By contributing partner and guest blogger, Mark Clement - MyFixItUpLife
So I was gonna write something fairly expected about pocket holes…until I found out that pocket-hole joinery was used by the Egyptians!!!! The Pyramid Egyptians. And then I had to spend time freaking out a little.
How the Egyptians did things, large and small, of such lasting ingenuity and beauty always stops me in my tracks…If I don’t send an email for a day or two the world forgets I’m here. They’ve got a 5000+ year history.
But back to reality. I’m a huge pocket hole fan too. And while they’re typically the stuff of woodworking and sometimes trim work these days—along with various clamps and jigs and the resulting super-tight joints—I take a different approach and use them in rough carpentry all the time.
There’s no jig required and it makes so many of the odd-ball connections of remodeling for me that I’m not sure what I’d do without it.
Akin to toe-nailing (driving a nail at an angle to fasten two hunks of wood together) doing it pocket-hole-style using screws has advantages that I get lots of mileage out of. I use them connecting everything from neo-angle wall plates to installing blocking or nailers for everything from drywall to deck lattice. It’s fast, efficient, and clean. And the joints are—and often not the case with nails—solid and accurate. The blocks don’t split. I don’t have to shoot near my hands. There’s no framing nailer popping in my ear…
And even though I can, in many cases, use a SPAX #10 3-inch Multi-Material Screw without drilling a pilot hole or countersink (the countersink is the ‘pocket’), things like gravity often make pre-drilling necessary, unless you have 3-hands.
So here’s how I do it. Pretty simple. Hugely effective. And I hope you like it.
First, I use a counter-sink with a pilot bit on it. DeWalt’s is nice. I did a little hack to make mine easier to use, which you can see here.
About 1-inch back from the end of the piece to be installed, I start the hole, holding the bit vertically.
Once it taps in about 1/8-inch, I turn the impact driver over to the angle I want. I do this so often I can usually just keep the bit turning while I tip the tool. In some cases it pays to slow down, reposition the tool at a low angle, catch the bit tip in the hole, then start drilling.
Next, I drill my pilot hole. If it’s cutting slowly, I pull the bit out of the hole to eject chips and start again until the countersink can cut the pocket I need. Since we’re talking rough carpentry here, I don’t always have to bury the head flush into the wood.
With the holes drilled, I start the screws. Then, I can put the piece in place on my layout lines and simply fasten it.
While I’ve installed a million blocks and things with nail guns (and still do when it makes sense) one of the advantages to doing this with screws in a remod application is that there is no exhaust from an impact driver that blows a ton of century old dust and insulation in my face, for example. And no nail gun going off in my ear.
In other cases—say where I’m building a tricky soffit or chase for a basement bathroom—I need to be able to edit my work sometimes. As I’ve said before, nails really only go in one direction. If something is a little off, it’s easier and faster to fix if you’ve fastened with screws.
There you have it. Pocket holes for rough carpentry. Fast, solid, sweet.
Mark Clement is the carpenter and co-host of the MyFixitUpLife show. MyFixitUpLife is a multimedia destination for home improvement enthusiasts. Hosted by married licensed contractors Mark and Theresa Clement, MyFixitUpLife shares design inspiration, DIY tips, and behind-the-scenes interviews with popular TV show hosts, experts, and bloggers. Find the interviews on their MyFixitUpLife talk radio show, MyFixitUpLife.com website, MyFixitUpLife YouTube Channel, on local and national TV shows, and through social media platforms. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter too!