INDIANAPOLIS — If you are a DIY enthusiast and are considering working with wood, consider something that can save you a lot of time and make your project easier. 

We are talking about pocket screws. You can make and connect all kinds of wood together and take the pieces apart if needed.  For the best advice, I went to some local experts to find out how to make that perfect connection between one board and the next.

“Pocket screws can be used to make cabinets, basic shelves, so many things.  They are easy to use if you’ve got the little jig and the tools,” said John Adams, owner of American Cabinets and Closets in Zionsville. 

You basically clamp the pocket hole jig onto your workpiece and drill angled holes with the special stepped drill bit into one of the pieces of wood you want to connect.  Then you simply align the two pieces to be joined and drive a pocket screw at an angle into the pocket to connect your pieces.  That requires a long drill bit and a drill.  Just like most home woodworkers, the people at American Cabinets and Closets Zionsville use pocket screws.

“They are very useful.  Pocket screws are a type of joinery that allows you to connect two pieces of wood without using any glue or staples, and they are strong,” said Gerald, shop manager for American Cabinets and Closets. 

Gerald details how the joinery works.

“You bore out a hole or two in one piece of wood that you want to connect to another piece.  And then you’re going to need the kit with the drill bit and jig.  We have an older style one that we can demonstrate with, although we have a machine that does this at our shop. 

Gerald told us you also need a good drill that’s nice and sturdy and the jig.  There are a lot of jig kit varieties to choose from on the internet and from local stores.

“This specialized drill bit with a depth setting collar fits in the holes of the jeg to drill out the wood.   Make sure it’s just above the jig so you don’t go all the way through and ruin your jig.  Tighten up the collar and then with the drill, insert it, tighten it up and it’s ready to go.  Then line up the jig with where you want the hole in the piece of wood, and make sure it’s adjusted so when you clamp it, it locks into place.  And then you drill your hole.  There you go, unclamp it and there’s your hole,” said Gerald.

That 15 degree hole the jig makes is what the pocket screws goes into. The screws have a little shoulder on them so they hold better and don’t blow through the wood.  To connect the boards, line them up how you want, and clamp together so they are nice and flat and lined up together.  By the way, not all kits come with a clamp and some kits do much of the alignment work for you.  The kits range from $15 to $150 for the fancy ones.

Now it’s time to use the long bit included with the kits to drill in the screw.  It has a a square tipped bit that will fit into this screw head.  Make  sure it’s good and tight, and slowly drill in the screw so it doesn’t bust the wood.   

The other big advantage of pocket screws is they can be totally hidden. 

Put the pocket screws the outside of the cabinets where they won’t be seen if they are covered by a wall, or end piece so the screws can’t be seen.  You don’t want someone opening up the doors and seeing your pocket hole screws on the inside,” said Adams.

And another advantage of pocket screws versus nails or glue is if you mess up and put the pocket holes on the wrong side or they are not lined up well, you’re not stuck.  You can simply unscrew them and take the wood pieces apart.

Here’s another tip to using pocket screws I found after messing up.  Lay out the boards as they will be connected, and mark exactly where you want the holes drilled!  Sometimes when putting cabinets together for example, its easy to flip the boards.  The final tip is to drill into the stronger side grain of the wood, not the end grain.

“It gets a little sensitive if you are screwing into end grain it gets a little sensitive and stuff because the wood will want to split when you are going through that angle,” said Adams.