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The Most Indispensable Woodworking Tools: Pocket Hole Jigs

The jig is up! You need to start using the proper tools for your wood joining before something goes terribly wrong (and believe me, it will). One of the best tools you can own as woodworker or DIYer is a pocket hole jig. This type of jig allows you to make precise pocket holes, which are known for their strength and reliability in holding wood pieces together in otherwise awkward or unsuitable positions.

Pocket Hole Jigs

In this article, we’ll talk a lot about pocket hole jigs and what to use them for. At the end, we’ll also cover our top five favorites to give you a head start on your shopping. Let’s go.

Our Top Picks

Best For: Professionalism in an affordable, beginner-friendly tool – Kreg Pocket Hole Jig 320

This pocket hole jig from Kreg offers the best balance of professionalism and affordability.

Best For: Straightforward setup and application with user-friendly features – MulWark Premium Pocket Hole Jig System Kit

Amateurs and pros alike will love the simplicity and efficiency of this pocket hole jig from MulWark.

Best For: Helping beginners get the job done, and done well – General Tools 850 Heavy Duty, All-In-One Aluminum Pocket Hole Jig Kit

This jig from General Tools is perfect for newbies who want a quality set that won’t break the bank.

Best For: Equipping the experienced woodworker with a long-lasting jig and accessories – Kreg R3 Master System with SK04 Pocket Hole Screw Starter Kit

This is the most professional jig on our list, featuring a design that will stand the test of time and promising perfect pocket holes every time.

Best For: Getting a smart design at a great price – WORKPRO Pocket Hole Jig Kit

Though inexpensive, this Pocket Hole Jig Kit from WORKPRO boasts a smart design that beginners and pros alike will just adore.

How to Choose a Pocket Hole Jig

While pocket hole jigs tend to be simple and straightforward in design and function, there are some factors you should keep in mind while shopping around for one.

Durability

If you spend the money to buy a pocket hole jig, you’ll want to make sure it’s built to last. Two key aspects of a jig’s durability are its construction materials and its overall design. Many jigs are constructed of plastic, nylon 66, aluminum, and other types of metal; the most important thing here is to ensure the materials are of high quality. As for design, reading user reviews can give you a good idea of how well the unit functions and how well it’s put together for the intended tasks.

Accessories

The average pocket hole jig set comes with key accessories such as screws of different shapes and sizes. If this is your first-time shopping for one, you might want to opt for a large set with many accessories; that said, a larger set also means more pieces to deal with over the long run. Consider your upcoming project and intended future use and stick with your gut when it comes to kit size and included accessories.

Care

We rarely think about cleanup and maintenance in the heat of the moment—we just want to get going with that project already! But having a good idea beforehand of how difficult or labor-intensive it will be to keep your pocket hole jig working good-as-new can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration in the long-run.

Some jigs come with a dust collection unit, an essential feature for easy cleanup and product longevity. Aside from this, you should also make sure the materials are easy to clean and that the design allows for cleaning in crevices or hard-to-reach spots. If any are included, also read up on the directions and recommended use to ensure you treat the jig well.

Angle Adjustability

As mentioned, most pocket hole jigs are designed to guide the drill at angle of 15 degrees. But if your project will require a greater degree of flexibility, or if you’re uncertain of the exact angle you’ll need, you should look for pocket hole jigs with adjustable angles.

Tips for Using Your New Pocket Hole Jig

If you’ve never used a pocket hole jig before, the process can seem intimidating. But with a few useful tips and hints up your sleeve, you’ll be using your new jig like nobody’s business.

  • Be familiar with the different parts.

Before trying to use a pocket hole jig, you should familiarize yourself with the five basic parts:

The Jig. This is the main component.

The Clamp. This is used to clamp the jig onto the wood piece you’re drilling.

The Depth Collar. This is used to adjust the depth of the hole you’ll drill.

The Drill Bit. This is the part that will actually drill the hole.

The Drive Bit. This is the bit that will drive the pocket hole screws into the hole.

  • Understand the basic process.

Experience is the only way to perfect your pocket hole drilling technique, but you’ll get along just fine as long as you understand the basic process. Here are the (very simplified) steps to remember:

  1. Measure the wood piece’s thickness and set the depth collar and drill guide accordingly.
  2. Clamp the jig onto the wood piece to keep it well-aligned and in place.
  3. Use the drill bit in conjunction with the collar and drill guide to make the hole.
  4. Drive the pocket hole screws into the hole you just made, once you’re ready to attach the wood pieces.
  • Use wood glue, too.

Pocket holes are a sturdy, reliable way to join wood pieces. That said, using wood glue in addition to the pocket hole screws is a great way to give the end result an even stronger bond.

