Ever since I mentioned my $30 DIY Kitchen Island on Hometalk.com, 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.
I 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.
Start by marking off where you want the pocket holes to go.
Drill two pilot holes holding the drill straight. This is an important step. The pilot holes will keep your drill bit from breaking off.
Now you’re ready to make pocket holes.
Go back to your pilot hole and as you drill, start moving the drill downward. The drill will lay low and almost touch the wood.You have just created two pocket holes. You can make them as deep and long as you need them.
Take a screw and secure the wood to the other piece.
And there you have it – two pocket holes. It’s pretty easy, don’t you think?
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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!
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!!!
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.
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″.
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″).
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!
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 https://www.ana-white.com/2012/01/ten-dollar-ledge-project-video ) 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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
So excited to see this! I am wanting to make some benches and a table for a breakfast nook at my home and was discouraged after seeing all the plans I looked at said to use a Kreg Jig. This will make my life so much easier (and cheaper!) Thank you!
Just a thought. If you ever do want to buy a pocket-hole jig, the one from Harbor Freight works well and it’s about 1/2 the price of the Kreg (if you wait for one of the 20 or 25% off coupons, which they seem to offer quite often). I’ve never used the Kreg model so I guess it could be way better (and if I was doing this as a job and not just a hobby, I’d be more apt give it a try)..
I have used the HF model on a few projects now and I really like it. I’ve tried your method and if I were only going to a few pocket holes, I’d stick with your method. On the other hand, if you are going to do several projects where you want to use pocket holes, the jig is faster, more accurate, and it feels safer to me. I never knew I needed to make pocket holes, but I’ve used them on nearly every project I’ve done since I got the jig.
In case you are considering pocket holes, I will also note that the pocket hole screws are more expensive than regular wood screws. I just looked at a project plan for a chaise lounge that called for over 100 kreg screws. I will probably use about 12 (in areas where I think I the extra strength is needed). I figured out how to just use regular wood screws for the rest
fyi I have no affiliation with HF whatsoever. In fact, I do not like all of their products and end up returning 10 – 20% of what I buy there. I’m not returning their pocket-hole jig though. It works as intended.
Dave, I’ve heard good things about Harbor Freight. And yes, I see the 20% off coupons all the time. Good to know they have a cheaper version of the Kreg jig and I’m glad you like it. I will have to look into it. We have a HF very close to my house.Thank you for posting this. Very good info. I really appreciate it.
I saw one guy bragging about his 150$ kreg jigs and guy #2 says,”around here, we each get one freebie…..you know, when you bring something stupid to work and all the guys could laugh at you for weeks? Around here, you can say, “i want to use my free pass” and you can take whatever dumb thing you bought back to the store and we will never speak of it again. I suggest you do that with your little Kreg toy there.” At that point, guy number one got very angry and started telling guy number two how wrong he was and how great a tool/jig it was and how the other guy was just jealous. At that point, guy number two just blurted out, “some people will never learn” and he went over and grabbed a scrap piece of wood about the size of the kreg jig. he did a couple quick measurements and Drew pencil lines and proceeded to Drill six holes at 45° Angle….through the piece of wood …such that it looked just like the Kreg and then had some rivets Or nut inserts which he placec on both ends of the piece of wood. It took him about 5 minutes. Then he demonstrated how well it worked, then he demonstrated how fast you could do it freehand and they toss the newly built jig to a very sad looking Kreg owner and he said, ” there, you can keep that on. it’s twice as effective as the one you paid $150 for ….lol….you can take that back and I’ll let all the guys know that you now have 150$ and you are buying beer after work….plus now we can all have a good laugh about your wonderful purchase.”
Craig somehow convinced everybody that it is completely fine to be incompetent or lacking any skill for unwilling to learn something and has a jig for almost everything . Now, I for one love the jig that can raise and lower your under the table router. For that alone they should be reserved a special place in heaven. But on the pocket holes, my uncle would’ve laughed at somebody who bad I just like that and I think he showed me how to do a pocket hole when I was about 13 and it took me about five or 10 times to get it right but then I’ve done thousand since then and this idea that you have to go by pocket hole screws for four times as much is regular screws is just the most brilliant marketing move by Craig ever.
