How to use the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System: The Ultimate Guide
Who is ready for a super long post that has everything you need to know about how to use a Kreg Jig K4? Because that’s what I’ve got for you today. I know it won’t be the first Kreg Jig tutorial on the internet, but I do a lot of projects with my Kreg Jig K4. So I wanted to have something to link to if you’re wondering how the heck you use a Kreg Jig, what it’s for, and why it’s great.
Okay, so what is the Kreg Jig K4? And what’s a pocket hole?
The Kreg Jig K4 is designed for DIYers new to pocket hole joinery. Kreg calls it “the easy way to build with wood,” and I can attest to that. I am not a professional woodworker. I would classify myself as an elementary woodworker who is now very comfortable with basic to mid-range projects. So I guess I’m like a 6th grader with woodworking. Whatever that means.
Pocket hole joinery is a method of joining pieces of wood together by drilling a hole at an angle in one piece of wood. Then, you can join that piece of wood into another piece of wood by driving a pocket hole screw down through the hole and into the second piece.
This type of wood joinery leads to faster and stronger joints. It also creates a beautiful joint with a hidden screw. Although some projects require filling the pocket holes for a seamless look, I am often able to place the pocket holes in hidden areas. I love this option. If I’m being honest, I hate filling pocket holes. 🙂
What kind of drill bit does the Kreg Jig K4 Use?
To actually drill your pocket holes, you’ll use the step bit that comes with the Kreg Jig K4. This is the spiral-looking bit that has an adjustable collar on it that will move based on the material you’re using (more on that later). This nifty little guy drills a pilot and clearance hole at the same time.
That basically means that it gives you the space to drive your pocket hole screws, but also builds in a place for the screw heads to rest when the screw is all the way in. This is helpful because it prevents you from driving the screw out the other side of the material. It creates a stopping point.
The Kreg Jig K4 also comes with a #2 square-drive bit that is 6 inches long, so pretty long. This is the bit you’ll use to drive your pocket hole screws into the pocket holes you made using the spiral-looking step bit. If you get the Kreg Jig K4 Master System, you’ll also get a #2 square bit that is only 3 inches long. It’s nice to have different length options for different projects.
If you have a hard time reaching a pocket hole in a tight space, you can use a right-angle drill bit as a workaround. I have a whole tutorial post on this topic if you ever run in to this issue. Since the Kreg Jig drill bits are square, all of the Kreg pocket hole screws have a square drive as well.
Check out some of my favorite projects using pocket hole joinery! My indoor cat house, dollhouse bookcase, plywood planter with hairpin legs, modern kids play table, DIY kids workbench, and my outdoor coffee table made with pavers.
Coarse Thread vs. Fine Thread Pocket Hole Screws: What’s the difference?
When you start browsing the various Kreg Tool pocket hole screws available, you might be confused about the difference between coarse thread and fine thread screws. They look similar, but they are designed for different types of woods.
Coarse thread screws have a larger diameter and thread pitch, meaning they offer a stronger hold in softer woods and composite materials. These include pine, cedar, basswood, poplar, plywood, MDF, and particle board. I use coarse thread screws most of the time because the majority of my projects are with pine and plywood.
Fine thread screws have a smaller diameter and thread pitch. They reduce splitting in hardwoods such as ash, oak, maple, walnut, hickory, cherry, mahogany, birch, and more. I use these less often but did use them recently on a Brazilian walnut (ipe) table I built.
What are the different parts on the Kreg Jig K4?
The Kreg Jig K4 might look intimidating, but once you know what each part is there for, using it is a breeze. Here are the important parts you’ll use every time you use your Kreg Jig K4.
Base & Stop Collar Adjustment
This is the main part of the K4. It’s where you will set the stop collar on your step bit (the spiral-looking one). There are also holes you can use to secure the jig to a workbench. However, I just use the recessed area in the front to temporarily affix the jig to my workspace using a sturdy bar clamp.
Drill guide socket & standard drill guide
The steel drill guide is the piece on the top-back of the jig with the numbers on it. It’s where you’ll set the thickness of the material you’re working with. It’s also where you drill down through to create pocket holes. Once you’ve adjusted this to the desired setting, you’ll use the little gold knob to lock it in place. This is the drill guide locking pin.
This is the thing with the handle that moves forward and backward. It fixes your piece of wood to the jig so you can safely and precisely drill your pocket holes.
The suction-cup-looking thingy at the end of the toggle clamp is the clamp pad. This rests firmly against your material to hold it in place without any damage. You can also adjust it by spinning it; you’ll do this to account for whatever thickness of material you’re working.
The Kreg Jig K4 Master System also comes with a portable base, a workpiece support stop, vacuum port, spacer block, and face clamp. Lots of nice-to-have things, but not totally necessary to get started.
How to use the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
I’m going to walk you through the start-to-finish process of joining two pieces of wood using the Kreg Jig K4 pocket hole system. For reference, I’m working with pine that is ¾” thick.
Step 1: Set the drill guide
Remember, this is the piece with the numbers on the sides and the gold locking knob. It’s also where you drill down through. The piece I’m working with today is ¾” thick, so I unscrewed the locking pin and moved the drill guide to reflect that. Then I locked it in place again using the knob.
Changing the placement of the drill guide will adjust the angle of the holes to make them perfect for the material thickness you’re using. Don’t forget to change this setting if you switch to another board with a different thickness!
