How To Drill Pocket Holes In Wood

Methods of making pocket holes on wood with and without jig.

Pocket hole joinery makes the fusion of two workpieces possible. However, for pocket hole joinery to happen, you need to drill the holes first! Most people find this step confusing. 

If you’re one of them, worry no more. This article guides you on how to drill pocket holes in wood. Read on for an in-depth background, steps, and some considerations for you to consider. 

What You May Need: 

  • Drill 
  • Sandpaper
  • Clamps 
  • Screws
  • Combination square

Heads-up: these requirements may vary depending on the method you use to drill pocket holes in wood. To date, we have two ways to drill pocket holes: with jigs or without jigs. Without jigs, you’d have to do it by hand. 

2 Major Methods To Drill Pocket Holes In Wood

1) With Pocket Hole Jigs

We’ll be honest: it’s easier to drill pocket holes when you’re using a jig. The entire process speeds up without sacrificing quality or accuracy! 

For drilling pocket holes, there are two types of jigs you can use. You can go for the one that comes with a drill guide that can either be metal or plastic. The other kind of drill comes with its own clamp. That way, you can hold the workpiece down without any issue. You can adjust the drill as well for the proper hole placement! 

The jig comes with the drill guide, stepped drill bit, long drive bit, and depth collar. 

You can make a few holes with the drill guide, which is helpful for wide boards. Once you put the guide against your wood piece, you can resize it to accommodate the wood’s specific thickness. 

Then, the depth collar comes into play. It can measure your drill bit and create the needed pocket hole. A stepped drill bit helps with different sizes due to its narrow tips and broader bodies. 

2) Without Pocket Hole Jigs – Or By Hand 

Without pocket hole jigs, the process may be slower. However, don’t let this hinder you from taking on the pocket hole joinery! It’s still possible to be successful by hand. 


3 Easy Steps to Drilling Pocket Holes Using Jigs

Step 1: Adjust the Drill Guide 

Match the Kreg jig to the thickness of your board. If you don’t know your board thickness, you want to measure it before jumping into the drilling process! Exact measurements are best for your drill guide to follow. 

Simple jigs can clamp in the position you set them to on the interior face of the workpiece. You want the screws to go into the receiving side, so double-check your setup before doing anything else. 

Step 2: Ready and Set the Drill Depth 

Now, you want to match your drill depth to the board’s thickness. To adjust depths, you have to loosen collars with keys. Move the drill to the right mark before tightening it up again. You can use the combination square to make way for square cuts. 

Step 3: Go and Drill! 

Now, you can clamp the board and jig for suitable drill holes. Enter the drill bit into the block until it encounters the wood. We recommend going into drilling with the highest setting possible on the drill! This may seem a bit intense, but it’s the best bet before you go forward. 

Press your drill into the wood slowly, stopping to raise the bit for a few seconds. Then continue to lower the bit and drill the pocket hole as it reaches its full speed. After some time, you have congratulations in order – you just finished a pocket hole! Sand the surface if necessary. 

This process is easy to follow, but what happens if you don’t have a jig available? Don’t worry. The following steps cover how you can drill a pocket hole without jigs. 


3 Easy Steps on Drilling a Pocket Hole Without a Jig

If you don’t have a complete workshop or can’t find the time nor money to buy a jig, it’s perfectly fine. Many woodworking projects are possible to do with your hands alone. 

However, we want to give you a heads-up: lumber costs more than jigs do. So, if you’re diving in with expensive hardwood, you might be wasting money doing it all by hand. 

Be careful as you follow our steps below. With enough effort and luck, you can get your project done quickly! 

Step 1: Prep for Drilling 

Measure where you’re going to drill a pocket hole into the wood. From the end of the piece, go 1 1/2 inch up. This is where your drill is going. Make sure you measure the receiving piece! 

Make sure you have a stable surface, too. Clear it and use a clamp to make the workpiece stay there. 

Step 2: Get The Drill Bits You Need

Get the drill bits at the correct size. You want to drill pilot holes perpendicular to the wood. 

