How to Make Pocket Holes WITHOUT a Kreg Jig


DIY Pocket holesEver since I mentioned my $30 DIY Kitchen Island on, several readers have asked how I make pocket holes without a Kreg Jig. It’s possible and anyone can do it. While I am sure it’s handy to have a Kreg Jig, my DIY kitchen island is proof that you don’t need a Kreg Jig to build things.

When I was working on the kitchen island I figured it couldn’t be that difficult to get two bigger holes into a piece of wood. I “played” around for a while and this technique works best for me. There is a great tutorial for this on YouTube as well.

So, if you want to build things but don’t feel like spending money on a Kreg Jig, there is a simple process to making pocket holes. All you need is a drill.

pocketholes6I used a 1/4 in. drill bit. You can buy a drill bit set with 10 pieces for around $5 at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

diy pocket holesStart by marking off where you want the pocket holes to go.

pocketholes3Drill two pilot holes holding the drill straight. This is an important step. The pilot holes will keep your drill bit from breaking off.

pocketholes13Now you’re ready to make pocket holes.

pocketholes8Go back to your pilot hole and as you drill, start moving the drill downward. The drill will lay low and almost touch the wood.pocketholes9You have just created two pocket holes. You can make them as deep and long as you need them.

pocketholes10Take a screw and secure the wood to the other piece.

pocketholes12And there you have it – two pocket holes. It’s pretty easy, don’t you think?

90 thoughts on “How to Make Pocket Holes WITHOUT a Kreg Jig

        1. Sandy, pocket holes are simply holes drilled at an angle that form a pocket for the screw. It’s a quick way to join a few pieces of wood securely.

  1. This is so great. So many times some feel lack because they don’t have all the newest tools and gadgets. I’m not against them, but some don’t want to or have the money to spend on these tools. I’m one of them that just don’t have the money. I have a littlest kreg because it was the cheapest. But I get tired of moving that one little piece around to several pocket holes. This way is best and made me hopeful and glad to build. Thanks for the post.

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I can totally relate to what you’re saying. Power tools are so darn expensive – not everyone can afford them. I am one of them. I buy most of my tools at estate sales. They have great deals on tools. Yes, I’d love to have a Kreg Jig, but spending $100 on what appears to be plastic with a couple of holes just doesn’t work for me. Maybe one of these days I’ll find one for cheap at an estate sale. In the meantime, let’s be creative and make our own gadgets. 🙂

      1. If you do eventually buy a pocket joke jig, I think you’ll find it’s a pain to use. Your method is straight forward and joins the wood just a securely as the jig imo. Besides that you’ll be done quicker.

        1. Really? Maybe I won’t need a Kreg Jig after all. Some people tell me my method is bad, others think it’s good. I’ve been doing it this way for more than two years and I like it just fine. Everything feels solid and secure. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

  2. I have been thinking for 5 years now that I HAD to have a Kreg Jig, and that has kept me from building so many things…for example MY HEADBOARD. lol. I was saving up to by the big Kreg Jig set but I DID NOT want to spend that money on a tool that I will not use every day. My gut kept telling me that you could do it that way, but I was afraid to try. YOU HAVE JUST MADE MY DAY COMPLETE! I can rule the world now!!!! THANK YOU!!!

    1. Misti, I am so happy to hear this.I know exactly how you feel. I always thought I needed the Kreg Jig to make cool stuff and envied people who had one. Honestly, I am so happy for you right now. Have fun creating.

  3. Not only the Kreg tool can be a little expensive… I am from Argentina, and we its hard to get this kind of stuff. So this little tricks are really appreciated from down here!. Thank you!!

    1. I am so glad you have use for this method.A fancy tool shouldn’t keep us from making cool stuff. Thanks for stopping by…I really appreciate your comment.:)

  4. I am so excited about this! I have many pieces I want to build and was dreading how much I’d need to spend on a kreg jig. This is such a helpful tutorial. Thank you so much!!

    1. I’m so excited for you, Lorelai.Kreg Jigs can be very expensive so I’m glad there are ways around it. Have a wonderful first day of spring!

  5. Hi , i find it is easy to do by this method. I need to know the type of screw you using for this and tell me what screw length to be used to joint 3/4 inch plywood.

