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Doweling jig versus Kreg pocket hole jig

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Forum topic by woodthaticould posted 05-19-2019 09:06 PM 465 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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woodthaticould

36 posts in 2712 days


05-19-2019 09:06 PM

Hello all:

Excuse me if this has already been covered and re-covered.

Since I’m just getting started and I don’t want to get discouraged by attempting any fancy joinery, I’m considering using (at least at first) a doweling jig or a pocket hole jig. I know the Kreg jig is probably more idiot-proof, but I’d rather avoid this option except as a last resort. Feel free to convince me otherwise, but I’m thinking dowel jig at this point.

So, what do you people have to say about it? If you see the Kreg as a good idea, please share your experience with whatever version you have. If you use or have used a doweling jig please tell me which and what you think of it.

Thanks in advance.


15 replies so far

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

688 posts in 1487 days


#1 posted 05-19-2019 09:59 PM

In order to give you a good answer we would have to know more about what your end goal is, what other equipment you have, and what your skill level is. However, to make a quick comparison, I think the easiest to use is a pocket hole system. It will require less skill and precision. Dowels have been used forever with great success. But, even with a good jig, they require more care in getting them precisely lined up and properly fit. I have no data, but I would guess that doweled joints will be stronger. Doweled joints will generally be aesthetically more pleasing as they are usually hidden. Even if exposed, the dowel ends can either contrast or blend with surrounding wood and are generally considered pleasing. Pocket holes, if exposed, can be covered with special plugs, but the appearance of these may be a matter of taste. Neither will be as strong or as pleasing as a well fit M&T joint. M&T Joints are not real difficult to make with either hand or machine tools.

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woodthaticould

36 posts in 2712 days


#2 posted 05-19-2019 10:43 PM

Thanks for answering, bilyo.

My skill level is low. For that reason I’m seeking a simple method of joinery as opposed to mortise and tenon, dovetails, etc. And I would prefer doweling because it’s effective and not too challenging. Also, I agree that they are more aesthetically pleasing and (although I am not) I want my work to be. I might want to use contrasting wood on occasion…sort of a poor man’s Green and Green detail.

Lastly, I don’t like the look of the plugs, especially not when they stand out. They just don’t look right. They merely look like what they are. Those plugs, when more or less matching, might be alright on a painted piece but I wouldn’t like them elsewhere.

Thanks for the help.

View WoodenDreams's profile

WoodenDreams

601 posts in 296 days


#3 posted 05-19-2019 10:47 PM

If your interested in speed and not appearance, then by all means use the pocket hole jig. Quite a few furniture manufactures on a assembly line production use pocket holes and don’t use plugs to save time. you get what you pay for. Putting in plugs to cover up the pocket hole looks nicer than no plugs. But if you need to tighten the screws at a later time, the plug are in the way of screws. Pocket holes are not idiot proof, because you still have to clamp the boards to end up with a flush fit. I do have the kreg K4 jig. The K5 or the Foreman jig are nicer. Bought it over a year ago to try it out, but only did some test joints. And not used it since.. I prefer the Mortise & tenon, Dove tail, Dowel joints and biscuits joints. All depending on the application for the joint. Right now I building a Chest, and I’ll have a total of 36 dowels in it.

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CWWoodworking

478 posts in 564 days


#4 posted 05-19-2019 11:46 PM

Just use both. Both have there place.

Pockets will be faster in a home shop, dowels will be stronger.

I do like the fixed indexing of dowels. Pockets are hard to beat for face frames and you don’t have to leave it clamped for glue to dry.

90% of the time I use pockets. I like the speed and ease. I don’t pretend to be making heirloom furniture though.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

688 posts in 1487 days


#5 posted 05-19-2019 11:48 PM


Thanks for answering, bilyo.

My skill level is low. For that reason I m seeking a simple method of joinery as opposed to mortise and tenon, dovetails, etc. And I would prefer doweling because it s effective and not too challenging. Also, I agree that they are more aesthetically pleasing and (although I am not) I want my work to be. I might want to use contrasting wood on occasion…sort of a poor man s Green and Green detail.

Lastly, I don t like the look of the plugs, especially not when they stand out. They just don t look right. They merely look like what they are. Those plugs, when more or less matching, might be alright on a painted piece but I wouldn t like them elsewhere.

