DIY Pocket Hole Cutter!
I love the simplicity of pocket hole joinery. Especially when building shop furniture, cabinets, etc. The Kreg Jig has made pocket hole joinery accessible to almost everyone and is by far the most popular system out there, but there is one major thing I don’t like about them. The Kreg Jig drills the pocket at approximately 7 degrees. Subsequently it also drills the pilot hole at the same angle. This results in the screw going into the wood at an angle. This causes two potential issues. The first is when screwing things together like face frames, it requires a clamp to keep the face frames flush with one another because the slight angle of the screw tries to pull the piece that has the pocket hole in the direction of the angle. Kreg sells vice grip style clamps to solve this issue and they do decent, but it’s one more thing to have to use. The other issue that the angled screws cause is when building carcasses, when two pieces are being joined at 90° on an outside corner you have to face the pockets towards the outside. If you place them on the inside then the screws are going toward the end of the board they are going into and will be more likely to split out. This is only an issue when the side of the piece is something that will be visible when finished. You also have to worry about movement of the joint like before, but Kreg also sells a right angle clamp for this too as well as a clamp to keep the workpieces at 90°.
My first introduction to pocket hole joinery was around 2000 while working in a production cabinet shop. We used a Porter Cable 552 pocket hole cutter and it had none of the issues I mentioned above with the Kreg Jig. It drills the pilot hole 90° to the joint which solves both issues above. It also uses a down cut router bit to cut a much cleaner and faster pocket than the Kreg Drill bit. The Porter Cable is no longer sold, however there are still other manufacturers that build these. I thought about purchasing one but instead decided I would take the time to design and build my own.
I built my pocket hole machine for less than $75.00 using a cheap Harbor Freight Right Angle Drill and Trim Router and scraps from around the shop. I don’t typically use power tools from Harbor Freight, however, I honestly wasn’t sure i would be able to build a reliable machine and I didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on nicer power tools on a prototype. I built this all the way back in the spring of 2016 and have had no issues with it so I guess I can’t knock harbor freight too much!