Kreg Foreman

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

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Finishing the Glueless Stool

I finally got a chance to finish off the glueless stool I started at the recent NTX show (components cut on the Torque Workcentre)

Working Together

After rounding over the edge of the seat on the router table, it was time for a little sanding.  Still very impressed with how easy, relatively low noise, low vibration and minimal dust that results from the Festool system.  In this case I used 180 grit on the random orbital sander (ETS150/5) and it took a very little amount of time to get the necessary finish.  I’m not doing anything else as far as finish is concerned – this stool is specifically designed for the shower, and also designed to be disposable once it is no longer useful.  In saying that, the one I made 3 years ago is still going strong.

Edges of the straight sections were rounded over with the Fastcap 1/16″ Radius plane from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  Without meaning to sound like a commercial, I keep finding myself turning to this plane to break (round over) an edge, where in the past I would have turned to the router table.  It is a brilliant little tool – surprisingly useful and very effective.

You can’t see it in the photo, but I’m using the double-sided vac clamp here which works perfectly on the cast iron tablesaw – holding the workpiece very securely, but releasing immediately the air supply is switched off.

Pocketholing

The original glueless stool was made with wedged tenons, but this time I decided to go with the simpler pockethole, using the external grade Kreg Blue-Kote Robinson screws.

Glueless Shower Stool

The finished stool.  In this case I haven’t created a foot at the bottom of each ‘leg’, but instead I will probably use the pinned plastic anti-slip feet (those 1/2 domed 10mm diameter things).

Feet

There’s a hole in my pocket…

Spent the morning down at Carbatec, drilling lots of holes and screwing in a stack of screws at precise angles and depths 🙂 Even sold some Kreg Pockethole Jigs apparently – bonus!

Drilling Pocketholes

Getting ready, and to the demo was dead simple with the Festool gear – used a couple of empty systainers as tool boxes, secured to the top of the Cleantex and wheeled the whole thing in, plugged in, ready to go. Vac started and stopped with the drill, no dust, very little shavings escaped – it was all good.

Display

I also got to try the Festool drill/driver (T-12) with Ec-tec – rather interesting, with electronic control over the cut-out torque. When the torque exceeded the setting, the drill simply stopped and beeped at you, rather than having that grinding sound of the mechanical solutions of cheaper drills. (Am using my corded Bosch drill in the picture, if that is confusing you!)

So an interesting morning. Be sure to catch future demonstrations – at Carbatec Melbourne on the last Saturday of the Month.

And thanks to the Roving Reporter for the lift while I am still down a car!

Kreg Clamp

Can’t remember if I mentioned it before or not (quite possibly), but this is one of the Kreg Pockethole clamps in action

Kreg Pockethole Clamp

Kreg Pockethole Clamp

One end of the clamp has the normal head – flat, tiltable etc.  The other end however looks a bit weird, because it tapers to quite a thin section.  It isn’t wrong, it is just designed to fit right into a pockethole and clamp against the bottom of the hole so you can then easily put screws into the other pocketholes.  Needless to say I’ve been finding it really convenient (I was going to say ‘handy’, but thought better of it).

If you do any pockethole joinery, then this is definitely worth considering.

Speaking of pocketholes, since doing the review (and the video (that tape of which is around here somewhere waiting for me to have time to process it)), I keep finding uses for the jig.  A  very quick, practical way of making a strong joint, particularly in MDF and particleboard (materials that do not glue well).

New Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

There are many different techniques for joining to pieces of timber, both traditional and modern.  One that is proving quite resilient is pocket hole joinery.  It is a modern development of the more traditional “glue and screw” method, and using a fundamentally simple concept, produces a surprisingly strong joint, even when glue is not used.  Although I call it a modern joint (with Kreg developing the modern pockethole jig in 1986), the ancient Egyptians were using a version of it, inserting a dowel through the angled hole, then cutting it flush with the surface.

The pockethole is created by drilling a partial-depth hole at an angle into one member of the joint.  It stops short of cutting all the way through, and the drill bit is profiled so the hole drilled has a flat bottom.  This provides a good square surface for the flat-headed screws to press against.  The clever part of the drill bit, is it has two diameters.  The main diameter cuts the slot, and the flat bottomed hole.  In the centre of this hole, another is cut that is just larger than the diameter of the screw itself, so it acts as a pilot hole to control the direction of the screw as it is tightened, and helps prevent splitting.

Pockethole Drillbit

Pockethole Drillbit

The drill bit depth is controlled with a metal sleeve that has a grub screw to set the depth of hole. Readings on the jig itself allow you to set the correct depth based on material thickness.

Setting bit depth

Setting bit depth

The screws can be any brand that is suitably sized, and has a flat-bottomed head, but the ones that are most commonly used are the Robertson Screw.  Instead of having a Phillips, or flat drive, they use a square drive that actually predates the Phillips headed screw.  This type of drive provides a number of advantages in this scenario, but it boils down to one thing.  Ease of use.

Robertson Square-Drive Screw

Robertson Square-Drive Screw

Ready to Drive into Pockethole

Ready to Drive into Pockethole

The K4 is the latest offering in the range of Pockethole Jigs from Kreg. It appears to fit a useful niche between the comprehensive, (and accordingly priced) K3, and the Kreg Mini Pockethole Jig, and provides the basic components that would be used for a vast majority of pockethole joinery jobs.

Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

The thing that strikes you very quickly when using the Kreg, is just how easy it makes creating the necessary pocketholes.  It is very simple to set the jig up to suit the thickness of the materials being joined, and only a few seconds are required to cut the pocketholes.  As is provided with the K3 Master System, the K4 jig comes with an integral toggle clamp which is partly why the jig is so fast and convenient to use.  Another aspect is the hardened steel drill bit guide, so the bit is accurately guided, hole after hole.  When two holes are needed close together, the fact the jig has three guides in close proximity means that both holes can be drilled, without the need to reposition the jig itself.

