Project - Quick Bookshelf with Pocket-Hole Screws

One easy way of quickly putting together shelves, kitchen cabinets and so on is with the use of pocket-hole screws. Unlike butt joints held together by screws, pocket-hole screws do not go into end grain and are therefore much stronger.  A screw going into end grain as in a butt joint is inherently weak whereas the angled screw in a pocket-hole goes into long grain which is strong and holds well.

Typical Butt Joint: The Screw goes into end grain

A Pocket-Hole Joint: The Screw goes into the long grain and is therefore stronger.

Pocket-hole screw joints are in fact extremely strong and can take quite a weight. They might not be as long lasting as conventional wood joints but unless severely stressed they look like they will last for years and years. The greatest advantage of pocket-hole screw joints is the speed and ease with which they can be put together.

Kreg Jig

Pocket-hole screw joinery has been popularized in recent times by the American company, Kreg Tool Company, which makes the well-known Kreg Pocket-hole jig (see their website at http://www.kregtools.com for more details). Woodsmith magazine also has a pdf file on the use of pocket-hole jigs that can downloaded from http://www.woodsmithshop.com/download/508/pocket-hole-joinery.pdf .

The Basic version of the Kreg Pocket-hole Jig
This easy to use jig that comes in many packages is extremely easy to use and has led to a proliferation of articles and videos on pocket-hole joinery.

The Kreg jig in action
I have one of their simpler versions of this jig and use it when I have to put things together quickly such as storage shelves, boxes and recently a plywood base for my benchtop table saw. The pocket-hole screws make fairly strong joints. However, these joints cannot be compared to traditional dovetail or box joints which are far stronger.

Kreg Screw Types

A Shop made pocket-hole jig (source: http://pinoyhandyman.com/showthread.php?p=25368)
The only problem with the Kreg pocket-hole jig is that it requires a specific type of screw (square head) for best results. These screws are not available in India and the best substitutes are Philips head screws with pan or washer heads  (see post on screws at http://indiandiy.blogspot.in/2012/03/types-of-screws.html).

Pocket-hole joinery was not invented by Kreg Tool Company and a number of companies offer their own versions of the jig. A simple pocket-hole jig can be made at home by the hobbyist. There are plans for these available in the Internet including one at http://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-plans/routing/pocket-hole-routing-jig/.

Quick Shelves
Shelves in their housing

I decided to give pocket-hole screw joinery a try when building a desperately needed shelf for several large books that had been gathering dust and mould in an old cardboard box in our store room. As usual I needed to make a bookcase quickly and discard the mouldy container.

My choice of material was rubber wood board purchased from a local timber shop. The boards were not of very good quality; they bowed and would later cause problems while staining. At any rate, I was not too concerned as I intended to make this bookcase for temporary use and later make a more permanent one with a proper base and top.

Pocket-hole screws driven into the top
For slapping together something quickly, I presumed pocket-hole joinery would be best. And indeed it was quick work. The top and bottom came together rather well with pocket-hole screws and the two shelves went into their housings and the 6mm plywood slid in comfortably into the slots routed on the sides at the back.

With the back and shelves in position and a Shellac finish

The quality of the rubber wood boards, as I mentioned, were poor and the stain blotched quite a bit. To even out things, I coloured the wood with a bit of dye (brown and red) and then applied a Shellac finish. It looked tolerable but not great. I then planed the front edges of the bookcase to flatten them and take off the stain.

Face frame put together with pocket-hole screws

The face frame put together with pocket-hole screws came together in no time and I attached it to the bookcase front with glue and pocket-hole screws at the top and bottom. When the face frame dried I found it had shifted slightly at an angle; it was proud by about one thirty second of an inch on the top right hand side and bottom left hand while it was down by the same amount on the other sides. Problem was that the top and bottom pieces had bowed slightly but unevenly. Had a hard time planning it down with a block plane and at any case could not do anything about the slight gaps that remained. It was not visible at the bottom though.

Pieces for the top

For the top, I cut three pieces of rubber wood boards, then mitred them and attached them with screws on the top. The tiny gap between the face frame on one side and the top was not perceptible but I suppose it would have been best hidden by a moulding.


The bookshelf completed with the top added on. It currently rests on a temporary base of two batons; I plan to build a proper cabinet base for it with drawers.

The bookshelf completed with the top added on. It currently rests on a temporary base of two batons; I plan to build a proper cabinet base for it with drawers. For the time being, the bookcase will rest on two pieces of wood. I plan to make a three feet tall cabinet for the base. But that is another project.

Final Remarks

The bookshelf is complete; it is sturdy and looks nice with stain and polish applied. Yet, I cannot wish away a niggling feeling that traditional joinery would perhaps have been preferable. It is not that there is anything wrong with pocket-hole joinery - it is strong, probably enduring and easy - but somehow it did not give me the same amount of satisfaction that putting together something in the old fashioned way does. But that's an entirely personal thing and I do recognise the utility of a system that can deliver quickly and reliably. Pocket-hole joinery clearly has a great future. It is just that I would prefer to do things another way.

Indranil Banerjie
30 September 2013

Comments

  1. A very well kept blog. You give very good tips about wood working. I liked your skill, hobby and passion. I am Col Ranjit Chitale
    09582604248

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sir...nice to know that you are into wood working too...VT.

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  2. Thank you, Colonel.Feels good when someone appreciates the blog.

