March 26, 2022
Quick. Upon hearing the term “pocket holes,” what image comes to mind?
If Kreg jigs and screws – or even just their logo – pops into your head immediately, we’ve got a problem. The dominance of the Kreg brand isn’t the problem, per se, but it’s definitely a significant factor.
We’ve equated the Kreg brand with pocket hole joinery for a reason. They’re simple to use, reliable, and come in diverse models for every woodworker. Whatever project you’ve got, you can trust Kreg to deliver ease and convenience.
But here’s the thing: they can be expensive. Sure, many woodworkers can afford the price. But equating pocket holes with Kreg tools can turn novice woodworkers to miss out on necessary skills.
Listen up: you don’t have to rely on Kreg screws for successful pocket hole joinery. The technique predates Kreg’s inception in the late 1980s. Yup, they were just that recent. Pocket holes were being made way before its company ever existed!
It’s made the method much faster since then, but remember: you don’t have to have a Kreg tool!
So if you don’t need a Kreg jig or screw, what else is there?
You’re in luck. We’re answering that for you.
Today, we’ve listed all the alternatives you can opt for when doing pocket hole joinery. As long as you’ve got screws lying around your home, you can do pocket hole joinery for a lot cheaper!
We will explore 3 Kreg screw alternatives and 3 Kreg jig alternatives that you can use without needing a high budget for expensive specialty pocket hole tool.
Top 3 Kreg Screw Alternatives
Let’s start with the screws first! You can use a Kreg jig or an alternative jig for the following screws. And don’t worry – we’ll get into Kreg jig alternatives later on, too. Sit tight and read on!
There are several reasons why Kreg screws are so popular, and you’ve got to find them out. Analyze what makes the product work in the first place and then fashion a successful alternative!
What we list below fulfills the Kreg screws’ convenience without unnecessary expense.
Got a Kreg jig? Let’s begin. Kreg may make customized screws for their jigs, but you can still use the following for it:
1) Washer Head Screws
If you’re a beginner in woodworking, you’ll be surprised at how impactful head screws’ role is. It can make or break your project’s outcome!
When choosing a head screw style for pocket hole joinery, washer heads are ideal picks. And guess what? The Kreg system uses it!
It looks pretty straightforward: the screw head looks like it has a small washer attached to it. You can get them flat, slotted, or hexed. Washer heads – flat ones, especially – play up the strengths of your project!
Why a washer head? Couldn’t you use other screw heads instead?
Sure, you could. But it doesn’t guarantee your project’s success like a washer head would. Bugle heads, for example, are famous for finishing off wood projects neatly. The head sinks quickly into the wood! Who wouldn’t want that?
You wouldn’t if you want successful pocket hole joinery. The screw will sink into your pocket hole, embedding deep and damaging wood fibers. In the end, it’ll just become useless.
2) Self-Tapping Screws
Want the same convenience Kreg screws can do for you? Look into self-tapping screws.
Usually, creating pocket holes requires a lot of drilling. With self-tapping screws, you can skip out on that and go straight to pushing the screw in!
Drill bits create that pocket you need to hide screw heads, but it can’t drill the rest of the way through. Usually, you’re the one to make way for it to happen. But self-tapping screws make your job easier by boring through the wood without any issue! It creates a strong, sure fit that’ll look clean for your entire project.
Look for screws with a cut at the tip. This cut will be the one responsible for boring through the entire material.
3) Square Head Bits
Do you still have Kreg screws around? Compare them to square head bits. Does it look eerily similar? That’s because it’s the exact head screw Kreg uses for some of their screws, too!
While it’s not as crucial of an element, square heads still have their place with Kreg alternatives. You get the best torque and control with square heads compared to other head types!
Pocket hole joinery is famous for hidden screws, and square heads help achieve that look. Other head screws can strip or slip instead of holding it tight.
We hope this section helped! Now, don’t go just yet – we’ll be going into Kreg jig alternatives, too.
Top 3 Alternatives for Kreg Jigs
Jigs aren’t necessary for pocket hole joinery. When they are, you can easily fashion your own. Don’t believe us? Read through the top Kreg jig alternatives below!
1) Using Other Joints
Before the Kreg jig was commercially available, other joints were used to create pocket hole joinery. If you’ve got furniture handed down by your family with pocket hole joinery older than the late 1980s, then they’ve used the alternatives in this list. More often than not, other joints were used.
Popular joints used for pocket hole joinery are mortise and tenon, and dowels. The latter are pegs made with metal, wood, or plastic. On the other hand, mortise and tenon is a kind of joint that’s been connecting workpieces for thousands of years. In some cases, biscuits were also used.
Go ahead and examine some production furniture. You’ll see them!
2) Working Freehand
Nothing beats working with just your mind and hands working together with your tools. Contrary to popular tutorials, you don’t need a jig at all for pocket holes.
You just drill screws into the wood grain, plug the hole, and be done with it. To be more detailed, you can do it in three steps:
The first critical step is simple enough. You have to measure out where you’re going to put the pocket hole in. Grab a pencil and a ruler. Get a stable surface, a clamp, then measure it out.
You’re going to get a drill bit and start with some pilot holes. After, you need to tilt the drill and create angled holes. If it helps, a bevel gauge or wood jig can be used so you can ensure accurate, consistent pocket holes.
However, just using a drill may be enough! Get various drill bits to make the pilot holes, face holes, and clearance holes. You’ll be done in no time.
3) Using Your DIY Jig
Some people prefer to work with a jig. We don’t contest that – it does make things easier. But what happens when…
● you want to use a jig,
● avoid Kreg tools, and;
● save money?
Is it still possible?
The answer is a resounding yes! Just make your own jig. There are types you want to watch out for. They’re all relatively simple to do and won’t require more than a few minutes of your day.
It won’t be expensive, either. You can use some scrap wood from your workshop and medium-density fibreboard (MDF.) If you can afford it, or if you have it lying around, use hardwood! It’ll last for years of regular use. With enough strong wood glue, it won’t come apart, either.
Make sure your DIY jigs last for a long by inserting metal bushings. The latter is a must if you want to use your jig frequently! Another alternative is making several wood jigs for easy swapping whenever needed.
Who says you have to shell out dollars just for Kreg tools? You can easily create DIY versions of pocket hole joinery screws and jigs with no issue. Aside from saving money, you get to learn how to do pocket hole joinery with minimal tools.
You build a skill, and you save money. Who wouldn’t choose that over buying Kreg tools and replacing them every time they break?
We hope you enjoyed this guide! Are you ready to try out Kreg jig and screw alternatives? We hope you are. Update us about your workpieces!
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.