Drillbit Guide and Toggle Clamp

Drillbit Guide and Toggle Clamp

Setting Guide Height to Suit Material Thickness

Setting Guide Height to Suit Material Thickness

In some situations, it is not convenient, or possible to use the jig in its standard configuration, and so the drill guide can be removed and clamped directly to the workpiece.

I don’t use pockethole joinery in every project – because of the size of the elongated oval slot caused in the surface of the workpiece, I tend to use pocketholes in situations where this cannot be seen.  There are fillers available, in a variety of timbers (and white plastic for melamine), and you could conceivably use a contrasting timber to produce a visual effect, but it wouldn’t be something you’d do often.  On the other hand, it would be hard to find another joinery system more suitable for joining melamine, MDF and other materials that tend to have a very weak end-grain glued joint.  This is particularly true for carcass construction for cabinetry, and building kitchen melamine (MDF or particleboard cored) cupboards.

Clamping Material Ready for Pockethole

Clamping Material Ready for Pockethole

Drilling the Pockethole(s)

Drilling the Pockethole(s)

Resulting Pocketholes

Resulting Pocketholes

The Kreg K4 System is an excellent investment for people who are not expecting to want to use pockethole joinery all the time (and therefore don’t want to invest in all the accessories), but want to be able to quickly and easily produce this sort of joint when the need arises.  I will stress however, that just because you haven’t invested in the comprehensive kit, you haven’t compromised in the quality of the material or jig construction.  This kit provides all the core components needed to start pocketholing in style.

90 degree Clamp

90 degree Clamp

There are other accessories you can optionally get.  I like this one – the 90 degree clamp.  One side of the clamp has a normal swivel base, while the other side is a thin diameter, flat-bottomed point perfect for clamping into the pockethole itself, so you can put a screw into the other pockethole.

For joining boards together flat, there is the more standard Kreg clamp.

Kreg Clamp

Kreg Clamp

First Pockethole Screwed

First Pockethole Screwed

Pockethole Plugs

Pockethole Plugs

There are various plugs designed to hide the pocketholes, including these for melamine.  Others are different wooden dowels so you can either closely match colour to disguide the joining method, or contrasting timber to accentuate it.  I still normally will design projects to hide the existance of the pocketholes.

It is perfect for picture frames, cabinetry (and on and on).

This pockethole jig (and accessories) were sourced from Carbatec, who carry a lot of the Kreg range.  The K4 will be available in Australia in the very near future.  I don’t have a price at this stage.

Sinking one in the Corner Pocket(hole)

With the Pockethole Jig securely mounted with a large support area, it makes cutting the pocketholes in a table top very easy.

In this case, I wanted to join two pieces of particle board along a 45 degree cut to create the corner bench.

Ripping the benchtop

Ripping the benchtop

Firstly, I prepared the benchtop from an old work desk (amazing what gets thrown away these days) (Remember I did get the max score on the cheapskate woodworker quiz!).  The top was ripped to 400mm wide, for no particularly good reason, other than it looked about right.

Benchtop laid out

Benchtop laid out

I marked out the location of the pocketholes (this only has to be approximate – given it is on the underside and therefore won’t be seen).  I chose centres of 100mm, and had holes going from both sides of the mitre to maximise the joint strength (and obviously making sure that the screws were not going to run into each other!)

Ready to cut the Pockethole

Ready to cut the Pockethole

Now you can see why I wanted the extra capacity for the Pockethole Jig.  It is then a very simple, and quick operation to cut the required holes.

Cutting the Pocketholes

Cutting the Pocketholes

Here the holes are being cut.  The depth of the hole is regulated by the stop that was set earlier.  The ‘secret’ about the pockethole, is it creates this elliptical opening at an angle in the board which does not go full depth.  A pilot hole continues on another 8mm or so further guiding the screw.  The bottom of the main hole is flat, so it gives a good area for the head of the screw to press against.  I’ll go into more detail (photographic rather than continuing a lame description) in the near future.  Needless to say, it is very easy, and by planning the project with this joining method in mind, it is easy to locate the pocketholes out of sight.  If need-be, there are plugs the correct shape to fill the hole, and disguise it’s existance (or by using a contrasting coloured plug, to use it as a feature)  Personally, I just keep the pocketholes out of sight.

Benchtop Joined

Benchtop Joined

Here is the resulting (underside) of the benchtop, all joined with the Pockethole joint.  The screws used are the square headed Robertson screw (which actually predates the Phillips screw head by about 20 years).  They are particularly suited in this application being a full recess-drive type fastener, and as such stay properly located on the square drive (provided with the jig).  Phillips screws can also be used (so long as they have a flat bottom to the head, and ideally are ferrous so can stay located on a magnetised driver).  Of course the purists swear that the Robertson screw is the only one that should be used. (Seems strange using the term purist and Pockethole in the same sentence).

I attached the ‘legs’ for the bench in the same way.

The Commissioned Bench

The Commissioned Bench

The resulting bench, in location with the sanders ready to go.  I also decided that it would make a reasonable location for the also-homeless scrollsaw.  I’m feeling more organised by the minute.

Now that this corner is sorted (and there is plenty of storage capacity under this bench as you can see), the next task is going to be ripping the large rolling cabinet in half, and wall-mounting the resulting cupboards.  Given the size and weight of the cabinet (even empty, with shelves and doors removed), this will be an interesting task.

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