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There is a time and place for pocket holes.
For 30 years, I avoided two things: Veneer tape edges and pocket holes. I was - and still am - convinced they are the start of the fall from civilization we all have been fearing. Neither has ever been allowed in my shop. Both are an accommodation, an acceptance, of lower quality for "price point" concerns. What's next? Printed wood patterns on paper laminated onto man made boards? Peel and stick veneers? Contact cement?
I would equate pocket hole door joinery with the worst work in the world. Yes, I have been told I am a snob. More than once.
However, my top shop hand recently argued for the use of some pocket holes in a piece we were building. I allowed it since he 1. made a good case for it, and I have come to respect his ideas, and 2. it seemed appropriate.
Now this was not door joinery - that is all mortise and tenon, no exceptions. It wasn't case joinery, that is all plow and rabbet, no exceptions. Just a valance panel attached to the top, to carry a cornice molding assembly.
So, I will now say pocket holes have a time and place, but they are very limited. It is still terrible for right angle joints that historically would be mortise and tenon - no glue surface but butt glue, no real mechanical prevention of twist, etc.
But the damned veneer tape is still banned.....
Pockets have a place, not door assembly. I'm not of fan of using them for case assembly either. They won't pass AWI. Lots of face frame guys use them. You need a clamp system to keep the faces flush. You have to use 2 or more to a joint or there is little to prevent twisting.
I've used pocket holes for years and will continue unless they invent something better. Obviously they have their place, and a door ain't one of them. The original post didn't mention anything about a door so I don't think he is considering that. I use them where they can't be seen.
They are in my opinion indispensable in many operations, like say a light valence under an upper or using them as "clamps" until the glue dries. I've used them for drawer boxes on 1/2" prefin maple ply (no glue) on some cabinets in my house....7 years later and no issue. Of course the drawers could be made better and to higher standards but the point is they have performed well with pocket holes.
About 20 years ago, I watched a carpenter install multi piece cornice with biscuits for alignment and pocket screws as clamps. I was amazed by the speed and quality of his product. I bought my first kreg jig that night. I have been using pockets as clamps and biscuits/ dominos for alignment ever since.
Around that time, I was a trim carpenter by day, and a snob hobby woodworker by night. I wouldn't have even considered using pockets, plywood or edgebanding or even sandpaper (a proper surface must be hand scraped!) on any furniture or cabinet project I made. Then my wife asked me to build a table for my son for Christmas. I had one night to do it, and a poorly equipped shop. I used pockets for everything. The boy is almost 17 now, the table still in use, and every joint is still tight.
Now, I build furniture and cabinets for a living. I still would not consider the use of pocket screws fine craftsmanship, but they do have their place. And not every customer can afford the highest quality work. And I make regular use of a wide belt.
Barry - I ignored your question. We don't use pocket screws much, so I don't hear anything about it from customers. However, the customer would be about the last place I would expect to hear about pocket screws from.
Joinery and how and where it is used is my turf, and I prefer to not have customers tell me what length or thickness my tenon needs to be. Talk to me about design or woods or fit and finish, but stay out of the technical end. This is why you hired a professional.
Chris - Do we tenon everything? We do a lot of doors, so a lot of it is M&T, most of it is cope and stick. We are tooled up to make M&T many different ways, so we find it the best solution to many problems.
Furniture frames, web frames, face frames, and all the frame and panel work is all - M&T. We use the pocket screws also on jigs for fast and secure fixture making. That may be the primary use for the tool in our shop.
To each his own. Our shop gets a lot of what I consider neat work because we are known for our level of craft. If a shop only aspires to pocket screws, then that may be all they ever get. They just won't attract the more interesting (my opinion) work.
So they have their place, but should not be considered a primary solution.
Can you imagine this bench with pocket screws?
As said, pocket screws have their place and are very useful. I used some in this cabinet and they saved me time and space during glue up and assembly.
