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How to drill a pocket hole

A pocket hole is basically a hole drilled at an angle that forms a “pocket” for the screw to sit into. Think of it as a “highly engineered” toe-nailing technique. What makes it precise is the design of the pocket hole jig that guides the drill bit into the wood at a precise angle to produce an “engineered” hole to house the screw head. This one of the simplest methods of joining wood together.

drilling pocket hole

What do you need?

As I already mentioned, in order to drill a pocket hole in a piece of wood you will need a pocket hole jig. For you beginners, a jig is a simple device which clamps the piece of wood against a block so a special drill bit can precisely penetrate the wood at a low angle. The screw that fits the hole must exit the wood at a very specific location, so be careful when locating the place where you drill. As an addition to your pocket hole jig, you can also get a pocket hole screws. These differ from regular screws and are designed especially for drilling pocket holes.

Get started!

Grab a handheld drill and preferably a twist drill bit. This drill bit needs to be smaller (about three-eighths-inch long) because it is used for drilling a pilot hole in the bottom of the pocket hole. This small hole guides the screw so that it exits the wood at a precise angle. Then take a drill bit which is slightly larger in diameter that the pocket hole screw you will be using. Mark the place of entry and the angle from the exit point (25 degrees angle). You now have your path and are free to start drilling. Just angle the drill bit through the path line until it emerges from the face of the work piece. Take a Frostner drill bit (3/4”) and put it on the hole where the bit emerged. Drill straight down to a depth of about ¼” to make room for the screw head.

Drilling a pocket hole without a jig

Not everyone can afford a pocket hole jig, or have one, so there are two different ways in which you can manage without it. First one uses a sacrificial piece of wood. This piece should be at least as hard and dense as the actual piece you are drilling pocket holes in. Having another piece cut at the angle of the pocket hole to clamp to helps too. The sacrificial piece of wood, if hard enough, can be reused by just drilling into the already drilled holes again. So basically you use this piece to clamp the piece you will be drilling. The second way is a simple handheld drill and ¼ inch drill bits. Mark the place where you want your pocket holes to be, then drill two pilot holes holding the drill straight. These will keep the drill bit from breaking off. Place the drill low, it needs to almost touch the wood, and then just drill down and make them as deep and as long as you wish. Put the piece of wood on the ground or some hard surface so that you don’t damage your working surface.

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There they are, pocket holes without a jig.

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