  • Keep pocket hole plugs on hand.

Many people love pocket hole jigs because they hide the actual screw, giving the end product a much neater look. But on the other hand, they tend to leave some pretty noticeable holes in the wood. Whenever you can, you should plan to keep all pocket holes on a part of the product that will be out of sight, but this is not always possible. In these cases, you should have pocket hole plugs on hand; these are small pieces of wood the exact size and shape of a pocket hole. Just glue them in place and the wood will look much better!

Types of Jigs

There are several types of jigs available on the market for woodworking and other construction tasks. While pocket hole jigs are an essential item for any DIYer or carpenter, they can’t do everything! Each type of jig has its own design and purpose, so it’s important to determine if the pocket hole jig is ideal for your intended use. Of course, you can also opt to purchase two or three different types so you can always have the right jig at hand when you need it.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll only cover the most popular types of jigs here.

Drill Jigs

A drill jig is any type of jig that acts as a guide for a drill (like pocket hole jigs!).

Dowel Jigs

Dowels are those odd-looking pegs you sometimes see used in furniture construction. A dowel jig is specially designed to create holes in the wood for these dowels.

Miter Jigs

Miter jigs are a great option if you need to connect two pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle.

Dovetail Jigs

Dovetail jigs make the process of creating dovetail holes significantly easier and more efficient. The dovetail joining method is known for its incredible strength and durability.

Tapering Jigs

Tapering jigs are specially designed to create angled holes that “taper,” or become narrower the deeper the hole goes. They’re most often employed in the making of table legs.

Staircase Jigs

As the name suggests, staircase jigs are used when making staircases—more specifically, they are used to create “stringers” which are responsible for supporting the entire staircase. The staircase jig is designed for this purpose.

Use It or Lose It: Some Fun DIY Projects

Are you curious what sort of DIY wonderland you can expect once you have your new pocket hole jig in tow? Here are a few ideas to get your creativity flowing!

Desk with Shelf and Hairpin Legs

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Whether you’re in need of a new desk for your office space or want to gift a loved one with a brand-new desk of their own, you can save a lot of money by making one yourself. If you have any prior woodworking experience, it’s not too difficult—and it will add a personal, warm touch.

What you’ll need:

  • Four 28” hairpin legs
  • ¾” project panel (20” wide by 8’ long), cut into two 4’ lengths
  • 1×8 lumber, cut into one 4’ length and four 8” lengths
  • 1×3 lumber, cut into two 3’ lengths (optional, for cord concealer)
  • 1” or 1-1/4” wood screws
  • 1-1/4” pocket screws
  • Kreg jig, right-angle clamp
  • Wood glue, clamps, wood filler, fine (220-grit) sandpaper
  • Pocket hole plugs
  • Finish of your choice (e.g., paint, stain, polycrylic, etc.)

There are several detailed steps involved in the creation of this desk, so I’ll just briefly go over what to expect here.

  1. You’ll start by gluing, clamping, and screwing the two 4’ lengths of the project panel together. One length will serve as the top of the desk, and the other as the bottom.
  2. Use wood filler to fill in any wood imperfections.
  3. Use a pocket hole jig to make pocket holes in the four 1×8 boards. Set aside.
  4. If desired, make a cord concealer (as detailed in the full article).
  5. Sand the table.
  6. Add the shelves. This will involve making the appropriate spacing measurements and marking them on the table, and then screwing the boards into place on the top of the desk via their bottom pocket holes. The pockets should be facing outwards.
  7. Glue the shelf on top of the boards you just placed, and then screw it into place via the boards’ top pocket holes.
  8. Sand the table, glue pocket hole plugs into the pocket holes, sand again, and wipe it clean. At this point, you can paint the desk if desired.
  9. Drill a hole for the cord to go through (if you opted to include the cord concealer). Sand the area.
  10. Add a wood finish of your choice for appearance and longevity.
  11. Attach the hairpin legs using screws.

Trust us—you’ll adore the end result!

DIY Floating Shelves

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If your bathroom is short on space or looking a bit drab lately, you may want to consider adding a stylish storage option—like floating shelves! This type of shelving is minimalistic, out-of-the-way, and adds a dimension of character to any room. It can also be used to store those extra towels or décor items. Best of all, they’re relatively simple to make and install yourself.