Tip: The Kreg Jig K4 can be used on materials ranging from ½” to 1 ½” thick. Always measure the thickness of the wood you’re using and take common vs. actual measurements into account. For example, my piece is called a 1” x 6” piece, but it’s actually ¾” thick. Additionally, if my board was a hair over or under ¾” thick, I’d want to adjust my drill guide just slightly to reflect that.
Step 2: Adjust the drill bit collar
After you’ve set the drill guide, you’ll adjust the drill bit collar accordingly. Since I set my drill guide to ¾” (the thickness of my material), I set my drill bit collar to the same depth. You can get the correct measurement using the recessed areas on the base with measurements. The K4 also comes with a little allen wrench to loosen and tighten the collar.
Remember to line your bit up with the correct measurement where the sharp part of the bit starts, not where it ends. So, in my case, I didn’t line up the very end of the step bit to the ¾” marking. I lined it up like this. Good to go!
Tip: The collar will also help prevent you from drilling too far into the wood when drilling your pocket holes. Yay for making things idiot-proof!
Step 3: Secure the Kreg Jig K4 in place
This is an essential safety step. If you try to drill a pocket hole without securing the K4 in place, it will move all over the place. I use a plain ol’ bar clamp to fix mine in place using the recessed area on the front of the jig. Fixing the jig in place like this allows you to drill your pocket holes on the back of your pieces.
Step 4: Secure the wood using the toggle clamp
Adjust the clamp pad as necessary to fit your board’s thickness. You can do so by screwing it right and left. The goal is to make it so your piece of wood doesn’t move at all.
Tip: Try to drill all pocket holes with the grain in your wood. Avoid drilling pocket holes against the grain. You can do this, but it isn’t the most ideal approach.
Step 5: Decide on pocket hole placement and drill pocket holes
You’ve set all of your measurements, so now it’s time to pop your step bit into your drill and make some pocket hole magic happen. Decide on your pocket hole placement using Kreg’s recommendations. (Note that these measurements are for material width, not material thickness.)
- 1–2” wide material, use holes B and C
- 2–3” wide material, use holes A and B
- 3–4” wide materials, use holes A and C
Tip: A faster drill speed will lead to cleaner pocket holes. It will also help you knock them out faster, which can make a big difference on a project with a lot of pocket holes!
If your material is wider than 4 inches, which mine often is, you can just unclamp the wood using the toggle clamp and shift it left or right. Drill more holes once you’re re-secured the wood in place.
When drilling the holes, apply a medium level of force for softer woods. Just make sure you stop when the collar on the step bit reaches the jig. It will stop you, but don’t force it. You could potentially drill just a hair deeper, which might lead to your screw popping out the other side on your finished piece. (I hate it when this happens!)
The Kreg Jig K4 has wood chip relief holes to help keep the space tidy. However, I usually blow out the excess. If you leave them in the steel drill guide area, they can begin to accumulate and muck everything up. This can make your cuts less precise.
Tip: If I have a lot of pocket holes to drill, I’ll just use a pencil to mark each piece so I remember which side and end to drill the holes.
Step 6: Select the right pocket hole screw
The most common thicknesses I work with are ¾” and 1 ½” woods. I have it mostly memorized that ¾” wood takes 1 ¼” pocket hole screws, while 1 ½” woods take 2 ½” pocket hole screws.
You’ve drilled all of your pocket holes and figured out which screws you need for your project. Now it’s time to begin assembling your pieces. The nice thing about pocket hole joinery is that a lot of the legwork—precisely cutting and drilling the necessary pocket holes—is done up front. Driving the screws now is easy!
Step 7: Join your two pieces of wood together
To get started, line the two pieces of wood you are joining up against one another according to your plan. You can run a line of wood glue along the joint first if you’d like. This isn’t required, but I do it sometimes asna insurance policy for my bigger projects. The joints are extremely strong on their own, though.
For me, attaching two pieces with pocket hole joinery is nearly impossible without either a strong second set of hands to hold everything in place or clamps. I usually just use a bar clamp. I clamp one piece down tightly to my work space. What I do with the second piece depends on the build. If I can clamp both pieces down, I will. If I can’t, I just try to hold the second piece as steady as possible.
Kreg Tool has a variety of clamps you can use to help you get the perfect joints. I have a few of these and am dying to get my hands on a 90° corner clamp to make my projects go a little faster!
- Premium Face Clamp
- Micro Face Clamp, 2″
- Automaxx Project Clamp, 6″
- Automaxx Project Clamp, 3″
- 8-inch Standard-Duty Automaxx Sliding Bar Clamp
- 16-inch Standard-Duty Automaxx Sliding Bar Clamp
- Automaxx Bench Clamp, 6″
- Automaxx Heavy Duty Bench System
- 90° Corner Clamp
- Right Angle Clamp
- Automaxx Clamp Table Combo
Now you just need to pop in the pocket hole bit that came with your Kreg Jig K4 and use your drill to screw the pocket hole screws in. Remember to stop when you meet resistance. The pocket hole is the perfect size for your wood thickness.
Tip: If you’re joining two pieces of wood that have different thicknesses, Saws on Skates has a great post all about what to do.
Step 8: Fill pocket holes and finish
Man, I hate filling pocket holes. I usually try to build things with concealed pocket holes so I don’t have to worry about it. But filling them is sometimes necessary. You can use pocket hole plugs or just a wood filler.
If you have any joints on your project that aren’t completely flush, you can do some light sanding to smooth them out. Otherwise, you’re ready to finish off your project with a paint, stain, or whatever else you want.
Looking for some basic woodworking projects? Check out my post with 30 free Kreg Jig project plans.