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  Kreg Pocket Hole Jigs  
  Can you live without one?  
  I first saw the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig at one of those fast-talking woodworking-show demonstrations. The minute I saw it I guessed I had more uses for that tool than the demonstrator did. Sure, I knew I could use it for joining stile-and-rail work perfectly flush, but I suspected there were other uses, too, and I was right.  Most of the guys on our crew now carry Kreg Jigs in their trucks, too.  
     
 
The ProPack kit I bought (K-2000 ProPack: www.kregtool.com 800 447 8638) comes with the jig, two support wings, accessory blocks for drilling pocket holes in 1/2-in. and 1 1/2-in. material, a 6-in. face clamp, a pocket-hole drill bit and collar, two Phillips-head and two square-head extension drivers, and a small assortment of Kreg’s pocket-hole screws. It’s a pretty complete package, except for the screws—you’ll need a LOT more screws.
   
I’d also advise buying a few extra accessories at the same time: I bought an extra drill bit (you can send the bits into Kreg for sharpening), and a 9 in. face clamp. The kit also comes with a Mini Kreg Jig; I’ve used that seemingly esoteric tool almost as frequently as the main jig, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
   
Other than a few set-up tasks, the kit is almost ready to use right from the box. Kreg recommends mounting the jig on a 1x12 board, so that workpieces have better support. I chose to mount my jig on a 20 in. piece of 2x12 planking because I knew I’d be working on bigger material than just 1x4 stiles and rails.
   
To use the jig you simply place the workpiece between the clamp and the drill guide, then pull the toggle. Three bushings in the top of the drill guide are smartly positioned to allow a choice of pocket-hole positions: the two outer bushings—spaced farthest apart—are meant for 1x4 stock; the two bushings on the left are perfect for 2 in. wide stock; the two closest bushings on the right are great for material under 2 in. wide.
A handy guide molded into both support wings makes it easy to attach the stop collar at just the right position on the drill bit. The support wings are marked for 1/2-in. , 3/4-in., and 1 1/2-in. material. Simply lay the bit in the molded guide, with the shoulder of the bit aligned with the preferred thickness of material, then tighten the collar on the bit.
   
The collar controls the depth of the pocket hole so that the pocket-hole screw penetrates just far enough into the adjoining stock—and not too far [photos 4 & 5].
   
Drilling is easy and fast. From the factory the steel pocket-hole bit is sharp and aggressive. I’ve used mine to drill hundreds of holes—in softwood, hardwood, and mdf—and it’s still sharp. The bit is designed to draw sawdust and shavings quickly out of the hole, and then they’re dumped out the side of the jig, without jambing the bit in the bushing. Unlike a spline joint or biscuit joint, only one mating piece needs pocket-hole preparation.
   
Kreg urges users to build a light-weight grid for face-frame assembly. I already had a pair of glue-up stands, but I built the grid anyway and I’m glad of it: the grid allows easy access to all joints so that glue-up, clamping, and fastening—even for large frames—is quick and easy. Unlike splines and biscuits, pocket-hole assembly can begin at any face-frame joint. Simply apply glue, clamp the two piece, then drive in the screws [photos 6 & 7 ]. Kreg’s proprietary pan-head screws are definitely better for pocket holes than drywall screws: Flat-bottomed pan-heads seat in the pocket hole without spreading the wood fibers, unlike bugle-bottomed drywall screws which try to bury themselves farther in the hole and tend to split the stock—especially mdf. [photo 8: if possible?] But even with the pan-head screws, you must take care not to drive them too hard, otherwise you’ll strip the hole or split the wood.
   
   
I’ve found a lot of uses for this multi-functional tool. I’ve used pocket holes to assemble large bookshelves built from 1 1/2 in. material, and I’ve used the jig for drilling pocket holes in temporary supports, too.. I’ve even turned to pocket holes for gluing up boards for wide doors—because I didn’t have enough clamps and didn’t want to wait for the glue to dry.
   
But pocket holes do more than speed up the process; they also improve quality. For a long row of new drawers in my shop, I attached all the drawer dividers with a spacer block and pocket holes, so every divider was positioned perfectly, and all the drawers were exactly the same size.
   
The ProPack also comes with a Mini Kreg Jig, which I always keep in my tool tote. It’s perfect for drilling holes in existing floorjoinsts and fixing squeaking floors, but I’ve used the Mini for installing bookcases (held by hand)...
   

... for drilling pocket holes in cabinets that I hadn’t remembered or couldn’t drill before assembly...

   
...and for joining cabinets and shelving (secured with a Kreg clamp).
   
Pocket-hole applications—and the Kreg Jig, are limited only by your imagination. Just recently, while installing the radius gable-end decorations on a Victorian home, I used pocket holes to attach the truss web at the peak of the gable....
   
 
     
     
   
     
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