How to Drill Pocket Holes

cabinet with pocket holes

You do not have to be a professional to know how to drill pocket holes and build a nice cabinet on your first try. You can easily make tight, strong, and sturdy wood joints without clamps and dowels. You just need to drill pocket holes and screw pieces together. Before anything else, you must first gather the necessary materials for this DIY project before you start. Here’s a list of what you need:

Tools and Materials Required for this Project

Are Pocket Hole Joints Strong?

Although the traditional joints are considered to be better because the tension and mortise are sturdy, pocket holes can be strong when put together properly. Other factors that should be taken into account are wood you choose and the proper screws.

Can You Use Regular Wood Screws in Pocket Holes?

Using a wrong screw for a particular purpose can result in poor construction, collapsing structures, splitting of wood as well as wasted time, materials, money, and effort. Pocket hole construction is simple and quick, but using regular wood screws can pose a lot of problems in the future including the risk of joints falling.

Unlike using pocket hole screws, most regular screws do not have a self-drilling feature. Without it, that could cause the splitting of the wood when you try to screw them in place. You can somehow make it work, but it is not ideal. Choosing the right screw is critical to the project. It might be a small part but it makes a huge difference.

Pocket Holes Screws

There are special screws for pocket holes. They are basically screws with self-drilling features. Your local hardware store and home improvement store stock these pocket hole screws.

How to Drill Pocket Holes

Building something using pocket holes are so easy that even beginners can make tight and strong joints on the first try. Here are some handy techniques you can apply for your first DIY pocket hole project:

  1. Buy a high-quality jig like the popular Kregs Screws Rocket, which includes all the things you need to get started. The kit includes screws, pliers, and pocket hole jig, driver bit, etc. Low-quality jigs are not worth messing with.
  2. Set the depth of the drill bit. Since the jigs are available and ready to use, the only thing to do is set the drill bit depth. Slide the stop collar of the jig over the bit and adjust the bit depth. Make sure the collar is tight, but leave 1/8 inches space between the built-in stop on the end of the jig and the tip of the bit.
  3. Usually, you can join ¾ inches materials with the included 1-1/4 inches screw. Included is a plastic spacer you can use. Add it to 2-1/2 inches pocket screws to join thick materials like 2x4s. Refer to the instructions that came with the kit if you have to join materials of different thickness. Remember to change the set up when starting a new project with different wood thickness.
  4. Before you start drilling, mount and set up the jig by outing the bit in the guide. Push the bit into the wood only when it comes to a full speed. Eject shavings once in a while by withdrawing the bit to keep the hole drilling easier.
  5. Stop drilling when the collar on the drill bit touches the drill guide.
  6. You can now drive the screw but keep the faces lined up for a tight-fitting joint. The self-drilling tips can easily penetrate any kind of wood. The heads are strong and possess a square recess for a guaranteed slip-proof driving. If you are using a hardwood lumber, you can opt for fine-thread screws and coarse-thread screws for pine or other softer woods. Another great feature of a pocket hole screw is that the washer head helps avoid overdriving the screws, especially when joining plywood or particleboard.
  7. As much as possible, avoid end grains. The end of the board is called end grain. Do not drill pocket holes into the ends of a board. This will not create a strong joint. However, there are times when it is okay to drill pocket holes into the ends of the board. This is when you are edge joining two pieces of wood for table tops. The screw drives through the edge of the wood and creates a strong joint.
  8. The locking-pliers included in the Kreg Rocket are a great tool to clamp the surfaces together securely, while the screws pull them tight.
  9. You may be wondering why we included glue in the requirements list. It won’t hurt to apply wood glue on both pieces of wood before joining them together. Treat is as an extra insurance that your project is sturdy.
  10. Replace worn bits when necessary. Once your pocket hole drill bit starts to look jagged, it is time to buy a replacement.

This video provides a simple step by step guide to drilling pocket holes.

Some Pocket Holes Limitations

No matter how quick and easy it is to use a pocket hole to build something yourself, it is not advisable to use it all the time. There are certain limitations. They might not be the best option for assembling projects like cabinet doors where both joint shows. Despite this little limitation, you can still find pocket hole jig useful around your house.


If you follow instructions on how to drill pocket holes carefully, you’ll be amazed by how easy it is. It could be addicting, especially if you are a little bit of a neat freak and want a separate storage cabinet for different kinds of things around your house. Like most DIY projects, keep in mind to practice caution in handling tools.

Have all your materials and tools ready before you begin your project to save time. Clean your work area and properly dispose of all wood shavings, dirt, and debris. Clean and store your kit and tools after use. Keep them out of reach of children and pets. If you have any questions about pocket hole drilling or using pocket hole screws, just leave a comment below.

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