 07-05-2015 02:03 AM

Jim, I pretty much agree with you here. While it is a good entry point to joinery, too much of a good thing is just too much. I’d much rather go with a biscuit planer and clamps, but that’s just my preference.

I work in the interior design field, as a self-employed maker of beautiful finished products, such as cornices, padded headboards, window treatments, and custom quilting. But while most of that uses rudimentary woodworking, I still like to do special projects. For instance, right now, I am trying to get into the “Reclaimed/Primitive” furniture thing for a designer client, who has been pestering me a long time to begin making this type of furniture for selling in her business. So I’ve decided to retool the woodworking end of my basement shop.

In the process of looking for a few perfect pieces of furniture to make for my designer friend, I have been all over Penterist, looking at practically everything that would interest me. And believe it or not, a great deal of the furniture projects on the web are being made by female bloggers. There’s a bunch of them doing, and building things, and then blogging about it. Its amazing in the sense that when I was young and looking for that perfect soul mate, there just weren’t any women, who used table saws, owned pneumatic systems, or loved getting filthy.

But not anymore. These woodworking babes are going at it in a big way, and they have sponsors coming out of the “yin-yang”. And guess which is the one sponcer they always tend to pull out? If you say “Kreg Pocket Hole Jig”,.....YOU WIN!! Those babes just love to throw things together with that thing. You can almost sense the orgasm building up.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who believes the top, and inside of even my most lowly upholstered cornice, should show ones best handiwork, because when I make something for a client, I am putting my name and reputation on the line. If I leave something raw and unfinished, someone will invariably look back there, and raise holy hell. So I just take the extra time and do things right. When I see those babes putting together a table, or cabinet top, and they leave all those ugly holes on the bottom, or inside portions of the project, I just shake my head and sigh. I’ve even written many of them and suggested they take the next step and consider something more advanced than Kreg. But they don’t bother replying. They are already dialed in to the different company sponsors, and aren’t quite ready for graduation into the next level.

But still, where were these women when I was looking for that perfect companion? We’ve come a long way anyway.

-- Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil - Thomas Mann

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