Pocket hole woes

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Forum topic by Renaissance_Man posted 12-10-2018 01:45 AM 752 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 2029 days

12-10-2018 01:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pocket screws split

Decided to attempt something that wasn’t “paint grade”, a dresser. Got some of the “expensive” 3/4 inch Purebond birch pywood from HD, and a piece of oak wherewith to make some 1/4 inch edge banding. Very carefully edge banded my pywood components for the case, then planed and sanded things flush. Everything looked good.

Assemled the case using pocket screws. First corner joint went well. Second one not as good, but acceptable.

Things went downhill from there.

I had things clamped, but apparently not well enough. The pocket screws drove things off location, probably as much as a 32nd of an inch in one spot. Very noticeable (at least to me) step in things.

And on top of that, perhaps owing to the off location part, the pocket screws punched through and split my oak edge banding.

I should have gone with Miller dowels, but I didn’t want to order them and have to wait for them to arrive. Patience is not my strong suit.

So now I have a dillemma. Putty the heck out of the damage, sand out the imperfections (which will go through the top layer of pkywood veneer), then recert the whole shebang to paint grade. In which case my expensive birch plywood and oak was a waste of money. Or sand things as much as possible, putty it (probably after staining and finishing) and hope. I’d try this method ( ). Which is uncharted territory. The side with the damage will be right next to a wall, and not visible, but it being there is gonna bug me.

5 replies so far

View Rich's profile


5147 posts in 1198 days

#1 posted 12-10-2018 05:41 AM

Pocket screws do misalign things. Just clamping isn’t enough to keep the pieces from moving unless you do it right. Dowels or biscuits will do the trick.

However, it sounds like that’s too late to help you. I’m pretty sure that screw points popping through a veneer surface is something that can be fixed. I can’t offer any advice without seeing it though.

Can you post photos?

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Robert's profile


3602 posts in 2089 days

#2 posted 12-10-2018 03:06 PM

You have to clamp it up tight when using pocket screws. Biscuits will help, but you still have to clamp.

Since its not noticeable, I would say do the best you can, lesson learned.

Not a big fan of pocket screws in plywood. They will work, but you have to be careful how tight you drive them the head will crush the plywood and make screw drive too deep.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View maxyedor's profile


31 posts in 933 days

#3 posted 12-10-2018 05:33 PM

I had lots of pocket screw issues before I switched from an impact driver to a drill with the torque limit set correctly. I just picked up a Milwaukee m12 screw-gun for $50something at HD and it’s sweet for applications like this.

Hard to tell just how bad the damage is without seeing it, but you can do a couple of things to fix it. First, if the panels are glued in place, remove the screws and replace with either slightly shorter ones or grind the tips off so that they no longer poke through. If you can, plane off the edge banding, use a screw small enough to not protrude into the edge banding and then re-band the dresser. I don’t like using a pocket screw going toward edge banding for this reason, the banding is such a tiny sliver of wood that things get super dicey.

As for the 32nd of an inch offset, sand or plane that down to flush and nobody will ever know.

View Davevand's profile


151 posts in 1445 days

#4 posted 12-10-2018 06:28 PM

When I use pocket screws I clamp the pieces just like I was glueing them together. Bessy or equivalent parallel clamps holding the pieces while I put the screws in

View Renaissance_Man's profile


19 posts in 2029 days

#5 posted 12-11-2018 12:54 AM

Well I have implemented a solution, but in some ways, the cure was worse than the disease. And the edge banding was 1/4 inch thick. If it were thinner, it might not have been a problem. And yes, I was using an impact driver. Won’t do that again. I thought I had it clamped pretty well, but I guess not.

Anyway, I just decided to take out the screws and knock the thing apart, which is where the cure being worse part comes in. Even without the screws, the glue held things together pretty well, so when I knocked it apart, it tore part of the top layer off the plywood on one end. When I knocked apart the other end, I scored the plywood with a utility knife right next to the joint and things went much better.

Anyway, I cut the side pieces shorter, just above the pocket holes, and will take 3/4 inch off each end of the mating piece, put new edge banding on, and put things back together with some countersunk screws. Probably not the prettiest solution, but it shouldn’t be too bad. I should have just bought the Miller dowels from the get-go, but they’re expensive. But the pocket holes actually turned out to be even more expensive. Oh well. I learned something, which is kind of what I intended. The dresser is for me, and I figured I’d live with any screwups, and see where the pitfalls were when I try to build one for somebody else later on.

Anyway, thank you for the tips. Will know better next time.

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