Every wood show I have attended I always see a booth demonstrating the Kreg Jig K3 Master System . I have never stopped to watch the demo because for some reason I have never felt a need for this kind of joinery. Well that all changed when I was talked into building new kitchen cabinets for our home. The system of cabinetry I was building used pocket hole technology, which of course gave me ample excuse to purchase a new tool. If you think buying and using tools easy ...
click below and read on to see what I encountered ... and what this tool is really like ....
Purchasing the tool was agony. First of all finding a local dealer was difficult. After a number of phone calls and visits I finally found a dealer. The next challenge was to find someone kn the store who knew anything about the Kreg system. Lucky for me I had been doing my homework because the store only had the older version of the Kreg master system ... which they were trying to sell to me for $10 higher than the newer version ... and, get this ... it had parts missing. Finding anyone who knew anything about it was difficult and anyone who had used one was impossible. I found myself educating the sales people because I knew more about the tool from my own research than they did. In the end I finally found a dealer who had the latest version of the tool and it was even on sale ... no that they knew anything about it. And so I became the owner of the Kreg Pocket Hold System.
The tool itself comes in a variety of ways, one big kit of you can purchase smaller portable versions (one of which is included in the big kit). The kit includes the bench top jig, a portable jig fitting as well as associated bits, drills, screws and instructions. Setting the tool up and getting it working was pretty easy. As I examined each piece as I took they out of the storage box I could see they were very well made, which they should be for the price.
I discovered early on that using the dust collector hood provided and hooking it up to my dust collector would help keep the drilling channels clear. This is particularly important when in production usage when you are doing a lot of drill holes. Clearing the chips reduces heat, which in turn keeps the drill bit sharper longer and for making better quality holes.
I must admit ... I was a bit skeptical about how strong the joint would be. After just making a few test joints I was quite impressed how strong the joints were, and I wasn't even using glue in these first ones. They are quite strong, and combined with a bit of glue, you can zip along a make a LOT of quality joints in a short time.
As I began using the tool for some production work I was very impressed with the high quality of the set. The guide holes where the drill bit used are precision and hardened steel that resists wear. The drill bit is sharp and slides smoothly in an out of the jig guide holes. I have had limited experience with similar "knock off" systems which were very poor in quality. I you have had this experience as well, you will find the Kreg system a refreshingly precision system to use.
The Kreg tool is not without it's challenges however and along with the good there are things to watch for. My biggest gripe is that using the tool on 3/4 by 2 inch material causes a slight visible semi round cut in the wood.
This is easily overcome by shimming the wood away slightly from the backstop and does not appear to affect the joint strength or how it works, it just makes a nicer looking cut. One could say, "oh well, just fill those areas" ... but any filler I have ever used is best avoided if at all possible as many dry up a fall out later on.
The portable guide is handy too. Sometimes things are partly together and I can see another pocket hole would help, or I have missed putting one in. This tool is a bit awkward to use but it works.
The last thing to talk about is the screws, which can be quite confusing. There are two different types of heads, wide pan heads and narrower heads that can later be plugged and disguised with pocket hole plugs.
Then there are fine and coarse thread and different lengths to suite the work you are doing. The first thing to select is fine or coarse thread. Kreg will tell you that generally coarse thread is for soft wood and fine thread is for hard woods. This is partially true but we found the coarse thread was best in just about every type of wood, especially if you will be drilling into end grain wood. There are "knock off" screws, which we also tried and were less than pleased with their performance. In almost every case where the knock off screws failed the Kreg screws fixed the job.
All in all the Kreg Pocket Hole System is an incredible tool. It saves a huge amount of time because you can still glue your joints and securely fasten them, then while the glue is drying, you can still carry on with your project because it is rock solidly held together with the pocket hole screws.
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Purchase only quality Kreg Screws !!!! the first time you have to try and dig out a broken screw from some inferior brand, you will know why Kreg owners ONLY purchase Kreg screws.
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Copyright Colin Knecht