Learn how to use a Kreg Jig R3 to build furniture with this straightforward tutorial. Step by step photo process walks you through the whole process!
A couple years back, at the very beginning of my DIY journey, I told my dad I wanted to build a drop down table for the “craft area” of my condo. This table, to be exact.
That Christmas, he showed up at my condo ready to walk me through the process, with a Kreg Jig R3 wrapped and ready to be opened Christmas morning. To this day, it remains the best Christmas present he’s ever gotten me.
That little table was my first experience using a Kreg Jig. Since then, I’ve used it countless times, on major furniture builds (oh hello, TV Lift Cabinet), smaller projects (this monitor riser is super useful,) and projects where it just plain came in handy (butcherblock countertops… the easy way.)
Every single time I marvel a bit on how easy it makes joining wood, a task that not too long ago required expert woodworking skills to complete.
Since I use it so often, and reference it so frequently in my tutorials, I thought I’d write a detailed post on how to use it. That way, I don’t have to keep writing mini-lessons on Kreg Jigs in each post. So, here we go!
Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)
Part 1: Kreg Jig R3 Basics
When you open up your Kreg Jig R3 carrying case for the first time, you’re greeted with something like this:
Hopefully yours is a little less dusty…
There are three tools and an Allen wrench. The large, plastic, rectangular piece is the primary piece that will guide your drill bit as you make the hole. The other two pieces are for drilling the hole, and screwing the screw.
While the four pieces in the above picture are what you’re technically purchasing, I’ll note here that the instructions and carrying case are actually pretty important as well.
The instructions have a useful table that explains what screw size to use when, and while I’ll list it out below, it’s handy to have near your Kreg Jig R3.
The carrying case is necessary for measuring the drill bit to the correct settings, as you’ll see in the next step. Point here: Try extra hard not to lose the instructions and/or carrying case.
Part 2: The Settings
The Kreg Jig R3 needs to be adjusted to fit the thickness of wood you’re using, so start by determining your wood’s thickness.
Be careful here, as the nominal size of the wood isn’t necessarily the actual thickness of the wood. For example, a 1″ x 2″ piece of wood is actually 3/4″ thick. If you’re unsure, measure.
This scrap piece I’ll demonstrate on is 3/4″ thick.
If the boards you’re using are two different thicknesses, use the measurement of the thinner board.
Once you have your measurement, set the primary guide (the plastic rectangular thing) to match. The arrows carved into the plastic should be aligned with the thickness of your board.
For example, in the photo below, the arrows in the plastic match up with the 3/4″ markings. This is because I measured my piece to be 3/4″ thick.
To move the grey sides, press the tabs on the bottom (see picture below) in. That should allow you to adjust each grey side.
Remember to adjust both sides!
In addition to the primary guide, the drill bit needs to be set as well. Set the twist drill bit into its place in the carrying case, making sure the tip of the drill bit is all the way forward.
Then loosen the round piece with the Allen wrench, and arrange it so that the top just touches the measurement of your wood. See picture:
Then tighten with the Allen wrench.
Now you’re ready to drill!
Part 3: Drill Holes
Set the primary guide of your Kreg Jig R3 on the edge of the wood where you want the screw to ultimately go. Make sure the grey pieces are flat against the wood, then clamp into place.
I typically have the piece clamped to my workbench or sawhorse, depending on the size of the piece I’m working with.
Then drill your hole. It doesn’t matter which of the two holes you use; both will create identical pocket holes. Thus, choose the hole you drill into based on where you want the screw to be.
Push the drill as far into the hole as you can, until it hits the circular stop that you created in step 2. Then back the drill out of the hole, and enjoy your pocket hole!
It creates a bit of a mess, no?
I typically drill all the pocket holes that need to go into a piece at once, so at this point I’d drill any other holes that will ultimately be needed. In this example, that was just one other hole.
Part 4: Attaching the Pieces
I just want to throw out here that many plans have various steps between “drill the holes” and “attach the pieces,” but since I’m doing this as a demonstration, I’ll attach the pieces right away.
In the instructions provided with the Kreg Jig R3, there’s a table of wood thickness and corresponding screw sizes. This is important, and is the primary reason not to lose your instructions. But if you and the instructions have already parted, I’ve included the table below for reference.
|Material Thickness||Screw Length|
|1 1/8″||1 1/2″|
|1 1/2″||2 1/2″|
You’ll want the screw length that corresponds with the thickness of your wood. If you have two pieces of different thicknesses, you’ll once again want the thickness of the thinner piece.
So as an example, the pieces I’m using in this example are 3/4″ thick, so my screw length should be 1 1/4″ thick.
When purchasing screws, you’ll have the choice between coarse thread and fine thread screws. Coarse thread screws are intended for softwoods, and composite materials (plywood, MDF, particle board, etc,) while fine thread screws are for hardwoods.
Most of the time I use coarse screws, since I frequently work with pine and other soft woods.
The screws I used with a 3/4″ piece.
Once you’ve selected your screws, clamp the pieces of wood. Kreg sells special clamps specifically for attaching pocket holes, but honestly I’ve never used them. I’ve always found a way to secure the pieces with normal clamps.
That being said, it’s really important to clamp your pieces. If you can’t figure out a way to clamp your pieces for your purpose, it might be worth purchasing the fancy Kreg clamp.
Un-clamped pieces have a tendency to move around, even if you think they’re secure. This could lead to splitting your wood, which is incredibly frustrating after putting hours into a project.
For this project, and most tabletops I’ve made (see TV lift cabinet and coffee table project,) I’ve clamped my pieces like this:
Once the pieces are clamped (and wood glue is added if necessary), drive the screws!
Then you should have two attached pieces!
Can I use pocket holes on plywood?
Yes! Use the coarse-thread screws, and you should be fine!
Should you glue pocket hole joints?
I typically do – it makes the joint stronger, so there’s really no reason not to.
How much is a pocket hole jig?
Obviously this varies based on store and sales, but typically the Kreg Jig R3 is around $30. There are a number of other pocket hole jigs, both by the Kreg brand and others that range in cost from $20 to $500.
Will any screw work in a pocket hole?
No. You should be using pocket holes screws. They’re self-drilling, and result in a tighter joint. While theoretically you could use a normal wood screw, doing so risks cracking the wood and results in a less secure joint.
The Kreg Jig R3 is an easy and affordable way to provide secure joints between two pieces of wood, and if you don’t have it yet, I 100% think it’s worth the investment.
I’ve used it in so many projects that it was definitely worth the $40-ish dollars my dad paid for it (thanks Dad!) It’s the only Kreg Jig I have, and I’ve never felt the need to purchase a larger or more expensive one.
If you just got the Kreg Jig R3, and are looking for some projects to get you started, check out my Welcome Home sign and Sunflower Mirror projects. They’re simple projects that both use the Kreg Jig.
My Monitor Riser Desk Organizer is a bit more advanced, but results in something super useful to have around!
Finally, if you found this useful, go ahead and save it to Pinterest so you can find it again later!
Thursday 30th of January 2020
Thank you very much for showing me how to use the R3. I watched dinner YouTube videos but they didn't address the process in detailed like you did here.
Tuesday 4th of February 2020
So glad you found it helpful!