What you’ll need:

  • Two (2) 1×10 boards cut 28” long
  • Two (2) 1/4″ plywood boards cut to size (28”x9-1/4”)
  • Two (2) 2×3 boards cut 28” long
  • Six (6) 2×3 boards cut 7-3/4” long
  • Two (2) 1×4 boards cut 29-1/2” long
  • Four (4) 1×4 boards cut 9-1/4” long
  • Twelve (12) 2-1/2” screws
  • Eight (8) 3-1/2” screws
  • Brad nails, wood glue, level
  • Kreg jig, power drill, brad nailer, clamps
  • Whatever you want for finishing (e.g., sandpaper, stain, paint, etc.)

There are three parts to this project: crafting the shelf frames, installing them, and finishing the shelves.

Crafting

  1. Take your six 7-3/4” boards and drill pocket holes into one end of each one.
  2. Clamp three of these boards to the 28” 2×3 board, one for each end and one in the middle. Drill them into place.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to create the second shelf.

Installing

  1. If needed, use a stud finder to find the studs in your wall.
  2. Mark holes on the shelves with a pencil so you know where to drill. Go ahead and drill the holes (as explained in the full article).
  3. Use one screw to hold the frame in place on the wall.
  4. Use a level and pound on the long boards as needed to make the shelves level.
  5. Screw them fully into place.

Finishing

  1. Use wood glue and a brad nailer to secure a bottom plywood piece to each frame. Now secure a top plywood piece for frame in the same manner.
  2. Attach the 1×4 boards for the side pieces of the shelves.
  3. Now attach the longer 1×4 boards to the front of the shelves with a brad nailer.
  4. Sand the shelves and add the finish of your choice.

That wasn’t too bad, was it?

Gobble Gobble Wood Sign

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Remember last year (and the year before, and the year before) when Thanksgiving just jumped out at you from nowhere? This year, instead of scrambling to get things in order for guests last-minute, you can be ready in advance with this cute Gobble Gobble Wood Sign.

What you’ll need:

  • Two (2) 1×8 boards, cut to 18” long
  • White paint (spray paint or brush-able)
  • Wood stain (use whatever you have on hand; example shows Dark Walnut)
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • “Gobble” printed out in a large size in the font you prefer
  • Three fall-ish colors of acrylic paint
  • Slim-tip paintbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • Kreg jig + three 1-1/4” Kreg screws
  • Painter’s tape

How to build:

  1. On one of the boards, create three or four pocket holes on the long edge.
  2. Paint each board along the front and sides. If desired, apply a second coat. Let dry.
  3. Sand the face and sides of each board.
  4. Rub wood stain into both pieces of wood using a cloth. Now wipe the stain off with another cloth, which will give the boards a dirty, rustic appearance.
  5. Align the two boards and attach them via the pocket holes.
  6. Use a template to trace the words “Gobble Gobble” (or any words of your choosing) onto the wood. Then carefully paint them, using two coats. Let dry.

It’s now ready for display!

Pergola Rafters Without Brackets

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If you’re up for a challenge, we think you’ll enjoy putting together your very own pergola rafters. Pergola rafters can add a charming, homey touch to any atmosphere, and making/installing them yourself can save you a lot of money!

 This version does not use brackets, rather using the strength and convenience of pocket holes to keep the structure together in a more affordable—and more attractive—way. Check it out for yourself in our full article.

DIY Colorful Wooden Dresser

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Dressers: kind of necessary, but also kind of difficult to shop for. You can save time and money by crafting your own, though we’ll admit this is not a project for the inexperienced woodworker. This wooden dresser project is a several-step endeavor, but the end result will be totally worth it! It utilizes the strength of pocket hole joinery to make the process of putting it together a bit more straightforward and the finished product a bit hardier.

Want to give it a try? See our full tutorial and get your tools in order!

The Best Pocket Hole Jigs

1. Kreg Pocket Hole Jig 320

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The Kreg Pocket Hole Jig 320 is one of the best jigs on the market for those just entering the woodworking world, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at its top-notch quality. As usual, Kreg has produced a tool that is not only high-quality and user-friendly, but also quite versatile. Woodworkers and DIYers will appreciate its non-slip base, different pocket hole spacing options, and removeable spacer—all of which add up to a jig that anyone can use, for any project. Its other defining features include a sturdy construction and a handy clamp adapter. If you’re looking for a comprehensive kit at a good price, look no further!

Pros:

  • Anti-slip
  • Variable pocket hole spacing
  • Removable spacer
  • Built to last
  • Comes with clamp adapter

Cons:

  • Clamp issues
  • Occasional manufacturing defects

2. MulWark Premium Pocket Hole Jig System Kit

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The Premium Pocket Hole Jig System Kit from MulWark has a lot to be excited about: a crazy number of settings for depth, thickness, and jig positions; one of the highest-quality constructions you’ll find in a tool of its category, with steel and nylon; and a range of accessories, including pocket hole plugs. This set is ideal for both first-timers looking to get into the game and those who have been woodworking all their lives. And all of this is wrapped up in an impressive lifetime warranty. What are you waiting for?

