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How To Use a Pocket Hole Jig Beginners Guide

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A pocket hole jig is perhaps the easiest way to join two pieces of wood together while still keeping those unsightly fasteners hidden from view. But, while a pocket hole jig makes wood joining easier, learning how to make pocket holes still requires some practice before getting the hang of it. In this guide, we’ll review how to use a pocket hole jig by looking at one of the most popular jigs around, the Kreg R3.

Getting to know the Kreg R3

Kreg R3 Pocket Hole Jig

One of the nice things about learning how to use a Kreg pocket hole jig is that all of its pieces fit neatly into a compact carrying case, making it easy to carry to wherever your project might be while keeping all the essential pieces together so they don’t get lost in your woodworking workshop.

Open the Kreg R3’s carrying case, and you’ll find the specialty stepped drill bit, square-shaped driver, depth stop collar, and Allen wrench, as well as the jig itself, all neatly organized inside. 

Set the guide to the proper depth

Begin by removing the jig from the carrying case and setting it to the proper depth for your respective workpiece. 

On the sides of the jig are gray sliders with measurements ranging from 1/2 inch to 1-1/2 inches. 

Set both sliders to match the width of the workpiece by squeezing the ends and sliding them forward or backward until the arrow on the blue part of the jig lines up with the desired thickness. 

Remember, you’re setting the jig to the actual thickness of the wood, so if you’re working with a 2×4, for example, you’ll want to set the sliders to the actual thickness of 1-1/2 inches. 

Next, attach the jig to the workpiece so that the guides extending from the sliders rest flush against the edge of the wood. Use the lines engraved on the end of the jig to line up where on the piece you want to drill the holes. 

Once you’re satisfied with the jig’s position, clamp it to the wood by positioning one of the clamp’s jaws on the circular piece on the top of the jig and the other on the opposite side of the workpiece. 

Snap clamps work the best, but you can also use a standard screw-style C-clamp.

Set up your drill bit

If it’s not already there, clip the stepped Kreg drill bit in its respective spot inside the case. Use the included Allen wrench to loosen the drill bit stop collar, then slide the collar so that the edge closest to the tip of the bit lines up with the measurement that matches the wood’s thickness. Lock the stop collar in place by tightening the set screw with the included Allen wrench. 

Don’t skip this step. Setting the stop collar will prevent you from accidentally drilling too deeply and boring all the way through your workpiece. 

Drilling the hole

Now that you’ve dialed in the proper depth settings on the jig and drill bit, it’s time to drill the hole. Insert the bit into your drill, tighten the chuck, then drill into each of the two guide holes (unless, of course, you only want to create one pocket hole). 

Drill at a moderate pace. As you drill, the bit will eject wood shavings from the two openings on the top of the jig. Keep drilling until the stop collar comes in contact with the jig, then remove the drill bit from the jig. 

Choose the right screws

Even though you may have set the proper material thicknesses when drilling the hole, you can still break through the other side of your project if you don’t pick the proper screw length.

Consult the Kreg R3 manual to determine which screw you should use based on the thickness of the material. Remember, Kreg uses actual material thickness for its fastener length recommendation, so keep in mind that dimensional lumber such as a 2×4 is actually only 1-1/2 inches thick. 

Beyond selecting the proper screw length, you’ll need to choose the correct threads. Pocket hole screws are typically offered in a coarse thread and a fine thread. Coarse threads work best on plywood and dimensional lumber. Fine-threaded screws are meant for hardwoods and softwoods. 

Joining the pieces

Once you’ve finished making your pocket holes, it’s time to connect the pieces. Align the two pieces to be joined together and push them flush against each. Insert one of the pocket hole screws into the pocket hole, then use the Kreg square drive bit to drive the screw through the hole and into the second piece, joining the two together. 

Since the drill bit you used to make the pocket hole is stepped and the screws are self-tapping, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the screws started. 

The screw is also threaded such that it will pull both pieces together tightly as you drive them in, ensuring there is no gap left between the two pieces of wood. 

Other considerations

By following these instructions, you can use your Kreg R3 pocket hole jig for a variety of wood joining needs. There are a few other considerations to keep in mind as you use this tool. 

The Kreg screws create such a tight connection between the two pieces that Kreg doesn’t recommend using wood glue in tandem with its fasteners. That said, it’s not a bad idea to use glue if you want to create a stronger joint. 

The Kreg R3, unlike Kreg’s other jigs, does not include a clamp. You can purchase a Kreg toggle clamp; however, they are a bit pricey. You can also use any standard wood clamp, though clamps with screw-style jaws will slow the process down a bit. 

How do you set the depth on a pocket hole jig?

Most pocket hole jigs have easy-to-read settings on the jig. Find the ruled measurements and move the sliders on the jig until the arrow lines up with the measurement that is the same thickness as the material (measure the thickness of the workpiece with a tape measure if you don’t know what it is). Don’t forget to also set the stop collar on the drill bit to the appropriate drilling depth for the material. 

How do you use a pocket hole jig on a 2×4? 

Adjust the position sliders on the side of the jig to match the actual thickness of the material, which is 1-1/2 inches for a 2×4. Attach the jig to the wood so that the stops on the sliders are flush with the wood. Clamp the jig and the workpiece together. Using the guide that comes with the jig, set the stop collar on the drill bit for drilling into 1-1/2-inch thick material. You are now ready to drill the pocket holes.

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