We've written and reviewed pocket hole joinery tools like the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System and Project many times in the past. We consider ourselves fans of the technology, but we love anything that gets us into the shop floor or lets us get work done on site. Of course, advantages and disadvantages follow for each type of wood joint. There is no shortage of opinions. Typically, these opinions depend on skill level, available tools, and aesthetics. Here are some notes from professionals on when to use pocket hole joinery.
stuck on glue
Mortise and tenon, dovetail and biscuit joints require gluing. This is not the case with pocket hole joints, as the fastener acts as an internal clamp to avoid gluing. Glue may strengthen the bag-hole joint, but it is not required. This makes pocket holes a faster joint than other holes. It's perfect for quick jobs, like the 5 minute pocket hole rack we recently finished. It also means that a piece can be easily disassembled for shipping, whereas gluing is forever. However, we discuss another consideration below.
Have you exercised?
There is a lot of discussion among carpenters about the strength of a pocket hole joint and whether it compares to the time-tested strength of other joints. There are occasional pocket holes in the face frame, but one doubts they'll hold up to heavier duty. Although pocket joints may require more work in the gym, it is argued that rarely is only one joint carrying the full load. Weight is distributed among multiple joints in a project, so a joint doesn't have to be as strong or stronger than other joints, it just needs to be strong enough.
In addition to strength, some joints perform better when they are visible. Many mortise and dovetail joints look like works of art. You may want them to be prominent on the workpiece. Cookie headers are hidden. Pocket holes can be hidden on certain items, but if they're in plain sight, they're not part of the aesthetic. You can buy pocket hole plugs, they do a good job of hiding the job. Remember that edge-attached stock, bevels, and curves will reveal holes, while a table or bench will hide them.
Pocket hole joinery is very simple compared to other joints. You'll need something like a Porter-Cable PC560 Pocket Hole Clamp and a cordless drill. We actually used an 18V impact driver – just make sure not to overdrive the fasteners.
When you use joints like this, be sure to consider how the wood and finish will react to shrinkage and expansion. In dry conditions, pocket holes can show more gaps than other types of joints. For this reason, you may still consider gluing the seams to seal them and prevent seasonal movement.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on when to use pocket hole joinery. If you are a pro and have carpentry or other joinery skills, please add them in the comments below. Remember, you can always contact us and provide your own professional tips.