Opinion on pocket hole joinery

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Forum topic by plang posted 01-16-2012 06:47 PM 16087 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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137 posts in 4267 days

01-16-2012 06:47 PM

What is your opinion on pocket holes as joinery? ...................thanks

27 replies so far

View LelandStone's profile


90 posts in 3426 days

#1 posted 01-16-2012 06:58 PM

I once worked in a cabinet shop where pocket hole joinery was the standard for constructing face frames. We used a Kreg machine. It was fast. It was accurate. It was also an ugly finished product and felt really, really cheap.

-- Leland, OC California

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3398 days

#2 posted 01-16-2012 06:59 PM

I’d say it depends on the piece, and also the application of its parts.

For instance, say you’re building an average sized coffee table. Pockets holes would be ok to use for attaching the top, drilling up through the inside of the apron so the holes aren’t visible from the outside. I wouldn’t use pockets holes for attaching the legs to the apron, though. For that I’d use mortise and tenon because it resists racking much better than pocket screws.

My kitchen table and chairs are a Garden Ridge special (don’t judge, we bought them before I got into this). Both of them are assembled with pocket holes. The table has never felt all that sturdy, and the chairs are beginning to fall apart. We’ve had them for about four years.

I guess the real question here is, what are you planning to build?

-- Brian Timmons -

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5311 posts in 4873 days

#3 posted 01-16-2012 07:03 PM

I use my Kreg a bunch for hidden joinery. Sometimes I will even plug the pockets, but I don’t use ‘em for exterior applications. I’ve also used ‘em in conjunction with dowels and glue for faster assembly time. Never had a failure (yet). Make sure that ya use the correct type and length screws.

-- [email protected]

View Loren's profile


10784 posts in 4561 days

#4 posted 01-16-2012 07:14 PM

There are circumstances where it makes a lot of sense, but as a builder
of fine work I have moved away from it because the appearance
of the holes all over the place is distasteful to me.

Pocket joinery is fast and strong as mentioned. The parts also have
a tendency to shift in assembly which can introduce some problems
unless you have the robust sort of clamping gear to eliminate the
shifting. I found the clamps that came with the Kreg jigs don’t
eliminate shifting. If you are thicknessing your frames with a benchtop
planer you may find the planer doesn’t stay within say a 1/64th
of an inch tolerance in part thickness, and then the parts are
tough to clamp flush for pocket screwing.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3882 days

#5 posted 01-16-2012 07:32 PM

It’s horses for courses. If someone wants a job made but doesn’t want to pay top dollar (or Euro, in my case), the pocket hole jig comes out.
Very useful for putting stuff like rails in the back of a cabinet where it will never be seen, or fixing the bottom into a cabinet from the underside.
I wouldn’t use it for any kind of table or anything ‘special’. The face cramp from Trend is fairly useless, I have had better success by cramping the the member to be fixed with a sash cramp.
A ‘quick change’ drill bit (with a hex shank) in a bit holder is useful for drilling pilot holes into tough wood like oak and maple. (I discovered this after wringing the head off quite a few Roberts head screws without a pilot hole).

View clieb91's profile


4072 posts in 4848 days

#6 posted 01-16-2012 07:41 PM

I have used Pocket hole joinery in a number of applications. It has beena great thing to help me get started in larger scale projects. I can certainly see that it is not the best thing to use for “fine furniture” however for utility type furniture and stuff you are looking to make quickly and cheaply it is a good tool. I have also used it recently to introduce people to woodworking with no prior experience and they have made some great furniture with it.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 3268 days

#7 posted 01-16-2012 07:50 PM

IF you see the pocket holes, you’re not using it for the proper application. If you’re using pocket holes for let’s say cabinet doors, you aren’t doing it right. My cabinet doors are dado and tenon, cause my customers can’t afford more ellaborate cabinet door styles at this time.

I assemble my face frames with pocket holes, and attach them to the case work with pocket holes, ONLY where it will not be visible. If I feel that the pocket holes are necessary on a side, I will then make sure I have a quarter inch over hang or whatever necessary depending on style of cabinets, to add a side panel to hide the pocket holes. Simply because to me, filled holes from nails in a face frame are far ugglier than a hidden when properly used fastener.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 4025 days

#8 posted 01-16-2012 08:14 PM

Check out for some ideas of what can be done with pocket screws. I have never used them myself, but she builds just about anything with them. Bunches of free plans made for pocket hole joinery.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3400 days

#9 posted 01-16-2012 08:15 PM

I’m not nearly as experienced as these other fellows, but I use pocket hole joinery anytime it can’t be seen by the end consumer, especially if the buyer doesn’t want to pay for rabbets, (rebates), dadoes, slots or tenons.
I also use it on the back side of face frames just because I have done so many RV’s that aren’t even close to square that I have to make adjustments in the carcass of the cabinet to allow for the face frame to sit square.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3839 days

#10 posted 01-16-2012 08:51 PM

Used it mostly for face frame construction, sometimes for carcase reinforcement.

My first choice is Domino or biscuit joinery, but the pocket hole joinery does have a place in my shop.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3987 days

#11 posted 01-16-2012 09:22 PM

I used to use pocket holes a lot. I use them less now. I only use them for hidden joinery on woodworking pieces I make.

Unlike most people, I like to use pocket hole joinery when putting studs in place when building a wall. I consider it superior to toenail nailing and it only takes a few more seconds to go the pocket hole approach. Further, if I need to remove and reposition a stud, it is much easier to extract a pocket hole screw than a nail.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3910 days

#12 posted 01-16-2012 10:10 PM

I think if we all took our “Joinery training” in Europe on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the BEST, a pocket hole would be a #3. Butt joint #1 (poorest) Secret mitered dovetail #10.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View cam1297's profile


64 posts in 4124 days

#13 posted 01-16-2012 10:32 PM

I second Rich’s use of using pocket holes for framing. It does take a little more time, but when framing is a one man show, it excells as a joinery method. I use it for shop projects and other utilitarian things. It holds a strong joint if you glue it and screw it.

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3511 days

#14 posted 01-16-2012 10:53 PM

It is a great way to start, and break into woodworking. If they will be hidden, I think they are great, strong, fast, and accurate. But if they are seen, then not so cool…but still viable. Like all things, they have a place, just probably not in high end fine woodworking.

View woodNfish's profile


51 posts in 3971 days

#15 posted 03-02-2013 02:19 AM

Pocket holes are great and they are very strong. Fine Woodworking has done strength test on them and they are one of the strongest joining methods available. There is no reason why they have to be exposed either. Some of the people in this group just don’t like anything that isn’t a dovetail. Well there is more to life than dovetails and if your interest is a fine piece of furniture with strong joints, pocket holes are a good choice.

-- woodNfish

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