Thanks for the help.

- woodthaticould


Actually, you can have both pocket hole and dowel joint jigs for not a huge investment. And, there is a time and place for each. I just have the single hole Kreg set and it serves my purposes very well. I don’t remember the cost, but it is significantly less than the multi hole versions ( I see that Amazon has them for $20). I think you can say the same for dowel jigs. I know some are rather expensive, but maybe you don’t need the most expensive one. In the mean time, I would encourage you to learn how to make M&T joints. With hand tools, you don’t need a large investment and it is not that difficult to learn.

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torus

277 posts in 798 days


#6 posted 05-20-2019 12:08 AM

The main question is: What is a project?

I am surprised nobody ask it….

-- "It's getting better..." - put this on my RIP stone!

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SMP

1008 posts in 290 days


#7 posted 05-20-2019 12:39 AM

View woodthaticould's profile

woodthaticould

36 posts in 2712 days


#8 posted 05-20-2019 01:51 AM

Thanks everybody. I really appreciate the feedback. I’m going to the (shared) shop tomorrow and Wednesday with a few tools, some ideas and a lot of hope.

View MikeDilday's profile

MikeDilday

255 posts in 844 days


#9 posted 05-20-2019 02:20 AM

It depends on the project but I use both. I have the K5 Kreg Pocket Hole Jig and the Dowelmax Doweling jig and also a dowel centering jig that accommodates 5 to 6 different size dowel holes. All are great and indispensable in my opinion. With the dowels I have not had a need for mortise & tenon joints. I would eventually get both. If I am making cabinets and furniture pocket holes are my go to joint.

-- Michael Dilday, Suffolk, Va.

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woodthaticould

36 posts in 2712 days


#10 posted 05-20-2019 02:27 AM

Thanks again.

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9x9

99 posts in 1625 days


#11 posted 05-20-2019 02:31 AM

I use biscuits for most projects and some (very few) dowels.

-- Youngsville, LA

View sansoo22's profile

sansoo22

103 posts in 39 days


#12 posted 05-20-2019 11:28 AM

My experience from someone who just started wood working last summer.

I started out with the Kreg R3 and it wasn’t long before I had out grown it. It’s a great little kit that comes with everything you need to get started but once you start wanting to drill a lot of pocket holes you quickly realize its a time sink.

This last Christmas I received the Kreg K4 in a package deal that came with a clamp and the Kreg Mini as a bonus. Last time I was at Home Depot they still had a few of these special packaged K4s on the shelf for $99. Here is a decent vid that I followed to setup my K4 to handle larger panels. I took it 1 step further and added a thin strip of scrap to the front of Jay’s jig to act as a bench hook.

Finally for doweling I have the Eagle America large capacity self-centering jig and I followed the simple instruction here to do various types of joints with it.

Kreg R3:
Pros: Inexpensive, can build face frames and cabinet carcasses quite easily, come with everything you need to get started
Cons: You can outgrow it rather quickly

Kreg K4:
Pros: Quicker, has more capacity, easier to adjust
Cons: costs more than the R3

Eagle America Doweling Jig:
Pros: It’s Awesome, costs less than Rockler offerings and is just as accurate from what I can tell
Cons: It’s heavy but I like lifting heavy things so no biggie for me

To wrap up my long winded post I started out with pocket holes and I’m glad I did. My first project was rather daunting and involved a face frame cabinet around some old lockers I had re-finished. The lockers weren’t square so I couldn’t just reference them and wow did it become a learning lesson. If I made a mistake, like cut something that wasn’t square…happens to us noobs from time to time…I could take apart the joint and get a do-over. To me dowels required a little more precision that my lack of skill and experience wasn’t ready for. I have moved on to dowels for finished furniture pieces but still use pocket holes for all my shop furniture.

Hope that rambling of thoughts helps out. Just be careful with the instant gratification that pocket holes offers. They got me hooked on wood working. I’m finishing up my mini bench now so i can learn to cut M&T and dove tails.

