To Jig or Not to Jig, That Is The Question

06.07.11 By //
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And what the heck is a jig to begin with? For those of you who are new to building, you probably hear terms thrown around that you are fairly certain you will need to Google when you have a free second… not to worry this is normal, and Google or Bing or any other search engine of the sort are fabulous tools of the trade. ..and by trade, I mean those of us who cherish and maintain our own little corners of these fabulous interwebs and the sharing of knowledge that is prevalent amongst us . Never heard of some such thing like a Pocket Hole System or Kreg Jig? Well, look it up…or sit up straight, eyes open…pay attention for just a brief bit. Don’t worry, there are lot’s of pictures in this little lesson. Yay for pictures!

To view a catalog of projects for the Kreg Jig, click here to browse the Visual Plan Index and sort by Tools and Kreg Jig.

This is Part 2 of my own personal, “What’s in Your Toolbox?” series (for Part 1, click here)…and reveals to you my secret weapon. Take note:

There are a couple of different brands and a couple of different price points within some of those brands, for various pocket hole jigs and their respective retail packaging. Since my family’s fall from financial grace a couple of years ago, money is not only tight, but virtually non existent when it comes to disposable income, and unfortunately tools and such fall into that category. Given my current employment (by all of you) as a worker bee who builds, drafts, and DIY’s my way to a home fit for my family, tools are a necessary evil (and secretly… or not so secretly a joyous purchase as far as I can see it!) When it came time to purchase a pocket hole system, I chose the Kreg Jig Jr., priced at $39 because frankly that was much more affordable than $99, which still isn’t expensive, just more expensive than I could afford at the time.

Behold…my beloved Junior… When I brought this fine friend home I wasn’t able to get the Kreg Face Clamp so I used what I had on hand which was this Quick-Grip Irwin. Plastic body, but metal guts…which is what actually matters in a clamp (thank you Geoff for pointing this out to folks…you were soooo right!). Though to be sure, a metal body would be nice and surely not have as much chance of slippage when things get rough and tumble, and I assure you they do, sometimes… It gets the job done, and my favorite thing about it is that it squeezes in a trigger like manner to tighten. Yep, that is convenient when you only have one hand free (typical when you are building) and you can simply squeeze, squeeze, squeeze your way to a tight grip and firm placement!

The Jr. is not a stationary jig like the master system is, where it clamps to a work bench and you simply bring your boards to it, and lock and load. On the contrary it works in quite the opposite manner in which you simply bring it to the boards and clamp it directly to them in the place you wish to create your pocket holes. This has it’s upside, which is fabulous portability and an ability to use it in areas that have already been fastened but need a little touch up, say for fixing antiques or pieces in bad repair or for convenient use after the fact, as in where you suddenly realize you actually needed a fastener but failed to do so up front.

Otherwise, it is a tad more time consuming, in that you need to unclamp and scoot it down, then reclamp and drill and so on and so forth until all your pocket holes have been created. This adds a bit of time to your pre-drilling process, but I assure it’s well worth it as I will show you in a second!

This item comes complete with both the required drill and driver bits for the jig as you can see below, the drill bit is heavy duty and comes with a collar stop (and the accompanying allen wrench to tighten/loosen said collar stop) which is necessary for this tool since it’s adjustable to accommodate the particular thickness of stock you are using. Use the box the junior comes in to insert your drill bit, and tighten the collar at the appropriate height for your wood thickness and away you go. In the image below, it’s been set for 3/4” stock since I am using 1×12 boards in this example.

I simply insert the bit into one of the 2 holes in the jig, drill until I reach the collar stop and back my way out. Then as I stated above, unclamp, scoot, reclamp and drill again, until I have 3 pocket holes for my particular board. Aren’t they pretty? You can see it does make that saw dust fly…but that’s why we are here…is it not?

Once you have all of your pocket holes drilled out for a given board, you are free to run a line of glue along the edges and prepare to fasten by clamping it to the board it will connect to, as you can see below, for me, that happens to be a perpendicular board as is typically (but not always) the case.

Switch out your drill bit for your driver bit. This driver bit is specifically geared toward the Kreg Jig with a magnetic tip helping you keep hold of those screws. It’s pretty darn long so inserting the screws into large pocket holes or at strange angles, is no problem. In fact, it’s the most friendly and easy driving you will do, hands down. Goes in like butta… true story!

For 3/4” material you will use 1 1/4” pocket hole’s very scientific and all that jazz, because of course 3/4” x 2 = 1 1/2” and so you must be less than that to keep your screws from exiting out the back side, eek! that wouldn’t be so good, now would it…

I am a bit obsessive when it comes to the old order versus chaos problem, and so I prefer to set a screw into each pocket hole before I begin to fasten. This is just my way, and you can choose a different way if you prefer. True story!

Is it just me, or is this the cutest little bug in a rug set of screws and pocket holes? There is really something special about the satisfaction you get from building. If you haven’t been bitten by the building bug, just explore my Visual Plan Index and salivate over the amazing pieces you can build and save yourself thousands of dollars without sacrificing on style. That will get you going…promise!

Now let’s begin the real lesson for today, which is not so much the how of the story but the why…for those of you who already use this tool, you needn’t be told, because you have undoubtedly experienced this already! No, this next couple of pictures is for those of you who don’t understand just yet, why this tool helpful to you, aside from the obvious which is that you can make connections in ways that you can’t otherwise. For example, you can attach pieces together that you can’t with traditional screws and can avoid building tables with spacers and easily attach aprons and bed rails without having to drill through bulky fence post 4×4’s or having large screw heads show in fine furniture building, which isn’t preferable, obviously…

No, this portion of the lesson is about the functions of this of this tool that don’t hardly get mentioned, and so…I reveal to you the amazingness!

In the image below you can see a thin gap between the 2 perpendicular boards that are already clamped and glued. Yes, this is the best I was able to do with my strength and the tools I have. I couldn’t get them any closer and believe me I tried. I have been known to try all sorts of interesting maneuvers to get those boards fastened all pretty like…usually to no avail. Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even own a clamp large enough to clamp at the distance that would be necessary to join these 2 boards properly, all nice and snug, because that would have been a monstrous clamp.

Here is a close-up of this irritating gap…argh, bugs me, and will cause an issue down the line when I am trying to build a well squared piece of furniture…promise.

Behold what happens when you use a Kreg Jig to fasten what you weren’t able to clamp shut tightly…

That’s right… nice and tight. This tool will take those awkward gaps, and inconsistencies in your boards, which if you shop with a toddler in tow, as I do, will inevitably happen because you can’t always check your boards fast enough to out run the melt downs, and it will pull them in close removing those gaps! Literally, pull your boards together! Nice, tight, perfect! No spaces, gaps or weirdness… This is not a test…and not a’s real, and you need this, if you don’t already have this, run to your nearest big box or online shop and buy this. If you aren’t a strong bulky man with long arms and huge muscles…you need this tool and if you are that man, you still need this tool because only a handful of you are likely lifers…lifelong woodworking guru’s. So you still need this, no matter what. It will help you build like a pro, and like a very large strong man with long arms…even if you aren’t either of those things (which I am definitely not)!

This would be what it might look like when you are prepping a desk bottom, let’s say… Or a large bottom piece of something that needs to be attached on all sides. Isn’t she a beauty? I just love seeing all those little screws in their soon to be forever homes…ah, the sweet sound of order and lack of chaos. Isn’t it grand?

If you would like to share with us the tools of your trade, and your building secrets, send me an email to and I will give you the ‘mic’ for a minute and make you famous..or at least give you a quick 15 seconds, which is almost famous and definitely infamous, but fun regardless!

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