    1. Mano, it’s best to use pocket hole screws. Regular screws could split the wood. However, sometimes I use whatever I have around. If I’m not mistaken the recommended screw length for joining 3/4 inch to 3/4 inch is 1 1/4″.

      1. In Argentina we don’t have KREG screws. So for 3/4 regular wood, I use screws (like you show in the photo) of 6 x 1 1/4″, drilling at 3/4″ from the head. For 3/4″MDF, I use the same screws but I start drilling at 1/8″ much farther from the head (3/4″+1/8″).

  6. Awesome!! I just can’t afford one..thanks so much ..I’m making beautiful cupboard for my kitchen..Will give it a go this weekend..

  7. thanks so much….several questions….how deep did you go on your pilot holes and how far from the end of the 2 X 4 was the pencil line ?

    1. Cathie, stop drilling just before you think it will poke out the other side. I marked the line at about 1.25 inches from the end. Hope this helps.Thanks for reading.

  8. Thank you Sabine. I always wish to express my apreciation to such clever and no cost ideas as this of yours from Athens Greece where I am living.

  9. I’m a complete beginner wanting to do a project I saw online with instructions to make 3/4 inch pocket holes in 1X 4’s. What size drill bits should be used ? Thanks

    1. Hi Karol. Here’s a simple technique a carpenter once taught me. Hold up the drill bit and the screw. Hold the shaft of the drill bit up in front of the screw. You should only be able to see the threads of the screw (and maybe a bit of the screw). If you can’t see the threads the drill bit is too big. If you can see too much of the screw, the bit is too small. Hope this helps!

    2. Hey Karol,

      I’m also a total beginner, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I am wanting to do a very similar project to yours (here’s a link ) I also don’t really want to purchase a kreg jig as I probably won’t use it again anytime soon. In the video, we’re instructed to use 1 1/4″ screws. She’s using 1×6, 1×4, and 1×2 but I’m planning to use 2 1x4s instead of a 1×6. Not sure if I’ve helped or complicated things further, but I hope your project goes well!

      1. Hi Holly,

        It just so happens I made the same art ledge yesterday. It’s in my guest room and looks great. I pre-drilled the holes and used 2 inch screws. I too used 1 x 4’s for both pieces.

  10. That is not a pocket hole. All you did was toenail a screw with a pilot hole. However, if you had followed the pilot hole with a counterbore, that would be a pockethole.
    Also, a pocket hole pulls one board tight against another, with your pilot hole being the same diameter through both pieces of wood, and the extremely short smooth shank on the screw, the two pieces can’t be pulled together any tighter than their initial position without driving the head of the screw into the wood, which is a bad idea with those screws that are cone shaped below the head because this can cause splitting.
    There is nothing wrong with what you did, I have used the same technique to frame many many interior non load bearing walls. But call it what it is, that is toenailing, not a pocket hole. One more thing, just a tip for toenailing screws, a countersink with those screws will get the head flush and/below the surface of the wood without compromising the wood. But only a counterbore can make a pocket hole.

    1. Ander as long as you don’t drill all the way through your starting board you will create a pocket hole. How do you think the name pocket hole was coined. It wasn’t because of a jig. I have been doing pocket holes this way for over 40 years, which was taught to me by my father who was a carpenter. FYI toenailing is done with a nail not a screw. But I guess if we are generalizing you could call toenailing a pocket hole and vise versa.

  11. thank you for sharing, I was looking at the kreg jig but I thought it was to expensive, and a few small projects in the house don’t justify the cost. Now I have no excuses to not follow trought with my projects.

  12. Thank a lot Sabine from Algeria myself i tried to build a piece as a kreg jig, but the holes weren’t good. I think this is the best way to do a pocket holes. Great thank

  13. I agree with Ander, a true “pocket” hole consists of a pilot hole the size of the screw shank, and a counter bore slightly large for the head of the screw to seat on. Tightening the screw against the flange of the counter bore is where the strength of the joint is determined.