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  3. Hi Indrani,

    Thank you for the perfectly detailed blog. Ideal for an amateur for me :)

    Kudos from Chandigarh

    Mandeep

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  4. You have a great blog Indranil...with terrific and content.Very informative...learnt a lot from your posts.

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  5. Supriti: Many thanks for your comment. Glad you picked up something. Best wishes.

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  6. Hey indranil, I'm a woodworker myself and always looking for now stuff, can you get the pocket hole kit in India? Preferably in Bangalore? Greets Kim

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  7. Kim: I don't think anyone selss the Kreg jigs in India. Best is to order it on amazon.com.

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  8. Hi Indranil, I did a google search on "pocket hole India" and this is what I got.
    Is there any alternative apart from Kregs to get it in India?
    Appreciate your reply.

    Thanks a lot for this blog.

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  9. Saikumar: Unfortunately I have not come across any Indian maker of pocket hole jigs, although I would imagine they are not hard to make. I am also sure that there would be Chinese or Taiwanese versions of these jigs but I haven't come across any so far.

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  10. Thanks a ton for your reply. It helps me in taking decision.

    I plan to get just the inclined hole solid block made locally like the wooden one you posted, but in metal and separate clamp. I am worried about the drill bit, is there a substitute I can get or anything would work fine?

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  11. Saikumar: It would be great if you could make it out of metal. Just get the drilling angle right. As for the drill bit, there is no need to get a square bit. You can use philips type screws and drill bits. The square type is used by Kreg because it is better at prventing the drill bit slipping when screwing with a power driver. But philip head screws are good enough in my experience; only one has to be a little careful and not use too much torque. Best wishes. Do post us your results with images at indian.woodworker@gmail.com

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  12. Cheaper and more fun then Kreg!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyrE1VFXIlE

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  13. Great blog. Do they sell here in India? Specially Bangalore?

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    Replies
    1. UNfortunately no. You could get it through amazon.com.

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    2. Phoenix Engineering, Tamil Nadu claims to be selling them..... Saw it on their website on Indiamart.

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    3. Thanks, will check them out.

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  14. Hi. Even I have got kreg jig Jr from amazon. Clamp. And box of assorted screws. Been thinking about the which kind of screws I'll find in India after I finish with kreg screws.. ?? Any info will be highly appreciated thanks. Chandigarh.

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    Replies
    1. Any pan head screw with a small washer would do.

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  15. Great ideas for Indian enthusiasts. Cheers.

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  16. If you had to do this project without pocket holes...rather with traditional joints...what kind of joints would you use.

    I'm planning to build a small book shelf.

    Thank you. Rags.

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    Replies
    1. Rags: Traditional joints would be the best: housings (dados) for the shelf sides, re-inforced with screws from the outside if you wish to make it extra sturdy otherwise glue would do. The screw holes could be covered by wooden plugs. For the top and bottom I would either use dovetails or box joints (the latter is easier and as good). This would make a sturdy carcass. The back could be 6mm plywood glued into a quarter inch rebate cut all along the back (this would require your shelve pieces to be recessed by the same amount). A face frame is optional and a simple bookshelf does not need one. But then you could dress it up with a face frame glued to the front without any joints if need be, a top and feet, mouldings and so on. Sky is really the limit and your imagination. Good luck.

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  17. Great ideas good information, Keep it up.

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    Replies
    1. The Kreg jig is available in India online grabmore.in

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    2. I see it is available but they are charging Rs 4543 for it, which is almost 70 USD. Might as well get in from amazon. I would advise avoiding this site as their prices are over the top. I checked the prices of Stanley tools products and was shocked to find that grabmore was charging the earth compared to amazon.in. This seems to be one of those rip-off sites.

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  18. hi, indranil, just now checked your blog. very nice... keep rocking

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  19. Kreg pocket hole jig is available on Amazon and ebay India. You could also buy from Aliexpress, sibling of Alibaba. In the past I have been importing screws from Amazon.us. Now I plan to have them manufactured in India.

    A group buy or we members can help bring down the cost by clubbing our order.

    Presently we are considering #8 Coarse Pan head screws in 3/4", 1" and 1 3/4" sizes.

    So please post your requirements, thanks

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    Replies
    1. A lot of people would be interested if you could make good quality square head screws with self tapping points. Give us more details about yourself so that those interested could decide.

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  20. Right now I am negotiating for 3/4"-Rs.2, 1"-Rs.2.25 and 1 3/4"-Rs.2.50 per screw, sizes in tempered mild steel Gash point(tip), pan head but for Phillips bit.

    Square head and rust retardant coating(trivalent) options are also available but all at added cost.

    The minimum batch per size is 1,00,000 nos but members can order in 500 or more numbers.

    So we need to decide between Phillips head or Square head as the latter requires a customized punch, adding to the cost.
    Trivalent coating is not very expensive( adds only 10-15% to the cost).

    I am into construction, fabrication and design. Have a small shop at home where I make UPVC windows and frame less cabinets.

    Planning to add a cold press for lamination and skin doors.

    Archicad is my favorite design software and have recently ordered KCD cabinetry design software.


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    Replies
    1. I will pass the word around. Also, please mmail me your contact details at indian.woodworker@gmail.com. Thanks

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  21. We can have 6 point torx pan head which will give excellent grip buts adds to the cost by 10-15%.

    ReplyDelete

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