Step 3: Drill Away

Start with the pilot holes that have a depth of around 1/4 inch. Pilot holes help your drill bits stay intact and not break off during the process! 

After you finish up the pilot holes, tilt the drill. You want to get at an angle to make the pocket holes. You can go halfway into the marked line. Stop, and assess your progress. You can make your holes as wide as you need them to be. 

Congratulations! You just finished making pocket holes. Plus, you managed to make them without the help of jigs. That’s not an easy feat! 

We hope both step-by-step guides helped you towards completing your project! 


Drilling Pocket Holes: Quick Tips

We have some quick tips before you jump into drilling pocket holes into wood. The most efficient way to drill a pocket hole is to use a pocket hole jig. 

You want a large hole as your pocket to go into the board. When you drill, you want to place it near the edge. Then, you take the two boards, put a screw through the newly-made pockets, and draw them together. 

You might need a special fastener to assemble the joints after you drill pocket holes into the wood. These screws aren’t your regular screws! Instead, their design incorporates self-drilling tips. Their entire bodies are case-hardened. In the end, when you drive the screws into the wood, you don’t get any splits. Hardwood variants won’t be affected either! 


Things to Remember While Drilling Pocket Holes 

Make sure everything is perfect the first time you drill pocket holes. For everything to go according to plan, take note of the following:

Make Use of the High-Speed Settings 

If you’re a beginner at woodworking, you should take a look at your cordless drills. They usually have different speeds you can switch from with ease. There’s a range of two to three speeds to choose from with your cordless drills! 

Different speeds are there so you can get the right balance for your piece. The torque, rotational force, and rotational speed all depend on these switches. 

High speeds benefit your pocket holes. The higher the speed, the less the number of tear-outs you’ll see. The appearance is better, too! After all, you don’t want the results of your pocket holes to look sloppy! 

Follow a Technique That Drills With the Full Speed 

As intimidating as it may sound, it’s best to let the drill bit spin as fast as it can before you let it cut into the wood. After you mark everything accordingly, depress the bit into the wood. Wait for the speed to build up, then lower it to make your pocket holes. Even if you’re making several holes at once, the technique still applies. You want to wait for the full speed before inserting the bit to make another hole. 

Make Sure Your Battery is Charged 

If it isn’t, you can replace it before you begin your project. As pocket holes call for full-speed drilling, nearly empty batteries will slow you down. If you’re in a time constraint, this can be a hassle to deal with while working! With bad luck, some batteries stop after being wholly spent.

Keep the Drilling as Stable as Possible

Make sure you have a clean, stable surface available. Clamp down the workpiece and drill from the top. We recommend that you use both hands! Press the trigger with one hand and hold the drill straight. 

The other hand can press the drill straight down. You want to minimize the rotation of your drill. Bounce the drill lightly with your hand as it encounters the workpiece! If you’re working with an angle, try to keep stable, too. You don’t want mangled holes. 

Clamps Are a Must 

Successful pocket holes are a result of proper alignment. As much as hands would be much more convenient, they will end up in a misaligned joint. Without clamps, these holes would be poorly fitted as well. 

Use clamps to align joints before the pocket screws can attach two workpieces. You’ll enjoy the results!


In Conclusion

Pocket holes are pretty straightforward. It doesn’t take that much time to make, and you only need a minimum number of tools. The challenge comes in drilling pocket holes into wood successfully and accurately. If you have expensive wood, the slightest mistake counts. 

A jig is one of the essential things that can help you in making pocket holes. You get to enjoy consistent accuracy – which is a must if you’re making several holes, too! It’ll save you a lot of time. 

However, you can always make pocket holes by hand. It can be a pain and eat up more of your day than you might think. It does save you money, but there are still costs you have to pay: time and labor. 

Whatever the case, we have easy step-by-step guides that can help. We hope you come away from this article with extra knowledge! We wish you luck with those pocket holes. Update us about your project, hit us with any questions, or leave a comment on this post! 

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