As I said before, I use them where they can't be seen. The bench pic above is a good example of when not to use them and the cabinet below it a good example of when to use them,(great looking work by the way). When I first started years ago I prided myself on joinery. Rabbet joints in the back of the sides to receive the back, mortise and tenon face frame joints, etc. It took a long time to build a set. In the end this is what I realized. Only a fellow woodworker would appreciate my time and effort that I put in on making all those joints, plus all those joints got covered up and no one ever gets to see it anyway. I now use pocket holes and save time and then devote that time to things that get seen like design, finish, etc. I've never had a single cabinet to fail in anyway using pocket screws.
Yeah, just like Mike said ;-)
I guess I could have used mortise and tennon to put this together….
Dominos would have worked….
But my price would have been substantially more and I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job. I supplied a beautiful, custom sized vanity at a reasonable price. That is what I do, it is called value. Pocket screws allow me to do that.
Let's keep in mind that this is cabinetry forum, if you do not like, or understand how to use, or see the value of pocket screw joinery, the professional furniture making forum can be found below. :-)
Nice work posted - the good design is foremost.
I do not wish to argue, but we each have to find our own way. I'll use "Commoner's" term 'value' - not to pick on him, but it sums up what we both are trying to say.
I would go nuts if I had to search for 'value' in my projects. Not that cost/price is not important, I just define value differently. To me, it keeps the item from ending up on the curb or attic, and makes for reduced costs to the owner over time by lasting longer than a lifetime or two.
If one follows the 'value' logic, you end up with printed paper facings on partical board, big staples and throw away products as well as time, resources and economics. You end up with WalMart and Ikea as well as bulldozed forests and a huge waste stream. You have to - it is the only place that kind of 'value' will go.
I made a conscious choice years ago to pursue the finest levels of my craft, and to honor the work that went before me that Western Civilization was literally built upon. I have met others that, like me, feel that it is important to continue the tradition and produce work the way it would have in the past to keep the skills alive, to follow in the same or similar steps as those before us. I understand it is a matter of degrees, and it is a frequent point of discussion as to where each individual chooses to draw the line. Even Chippendale had to hold back his workers for a client that did not have the financial horsepower to have the best.
If you look at it as "if I don't do it for XXXprice, then they won't place an order", you are working by dictation. It is thought (tho' debated) that it is better to sell what you make rather than make what you sell. That notion alone is worthy of long reflection.
If you read or talk to successful craftspeople, you will hear something different coming from them, and it is not about making things to fit a price point. Quite the opposite.
I have met makers that have never opened a book on design, or historical photos, or anything to do with precedent other than a google search, and see no reason for the Golden Section, or historical precedent or even good practice. Then there are others that show up at a museum to meet with a curator and they have their wooden measuring instruments, pencils and note pad, as they carefully take a day or two to measure and photograph a piece for reproduction. Or spend hours making models and drafting and working out details before the first board is cut.
Visit the struggling shops and you will hear something more like chasing the wrong kind of "value" - "we can't compete with Home Depot" or Mexicans, or Chinese, or the guy down the street. "I don't need much more than $25.00 per hour...."
Technically, a pocket screw joint will allow the butt glued parts to move in service since the only real hold is mechanical. A tenoned joint will lock in the center third of the joint, so if one piece of wood moves in service, it can only move in 1/3 of its thickness, not the full thickness as with a pocket joint. The glue surface is what holds in a tenon joint - provides the mechanical holding. Butt glue joints are not even joints, as well all know.
I have seen the ever popular carpenter made pocket screwed stile and rail paneling joints that after a few years have moved to out of level. Screws are still tight, but the joint is no longer level and has cracked paint or finish. The fact is, the owner may not even complain, not knowing it as a defect (a huge problem - for another day...). Or worse, the maker doesn't know it as a defect, or even 'worser' yet, has told the owner, "Well you know, it is wood...."
Whoa.... hang on everyone. Is this thread about the merits of screws and joinery? Or about who's the customer?
"My contractor jumped all over me when I mentioned I ordered a pocket hole jig."
Seems to me the OP and the contractor need to have a meeting of the minds as to who is doing the joinery and how, and more importantly who's customer and who's the contractor.
Any contractor that "jumps all over me," raises second thoughts as to a potential replacement.