Adjusting Pocket Hole Machines for Different Material Thicknesses

      Each machine has its own little tricks. January 21, 2007

I normally use 3/4" for my cabinet sides, but am building some cabinets for a contractor using 1/2" material. I've only had my Kreg Foreman for a short time and these are the first 1/2" sides I've used it on. I'm using the 3/8" spacer they recommend in the manual and tried it on some scrap material. I'm using a 1" pocket screw and I notice that the screw head is protruding proud of the face. When I used my Kreg jig on 1/2" material, I'm pretty certain that the screw head was flush, or even slightly under the face. I'm just wondering if I'm missing an adjustment somewhere, or if that is just the way it is. I'm just thinking ahead. Sometime in the future if I wanted to slap a finished end panel on 1/2" material, I'd have to remove the screws.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor H:
You need to change the depth setting so that it drills a deeper pocket. You may have to also adjust the entry point back from the edge. My Detel machine can do this, but I'm not sure if the Forman can. If it doesn't, you may be able to move the fence. Try some samples. I have found a perfect balance of entry and depth bore on my pockethole machine where I can switch from 1/2 to 5/8 or 3/4 and only vary the screw length. It took some time to do this, but I never have to change any settings now. I use 1" screws with 1/2", 1 1/8 with 5/8" and 1 1/4 with 3/4" thickness material.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for the reply. You're right, I need to adjust the entry point. I haven't messed with it enough on 1/2 material yet. I've tried a couple of different things, including moving the fence slightly and that is a key element, but maybe I didn't move it enough. Your Detel sounds interesting. I'll have to do a search and take a look at it. I was hoping someone had already figured this out on the Foreman and could lend some knowledge.

From contributor B:
Check your book. You should just move the fence closer so the bit is aimed at exiting the board a little lower than it does for 3/4" stock. Then adjust the drilling depth. I don't know how you make that adjustment on the Foreman. Run a couple pieces of scrap.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the reply. I had a little more time to mess with it this morning. It appears that at one time or another (only had the Foreman for about three months) the fence had been changed 1/4" or so from what the manual recommends. I don't recall doing it, but maybe I did, or maybe it came that way. Anyway, to make a long story short, after readjusting the fence, it works fine on 1/2" material now by just sliding a spacer against the fence. Just like the manual says, duh.

From contributor F:
On my Castle machine I put a sheet of HPL on the table top (shimming the wood upwards about 1/16") for 1/2" material. I do pocket holes in my 1/2" (12mm) Baltic birch drawer parts. The HPL isn't glued down, just sits there. Works great!

From the original questioner:
That's interesting too. I'm not familiar with Castle machine, but when you use the HPL, does that eliminate changing the depth of the bit? It's really not too bad just throwing the spacer against the fence, but if one could figure out a way to make it work like contributor H's and not have to change the depth of the drill (on the Foreman), it would be even handier yet. Not that I'm lazy, mind ya, and it only takes a few seconds to change the depth, just always looking for quicker, easier, more profitable, less stress, and fewer chances of mistakes. I need easy - I have many, many tape measures and pencils strategically located around my shop, I'm just never certain where the locations are.

From contributor H:
The motor on my Detel rides on a double rod shaft and has a knurled knob for depth adjustment. If the Forman does not have this, then stick to the jigs as others have mentioned, as it is pretty foolproof. Because of the adjustments on my machine, I was able to find the right combo of depth and angle that works for both thicknesses without having to readjust each time.

From contributor A:
I just received my PC pocket cutter yesterday. The instructions (I've started reading them as I've gotten older) say to set up the machine for the standard width face frames. When you cut 1/2 to 5/8 material, you need to use a shim that is 1/8" thick. It recommends making it out of hardboard the same size as the machine top. Save it and use it when needed. Just clamp it on and cut, no other adjustment needed.

From the original questioner:
I can see 1/8" on the 5/8" material, but I'd think for 1/2" it would need to be 1/4" or so. I finished some cabinets and I'm spraying doors today, so I'll have a little extra time between coats to experiment.

From contributor F:
On my Castle machine (same setup basically as a PC), I tried 1/8" plywood for 1/2" materials and the pocket was not deep enough. The 1/16" HPL is perfect. Not doing anything at all makes for a very thin area just above the pocket. Playing with shims is easy - grab some scrap and bore away! I see no reason why it wouldn't work with a Foreman (I looked at one the other day - nice machine!). Just they got the angle wrong. At least you don't have to deal with screaming routers and a fussy machine like the Castle.

From contributor H:
I think it is time for everyone to start thinking outside the box. For the longest time there have been arguments over Castle vs. Kreg with a little Ritter thrown in for flavor. The same thing happens with Altendorf vs. Martin when it comes to table saws. I am not a salesman for Adwood, but have had great success with the Detel 50 spindle line borer and the Detel pocket hole machine. This pocket holer is around 2400-2700.00 and has a large European industrial motor with two different angles of entry; it's pneumatic, quiet, powerful and easy to adjust for depth and speed of entry. It has a pneumatic hold-down that can be adjusted in 3 seconds for 1/2 to 3/4 and thicker material. No routers to wear out. It is not a 750.00 Forman price-wise, but is far superior to the Castle machine and I have owned all of them.

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