Pocket Hole Madness

I probably saw the ad a while back, but was reminded of it seeing it again on TV in the last day or so: a product called “The Removator Join-a-Jig”, that not only looks to be a direct competitor for the Kreg Pocket Hole system, but in many (many) aspects a direct copy.

So I am a little confused – is this a product that Kreg has allowed to use their designs for, do they get royalties (or something) for the Join-a-Jig, or is it a direct rip off?

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What I can see is the method for setting different material thicknesses is the same (in concept at least), as is the method for setting the depth the drill bit operates.  It uses the same style of dual diameter drill bit (with a pilot hole tip) etc.

I know (at least I have been informed) that Triton (for example) let the patent slip on the SuperJaws while it was owned by GMC, which is why there are so many companies out there making SuperJaws look-alikes.  Did the same happen for the pocket-hole jig?

If you are intrigued by this over the Kreg system, and its $200 or so price tag……

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And read the various reviews that are out there.  They are not exactly positive.

Not to mention the bloody awful infomercial advertising they use!

Kreg Foreman

Rather impressive! Wondering about the price, and availability down under, but it looks pretty cool!

Well that is disappointing @kregtoolcompany

I am a definite fan of Kreg, of their Pockethole Jig, of their other tools and accessories (and would welcome more in the workshop).


I was in Carbatec last night, having a bit of a chat, and we got onto the Kreg screws that came in my new Kreg container. These are the ones that are the bastard child of the Robertson screw and Phillips screw. I hate them. They cam out easily. They fall off the end of the square drive. They have wrecked all the advantages of the Robertson screw head, and gained nothing.

But I was hoping it was some random supplier not providing the standard Kreg screw.

On the shelves in Carbatec are new boxes, all Kreg, and all filled with these new screws. I am so disappointed. I will definitely be purchasing some of the big boxes of the old screws before they become unavailable. Then, I will switch to a supplier of Robertson screws that haven’t been compromised with a Phillips head.

On the Kreg website they still show the old heads, and make a big deal about how they don’t cam out etc, which is one of the massive advantages of the original ones. I don’t understand why they have decided to drop that engineering philosophy. I have been exclusively using the new ones recently, attempting to use them up as fast as possible, and they have been falling off the driver, and regularly suffering from cam out (that is when the driver disengages from the head of the screw and spins on the surface, burring screw and drive head alike). They have already wrecked one of my Kreg drivers.

Please Kreg – can we ditch these new ones and return to the tried and true? Please?

A place for everything…

You know the old saying, and it is a rule I find particularly satisfying when I can apply it.

When the latest Carbatec catalog email came out, one thing that caught my eye was an organiser from Kreg. Now to a certain extent, there are plenty of unbranded organisers out there, but I did like the Kreg toolboxx (and the spelling is deliberate).

There are two versions – the one I got, which is just the toolboxx, along with 1050 assorted Kreg screws (150 of each standard size and thread pitch), and a deeper version which comes with a serious collection of Kreg jigs and clamps. If I didn’t already have a full set of what is in the Master collection, that would have been the one to go for.

If you don’t have a Kreg pockethole jig, this is definitely a good time to give some serious consideration to one. They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but then they can solve a joinery problem where many other methods struggle. It has gotten me out of trouble on a number of occasions.

But back to the case I got, and it got loaded up pretty quickly!


The top is secured with the main clamps, so it is not a situation where you can pick up the case with the top accidentally unsecured and send screws everywhere. There are 15 removeable compartments, and three fixed ones (the longest in the middle ideal for the long driver, and the drill bit(s).

I managed to fit all my extra screws in as well (almost), so a total of around 2000 screws fitted in the compartments.


To keep track of what screws I have (for reordering if nothing else), I cut the label off each of the boxes I had and laid them on top. I may change this to Dymo labels on the individual compartment, but will decide that at a later stage.

In the lower area, I was easily able to fit the jigs I have and their accessories, all except the Kreg pockethole jig itself. That doesn’t fit for the simple reason that I have mine mounted in a large backing board (30mm thick or so), as documented a ways back (2009) so fitting it in is simply not possible!


I have the panel clamp and the pockethole clamp in there, along with the micro pockethole adapter, dust cover, and a portable set of pockethole screws.


The one thing I found interesting (disappointing?) are the Kreg screws that came with the toolboxx. Not sure of the quality of the material – don’t have an easy way to test their strength, but the head is different. Unlike the standard Kreg screw, which uses Robertson screws, these are a hybrid of Robertson and Phillips. Hybrid is another word for compromise.

The Robertson drive does not sit as deeply in the screw head, although it did drive in and out multiple times without issue. Overall however, I don’t like the decrease in contact area and the shallower driver position. The Phillips part is heavily compromised, and burred very easily – it could not drive the screw in fully into hardwood without significant slippage and burring, and needed the Robertson to finish driving it home.

I just don’t get the point of the compromise. If you want to use Phillips, use Phillips and accept the problems (driver camming out easily for example), otherwise, stay with the dedicated Robertson screw. I hope it is only the screws that came with the toolboxx that are this compromised, hybrid head, and not the whole Kreg range.


Top left, the original Robertson screw type from Kreg, top right is the one that has burred heavily. The Robertson drive can still manage, the Phillips cannot.

No specific mention of a change of head on the Kreg website.