CHEAP GOOD TOOLD
My advice to those of you looking for tools on The cheap IS to watch craigslist and every once in a while you’ll see a woodworker or a carpenter who is retiring and they ARE SELLING EVERYTHING. don’t ask questions…. don’t argue over prices…. just get in the car and immediately go over there with as much money as you can spend. I have walked in TO places where it is insane so many tools and we start saying to 20 for this and 30 for that and before you know it …..if the guy likes you/me and believes you’re not going to abuse his tools that he has used for the last 25 years he will say what many of them have said to me which is, “I tell you what …. I hate all these hipsters coming over rand telling me how much better a carpenter they are thsn me……how about 500 bucks and you can have all of it.” It is not uncommon to get thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment for 500 bucks.
one time a guy gave me about $6000 worth of stuff including three table saws, 2 of which I immediately re-sold for $500….. so I was even at that point I had about $5000 with a free tools, but it was such a good deal and he was such a nice guy that I drove back and gave him the extra $500 that I had just made selling his size. He was so happy and impressed that he went in the back and brought out another 4 Paslofe. Nailguns Worth about $1000 and he said, “I’m glad you came back because I forgot to give you these and I didn’t have your phone number.” It’s all Karma in this worldt. . We actually became friends and he helped me build some cabinets in my house …..that he would only accept beer and food for, but when his mom passed away, I handled the will/estate for him.. worth..about a million…. meaning that I was entitled to about $60,000 in legal fees, which I of course accepted….and then refunded 59,900$ to him. The $100 was for our lunch and that day I got about three hours to just ask every woodworking/construction question I had ever had and I learned so much that afternoon and I made a great friend.
I have a saying, ” we don’t really own tools, we are just borrowing them and holding them and taking care of them for our time on this planet and then they go to the next Carpenter or woodworker and we try to take care of those tools as well as the person before us. We try always to help those Who are younger and more inexperienced than we are, we try to learn from those who are more knowledgeable and experienced than we are, and we always give grief and a hard time to those in this world that deserve it . I cant believe you are not remarried! All the best. Jay.
Jay, I love your story and I agree with you. Some of the best tools I’ve ever bought were at estate sales.Once I bought a drill for about $1.50 at an estate sale. The person who used to own it passed away at age 84. His name was on the the drill. I used this drill to built my kitchen island. I became very emotional while using his tool. I wished I could’ve told him how much I liked his drill and how I was able to build this island for me and my kids. I bet he got a lot of use out of his drill and now I use it frequently. I will keep this tool until it no longer works.
Not bad but one has to be careful with your method not to drive the screw all the way through the board with the pocket holes. There is a reason for using screws designed for pocket hole jigs. They have a flat bottom that will rest on the flat part of the hole that results from using the special drill bit. The screw showing in your pictures appears to be a normal drywall screw that is designed to be drilled straight into the wood. You could have achieved the same results without your “pocket holes” simply but driving your screws at the same angle and driving them until the tops are buried in the wood. Sorry, but I will stick with my jig and appropriate screws.
Sabines: Your method is fabulous. I am English by birth but live in Chile. A long way from the big shops. I downloaded a photo
and instructions to build a desk. In the end it was promotion to sell the K4Jig. Measurments and angles wrong and in any case the jig here is very expensive. I used 96 3″ screws. With your method, less than a day. I think that with the jig it would have taken over a week.
I use a bit the size of the head of the screw (use first, going in between 1/4″ and no more than 1/2″) and another just a tad smaller than the shank of the screw (use second, be sure you go into the second board at least 1/3 the length of the screw). This gives you a pressure point to draw the two pieces together. Just a little more work, but it ensures a tight bond between the two boards.