Pros:

  • High-quality construction
  • Numerous settings
  • Lots of included accessories
  • Easy setup
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Hard-to-read measurement scales
  • Drill bit may wear down after a few uses

3. General Tools 850 Heavy Duty

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When it says “all-in-one” it really means “all-in-one.” This kit from General Tools includes everything the aspiring woodworker or amateur DIYer could possibly need, including plenty of screws, pocket hole plugs, and convenient carry case for portability. It also features a built-in clamp—one less thing you have to buy—and can be used in a portable or bench mounted manner. When you throw in its lifetime warranty and its compliance to the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), you have a tool you can feel good about using.

Pros:

  • Clamp is built in
  • Comes with several accessories
  • Versatile use
  • Wood is FSC-certified
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Aluminum may shave off
  • Some reports of broken drill bits

4. Kreg R3 Master System With SK04 Pocket Hole Screw Starter Kit

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This jig may be on the pricier side, but you’ll soon see why. The real selling point here is its construction: it features a build of glass-reinforced nylon and hardened steel, two choice materials in this type of tool. You can rest assured that this product will last from one project to the next, never faltering or letting you down when you need it most. You’ll also enjoy using its many different settings and its range of accessories, and you’ll love how clean it makes the pocket holes! If you’re a professional woodworker or hardcore DIYer, the Kreg R3 is a must-have tool.

Pros:

  • High-quality construction
  • Makes super-clean holes
  • Comes with several accessories
  • Many different settings

Cons:

  • Clamping pliers are too small
  • Setup is difficult
  • Expensive

5. WORKPRO Pocket Hole Jig Kit

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The WORKPRO Pocket Hole Jig Kit is an all-around fantastic option for total beginners and experienced gurus alike. Its variety of accessories, several setting options, and built-in thickness measurement scales make it a convenient and well-rounded product that can be used for a range of projects. Newbies in particular will love how easy it is to set up and are sure to appreciate its well-thought-out design. This product can be used with both C and F clamps for user convenience, and its double chip hole makes it a breeze to get rid of collected sawdust. For high quality at a great price, you can’t get much better than this.

Pros:

  • Many different settings
  • Comes with many accessories
  • Super-easy setup
  • Built-in scales for measuring thickness

Cons:

  • Some reports of broken drill bits

Frequently Asked Questions

Despite being one of the most convenient woodworking tools available, pocket hole jigs still form a murky image in some people’s minds. To help you better understand this must-have tool, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is a Pocket Hole Jig?

A pocket hole jig is a simple device that guides your drill bit so that you can form more precise pocket holes. The jig is particularly useful in keeping the drill bit at just the right angle (typically around 15 degrees) to ensure maximum strength and security. This is crucial in successfully joining two pieces of wood near the corners, as a single piece of wood has different types of grain that traditional drills cannot handle with the same aptitude as a pocket hole jig.

Most pocket hole jig kits will include four key items:

  • A drilling guide
  • A stepped drill bit
  • A depth collar
  • A long drive bit

Do I Need a Pocket Hole Jig?

You don’t necessarily need a pocket hole jig, especially if you only do occasional woodwork or DIY projects. That said, having one on hand does make things a lot easier and more efficient.

Without a pocket hole jig, your other options include: making the pocket hole manually (which is difficult if you’re inexperienced), using more advanced techniques (which will add time to your project), or using a different joining method entirely (which may result in a weaker hold).

Are Pocket Holes Strong?

Yes!

Pocket holes are one of the strongest joining methods you could use. The unique angling and depth of the pocket hole is ideal for drilling through the different types of wood grain and does a fantastic job of keeping the screw in place.

Can You Make a Pocket Hole Jig?

Yes, you can. If you’re on a tight budget or simply don’t see the need to purchase a dedicated pocket hole jig, you can make one yourself. Using basic materials you have on hand (such as wood, MDF, a sander, etc.), you can craft a pocket hole jig for long-term or one-time use.

If this is something you’re interested in, you can find countless tutorials online—including on YouTube—that teach you exactly how to make your own pocket hole jig.

Conclusion

A pocket hole jig set may seem like an insignificant purchase, but I hope this article showed you that there is a lot involved in the choosing process—and that making the right choice makes all the difference. Remember that the best pocket hole jig for you depends on your intended use, experience level, and budget. Feel free to review our picks again and take note of your favorites. Until next time, good luck with your upcoming projects!