So other than the screws (which are still functional), I am liking the toolboxx! Available from Carbatec.

Robertson Screw

I am going to paraphrase (aka butcher) the history badly, but there are plenty of websites providing a fuller history.

Around the turn of the 20th century, an inventor called Robertson came up with a cold forming method for producing a screw head with an internal square drive, with a tapered socket.  It would have been huge, especially as it was initially very popular with Henry Ford, and the fledgling car industry.  They would save considerable time in manufacture.  The taper makes it very easy to use the screws one handed, and means they stay on the end of the driver easily.

However, Robertson was not prepared to license the screw design to Ford, so they went with the Phillips instead.  I guess Henry was a relative of Steve Jobs!

The Robertson is the screw of choice in Canada, but did not get much of an uptake elsewhere (particularly the US) – either because of the Ford thing, or simply because Phillips is local, and Robertson is “foreign”.

In more recent times, Kreg have been making the screw increasingly popular with their pocket hole jig.  Certainly that is where I first came across them.  They have been my screw of choice for a while now, leaving flats, Phillips and Pozidriv stripped and in the dust.  I am a definite fan for a number of reasons – they don’t strip.  I use them over and over with jigs, and they screw in and out time and again.  It isn’t that I am being thrifty, (although why waste a good screw), but it also means I don’t need to try to extract a screw that has stripped out.  Even if a Robertson is painted over, you can extract it easily.

Can’t say I have ever driven one by hand though – I’m always using an impact driver (or drill) to drive them.  They mount on the end, don’t fall off, and drive superbly.  Unlike Phillips, these don’t cam out under high torque, and that is what really kills Phillips screws.


The latest application was all the way along the front fence.  I made it a number of years ago, and since then the pickets have become hard, and brittle.  I initially tried to use a pneumatic nail gun with galv nails, and every single nail split the picket in half.  Take 2, I tried to use the original galv nails I used when first making the fence, and each nail bent.  So Take 3, and out came the Robertsons.  The Festool CXS drove screw after screw, smooth as you’d like.  Not a single stripped head, not a single one fell off the head of the driver.  That alone saved time, and aggravation.  While one was screwing in, I was already able to reach into the box to pull out another handful to continue with.  You can see why they would have saved ol’ Henry so much production time.

Kreg Pockethole Breakthrough

A reader’s question about pocketholes and melamine:

Dear Stu,
I have the Kreg master system and I am having trouble with joining 16mm melamine chipboard to get a strong and firm joint.
I am using the 5/8 setting on the jig as suggested for use with 16mm material as well as using  1” screws as also suggested, (course thread) as I am using chipboard.
I think my problem stems from the fact that I am trying to join two pieces of melamine together to make a small box.   It may also be that
I don’t as yet have a Kreg right angle clamp.  Could you please advise me as what I might be able to do to get a firm joint without the blowout
of the screws through the other side of the melamine.
I don’t have this problem with ordinary pine.  I have only just tried using melamine, I know it should work fine, I am just doing something wrong.


My response:

I have done quite a bit with pocket holes and melamine, and haven’t had a particular issue (after some fine-tuning).

Using coarse screws is correct for that sort of product, so no problem there.  It does compress more than timber, particularly when cutting into the ‘end-grain’, so some additional allowance has to be made for that (which is why your setup works for pine, and not melamine, or MDF for that matter).  I would tend to set the drill stop so it is drilling a little shallower than the suggested position.  You have plenty of capacity before the screw head ends up above the surface, and considering it is still punching through the other side, it has more than enough contact area with the material it is screwing into.  As a rough judge, you can work out how much length of screw is jutting out the other side, and decrease the stop position back that much, plus a bit more (you don’t want the melamine even bulging where the screw is)

This will give you a good purchase, allowing you to do up the screw tightly and avoid breakthrough.

The right angle clamp I do find very useful (the one where one end fits down into one of the pocketholes), but it isn’t going to help with this problem.  Fortunately, it is an easy fix 🙂

Getting Sorted, Adding Hardware

With a bit of a shuffle, and cleanup, the workspace is looking good.  The shed is tight, but having the dedicated work surface is invaluable, and is already being put to good use.

The stack of Festool has been moved to a more accessible location, and again the advantage of the boom arm is apparent – giving easy access to the hose and power from the Festool vac (thanks to autostart).

Relocation of the setting out tools makes them a lot more accessible.  The gas bottle is stored under the bench at the moment- as good a place as any (currently used most often for the branding iron).  Not sure what I’ll store on the shelf – at this stage the Kreg Pockethole jig is stored under there (in a Festool Systainer).  In the drawer under the bench are bench dogs and surface clamps.

The Veritas Bench Dogs (and Bench Pups) from Carbatec are a very nice add-on.  Being used here while hand planing (HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane on New Guinean Rosewood).

The dogs and pups set low (as low as you want them) sit below the edge of the board so as not to affect planing.

Veritas Bench Dog (left) and Pup (right). You need a thicker bench for the bench dog (than for the pup).  The pups are very functional.

The Veritas Surface Clamps are very quick and easy to install – drop them in the desired hole and tighten the knurled knob.  There is a shoulder that prevents the clamp holddown going any deeper than necessary.

Now to find some interesting projects to really commission the bench, and get my teeth into.

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