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

1381 posts in 1201 days


#13 posted 05-21-2019 12:51 AM

Correctly applied dowel joinery is at least twice as strong as pocket screws, provided both are done correctly. Also, I think the pockets are ugly if they show. Even so, I use them a lot for cabinet box construction and similar applications because they are fast and reliable. For more demanding applications, I use the Dowelmax jig. I also have a self centering jig like the one previously mentioned but I never use it. In most cases, I want the dowel holes referenced to one surface or the other rather than centered up. I have found dowels to be so strong and with such long term durability (40 years in some cases) that I very seldom resort to M&T.

View woodthaticould's profile

woodthaticould

36 posts in 2712 days


#14 posted 05-21-2019 12:53 AM

First of all…bilyo, WoodenDreams, CWWoodworking, torus, SMP, MikeDilday, 9×9, and sanso22…thank you all.

Sanso22, thanks for all the detailed information. It was just that and neither long winded nor rambling. Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it.

As it turns out, the shop I’m renting time in has more equipment than I first thought. However, the place is also more sloppy and disorganized than I expected. For example they have a Kreg K4 but not it’s not quite complete. This is likewise the case with their Grripper.

In any case, given that they have many items that I thought I would need to immediately buy it remains a good arrangement. Most important they have a SawStop table saw and the more serious one as opposed to the contractor version that I was earlier on planning to buy. I will be buying a dado set for it because several of my early projects will feature box joints. (I’m not quite ready for dovetails.) I will also build as an early project a jig for making them. I hope I can decide on a reasonable design for one.

So, regarding a dowel jig I will order the Eagle America version that you suggested. I’m sure it’s a good item and as I said earlier I want to get a few simply made and well constructed items under my belt before I get more ambitious regarding joinery .

Well, thanks for all the help and good advice.

View osteele's profile

osteele

2 posts in 84 days


#15 posted 05-24-2019 01:13 PM

[Oops, didn’t see the last post above before writing this reply. Since there doesn’t seem to be a “delete post” option, I’m leaving it in case it’s useful to anyone.]

Dowels and pockets screws perform (slightly) different functions. They both align parts and hold them together, but dowels are better at dry fits (you can put the piece together and then take it apart again) while pocket screws are better at clamping.

Dowels have good strength, are okay at alignment (it’s notoriously difficult to drill the holes in the right place but if you do you’re golden), but require separate clamping. If you already have clamps and glue-up skills, or are ready to invest some clamps and learn some clamping and glue-up technique, dowels are better practice for “real” woodworking. They also, as you note, result in aesthetically superior results.

You can use dowels to align the parts and then use brads to clamp them while the glue dries, to simplify the glue-up job. Brad holes are near-invisible (and disappear entirely when painted — but then, so do pocket hole plugs). This does require a brad nailer, which is expensive if you buy a Li-Ion version or if you buy a pneumatic nailer and don’t already have a compressor. Hand-nailing brads into a piece that isn’t yet held together by clamps or glue isn’t easier than just using clamps, IMO.

Pocket screws have meh strength, good alignment (after a few practice runs), and build in their own clamping. If a piece doesn’t need to be very strong or last forever, you don’t even need to touch glue. For more heavy-duty or permanent pieces, the clamping action of the screws makes glue-up much easier. It may not require any clamps besides the single right-angle clamp you use to hold two pieces together while you drive in each screw.

Low-end professional kitchen cabinets, and most of the near-beginner projects you’ll find on YouTube and Instructables, use pocket-screws, so you’re in good company and will find a wealth of project ideas.

I started out woodworking about nine months ago, and pocket screws were an easy way to get a lot of things built without having to invest in a ton of clamps and learn much about glue-ups. I don’t use them much any more (and I’ve ended up with the typical clamp collection, acquired one or two at a time as needed), but I’m really happy that I started with pocket screws—without the jig and some initial easy wins, I don’t know that I’d have gotten into woodworking.

I bought the Kreg K4. For a while I slightly regretted not buying the K5, but after a few more months of building things I got to where I was comfortable mounting the K4 to a table and building storage for it. At that point I was glad to have shop-built versions of the features that otherwise come with the K5.

I’ve ended up designing most of my own pieces, but if I’d started out with dowels and wanted to follow along with DIY plans for beginners, I’d likely have ended up buying a pocket jig so I could follow along anyway.

Also if you continue with woodworking, you may look back on the Kreg jig that seems expensive now as one of the cheapest woodworking tools you’ve bought :-)

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