Craftsmen of all skill levels desire to create things that are a combination of useful, sturdy, and handsome. For centuries woodworkers have created functional items, many of which are works of art, and most of which must be assembled because they haven’t been carved from a single piece of wood.
It’s easy to see why one of the most important skills a woodworking craftsman must develop is joinery. There are many ways joints have been manifested in woodworking, often becoming part of the aesthetic in addition their function – the dovetail for instance, especially when made from wood of dramatically different colors. The technical proficiency needed to accomplish joinery of this and related types can be appreciated by those of us (like me) who have spent hours in their garages or shops practicing the craft.
Although I hope that many craftsman will continue the pursuit of handmade, aesthetic joinery, there is also another method that is more practical in terms of time and skill level needed and, really, beautiful in its own right: pocket hole joinery.
I was very eager to use the Kreg Jig K4 pocket hole system. Watching YouTube videos and perusing the Kreg website had me daydreaming about all the cool stuff I could do. The site also offers free, easy-to-read plans for several practical items as well as a showcase for Kreg owners to post their own projects, many of which are impressive.
Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System Package Contents
- Kreg Jig K4
- Owner’s Manual
- SkillBuilder DVD
- Quick-Start Guide
- Kreg Project
- Stepped Drill Bit
- Square Driver
- Pocket Hole Plugs
- Screw Starter Kit
Setting Up the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
The Kreg Jig K4 itself is small but mighty, made of glass-filled nylon. The simplicity of its design belies its usefulness – the device that can easily fit on the corner of a workbench really allows a world of new projects, repairs, and improvements. The jig accommodates materials from 0.5” to 1.5” thick. Once clamped to a benchtop using the clamping recess, simply set the sliding drill guide to the correct material thickness using the adjustment markings on the side of the drill guide and secure the drill guide with the brass drill guide pin.
Using the drill bit adjustment markings located on either side of the toggle-clamp, set the depth of the stepped drill bit and use the Allen wrench to secure the depth collar. Adjust the toggle-clamp so that it will securely hold the material you’re drilling. Insert the stepped drill bit into a drill or impact driver, select the appropriate ⅜” drill guide hole(s) to use, and drill away.
What you’ll find when you release the toggle-clamp and remove the material from the Kreg Jig K4 is a perfect pocket hole that will guide the screw into the middle of the piece of wood that the pocket-holed piece will be joining. Kreg has instructions for selecting the correct screw length, too.
Using the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
I began by drilling several holes and simply admiring the work the jig had done. But I quickly wanted to move on to practicing joints so I could move on to building a workbench and then maybe a barn. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll learn many helpful techniques in the SkillBuilder™ DVD, one of which is the importance of clamping the joint being screwed since, as you might imagine, the screw can easily pull the pieces out of alignment. This is accomplished simply by clamping the pieces at the joint to a benchtop, using a corner clamp, or any clamping arrangement that will maintain alignment.
Although I love working with dovetails, I became a bit of a pocket hole fanatic at this point. I built a long, narrow raised bed out of scrap lumber to sow some cantaloupe seeds I had recently prepared (I have several 6 inch seedlings now). Using the concepts contained in the included workbench plans, I built a sturdy, square work table. Using some planks from my wood stock, I built two easy shelving units I now use for a narrow bookshelf beside a chair and a valet for my keys and wallet at the front door. It’s hard to underscore the ease with which you can do these projects with the Kreg Jig K4.
One very handy feature of the Kreg Jig K4 is the removable drill guide. Unscrewing the brass pin and sliding the guide out allows you to clamp or screw the drill guide virtually anywhere necessary for pocket hole repairs or, depending on the design, installing shelves. Really though, I don’t think I could provide an exhaustive list of the uses of this feature.
It’s easy to see that careless use of the jig could damage it; if the material thickness isn’t selected properly on the drill guide and/or the collar on the step drill bit isn’t placed properly, it’s possible to drill right through the base of the jig. I don’t think this wouldn’t destroy the jig or prevent it from working, but I’d like to see Kreg redesign such that an open space would allow the bit to pass through the jig body without touching it. However, I’d like to stress that damage that occurs from this is user error.
Just One Small Request…
One small – and really the only – complaint I have about the jig is the Allen set screw on the drill guide collar. It didn’t take long to begin to cam out, and if it isn’t tight, the vibration from the drill/impact driver can knock it loose and the bit will plunge too far into the material. I’d like to see this screw beefed up, made larger, or somehow reflect the remarkable cleverness of the rest of the Kreg Jig.
I highly recommend the Kreg Jig K4. For craftsmen and handymen of any skill level, it is a very useful addition to your shop. The Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System ($99) is great on its own, but if you’re just getting started with pocket hole joinery, be sure to check out the Kreg Jig K4 Master System ($139).