  14. Hello, I am a novice wood worker and appreciate your willingness to put out there a cheaper and quick way to get something done. I love how you made a decision to try your own way, and when it worked, you added it to your blog. I also love the many posts of people, mostly women, that are traversing the world of tools and home improvement stores, seemingly novice like me. I love how YouTube and social media have opened up a way for people to be able to use tools like never before.
    As Papa J and Ander point out your errors, which I was waiting for, not because I knew there were errors, but because I know there is a lot of science and expertise that goes into this craft, which means any simple way of doing something usually means something is being missed. If you decide to post other shortcuts, which I appreciate, I suggest asking for experienced woodworkers to comment on your posts because I also like to know where I am cutting corners on my work.
    There are so many great YouTube videos from Lowes which explain beginners tool and woodworking information.
    What you are doing looks fun and please keep blogging!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I’m by no means an expert nor do I claim to be one. I like to share what has worked for me. The method may not be perfect, but it works (for me at least). My kitchen island only cost me $30 and is a solid peace of furniture. Yes, the pocket holes may not be perfect pocket holes (as pointed out by pros, which btw I appreciate), but I was able to make myself a kitchen island, and perhaps I can motivate someone else to do the same. I love getting comments and learn from them. And you’re right, YouTube does have tons of great tutorials. Thanks for your kind words and for reading my blog. Have a wonderful Sunday.

  15. Funny….my old man and his buddies would laugh at anyone who couldn’t drill a pocket hole free-hand or toe-nail a piece of wood….(hammering a nail at 45 degrees to attach two pieces.). Here were my instructions when I was about 12….”just drill straight down a pinch….then pull the bit and start at an angle ….it is easy.” And Sabine has actually made a good point. Half these jigs are built for people who don’t want to learn the art via practice. If you must have a jig you can simply take Sabines instructions….do same on a 1×2 or whatever size you want….make the holes and cut the piece of wood so you have a little square or rectangle to,walk,around with…if you can’t drill straight with that….try another hobby….and don’t let my old man see it or he will throw it away thinking it a junk piece of wood with two holes in it….I mean…who needs that if you have any skill all. I was 12 and it took me maybe 20 tries….with my dad’s “clear” instructions….to get it pretty darn near perfect….and all you guys and girls with “workshops” that have all new perfectly clean tools….we know you are just posing….it is like having a fast ’69 Chevy Ss ….and never driving it….or worse….never spinning the tires. Give the tools or car to someone who knows how to use them….stay koolio

    1. CJ, your comment made me smile. You know, my grandmother was a lot like your dad. She could make so much out of “nothing”. She always said to me “work with what you’ve got”. I may not build the most perfect things, but hey, I have a solid kitchen island and it only cost me $30 to make. I use that island every single day. It’s solid as heck… not going anywhere. Thank you CJ for keeping it real. It’s much appreciated!

  16. Holy cow – this never occurred to me! What a great idea and instructions. Thanks so much for sharing. I just love crafters!

  17. Thanks Sabine!! I am another one whom you’ve helped!! What would seem to be a simple hole, but as we all know it’s NOT, you have made it sooo easy!! Thanks Again!!

  18. I’ve been looking at a kreg jig for my current project but wow they’re pricey for just joining some wood together.. this is amazing! You’ve just saved me nearly $100. Thank you! I’m making a TV table for the lounge and just tried your technique out – amazing. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jody. I’m so glad you find the tutorial useful. Good luck with your projects and thanks for reading!

  19. I need to put pocket holes into a 1×4 that I am attaching to a 4×4. It says to use 2″ kreg screws. Where would I draw the line on the 1×4? Do you still draw the line at 1.25?

  20. You just saved me a ton of money buying the almighty KJ (I’m really tired of hearing about it anyway, lol.) Thank you for making this easy tutorial

    1. Debbie, I’m so glad you have use for my tutorial. I still don’t have a Kreg Jig, and for the few builds I do occasionally, this simple way really works. Thank you for stopping by.

  21. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve thought I NEEDED a Kreg Jig for so long, and didn’t make projects because I didn’t have one. This looks so simple, I can’t wait to try it out. Happy building! 🙂

      1. While I was in Denver on vacation my nephew was building a treehouse. I helped him with it and I showed him how to do this. I then found this on Pinterest. The only thing I didn’t do was to mark the area with a pencil.

        1. That’s awesome, Barry. So wonderful of you to teach your nephew. I bet the tree house is amazing. Thank you for stopping by my little blog.

  22. Hi! I am just about to start a project and I’m hoping to use this technique since I definitely fall into the category of not being able to justify getting a jig for potentially one project. For the initial pilot holes, how far down do you drill? Thanks for

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