Making a Pocket Hole Jig With Your Router




 In my former life I worked in a cabinet shop, and was exposed to all sorts of fanciful, specialized tools that most homeowners simply can't justify the expense for, like a $20,000 sliding carriage table saw.  Or, even more modestly, a couple of hundred dollar pocket hole machine.

Having used and liked the pocket hole machine, I decided to build my own, using a router I found for a song at a yard sale, and with scrap plywood I got at the cabinet shop.  The one I made was many moons old, and looks much worse for the wear, so it is modeled and rendered in 3D for your viewing pleasure.

Step 1: Commercial Versions and Basic Use

There are some machines that are full size floor model machines, but the one that I based this design on was a Porter Cable bench tool that I used in the cabinet shop I worked in.

It is basically a router set up with a handle and a pivot.  The picture is the only one I could find, and is of bad quality after zooming in and taking a screen shot.

The basic use of one consists of putting a board (usually) horizontally and the router bit either swings from the top or the bottom and creates an arced pocket so that you can basically toenail a screw into a board and it lets you butt joint two boards together.

Also shown is a picture of what the joint itself looks like- chances are that you have seen this on furniture even if you didn't know what it was.

There are also jigs you clamp on and use a drill with, the most notable being by Kreg.  You can make those homemade as well, but I wanted a machine based version with a more dedicated setup.  All other options were more expensive than I wanted to invest, so I made my own similar to the bench top model I was familiar with.

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Materials (I made most of my pieces out of 3/4" plywood because that's what I had access to)

Dimensions will largely depend on your router, but there are some other considerations
(3) sides
(1) base
(3) pieces threaded rod (there is an alternative design method I will try to remember to discuss that would only need one piece of threaded rod)
(3) wing nuts
(1) hinge and screws
(1) adjustable height support
(1) router mounting plate

Table saw
Drill or drill press

Step 3: Shaping Up Your Parts

There is a router mounting plate that needs to be sized first, and the size depends on the router that you choose to use in the jig and its base size and shape, & mounting screw pattern.

The design of this fixture is such that there is an adjustment plate supported byt hree threaded rods and wing nuts, which allows for the fixation and adjustment of the plate.  The sizing of this adjustment plate will be based on the size of the router plate.  They should be approximately the same width, and about the same relations as shown in the pictures.

There are intended to be three upright supports or sides.  These need to be sized according tot he final size of the adjustment plate.  Each side needs to have a straight slot in it to allow for the height adjustment of the adjustment plate.

The base needs to be sized to attach all three sides to, and ideally will protrude as shown to support the workpiece that the pocket is being cut in.

It is important that the work gets clamped down to the base, because the feature of this jig is to make a radial plunge cut into your material, which will not make the material very easy to hold down while manipulating the jig.

I put an elongated handle on the side of mine, which you can either make separate or you can design into the router attachment plate.

Step 4: Assembly

Most of the assembly should be straightforward- as you can see going from the exploded view to the assembled view, the sides all attach to the base, and ideally to each other.  I didn't originally design it that way, but should have.

Holes need to be put in the adjustment plate that match up with the slots in the uprights, and threaded rods secured into the adjustment plate.  Depending on how you do this, you may have to put the sides together around the adjustment plate and then affix them to the base so as to capture the plate and rods.  I drilled holes in the plywood and epoxied the rods in place, then assembled the sides around the adjustment plate.

The hinge needs to be mounted to the adjustment plate and to the router plate as shown in the pictures.

It is best  to still use a pocket hole drill bit after you create the pocket, or you can use a drill bit from the opposite side, but you will need to practice lining the holes up so that you don't break your screws.

Step 5: Alternate Design

I thought about this and figured it might be smarter to have two guides on the sides instead of the threaded rods.  if you have the two guides on the sides you can just have the one threaded rod in the back, which would make this easier to adjust and set up for sure.

In the picture I have shown the jig with one side removed and one guide.  Obviously you would need to resize the slots in the sides to accommodate the  supports, but it should be much easier to set up and adjust with this alternate design.

Step 6: Visual Aid

Here is a simple drawing until I can get pictures of the actual machine.  

As far as operation goes:
-you lift the router by the handle (you would basically be looking at the bottom of the router bit)
-the board you want the pocket hole in goes on the base of the pocket hole machine, and needs to be clamped down
-once clamped, you turn on the router and lower the handle.  Because of the swing of the hinge, the router swings into the board, making a sweeping plunge cut, which makes a swept pocket.

You have to adjust the height of the router to not cut all the way through the board and to cut deep enough.  It works just like other pocket hole machines, with some examples of other machines in step one.



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    14 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    im looking to make one eventually, the simple steel ones that you use a stepped drill with, that ive seen are over £85 and i cant understand why they would ever be worth that, you dont even get the screws or stepped drill bit with it!!!!

    Ive seen Norm abram on New yankee workshop use a little one that he just clamps on but i cant find one like that anywhere.

    Good instructable.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    kreg makes a tiny little one that costs about £15
    or there is this one where you get a little more for your money


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I would like to know the length of the pocket slot ? Looking at the design I think it would be rather short based on the radius from the hinge to the end of the router bit.

    I made my own pockethole machine using a regular style kreg jig. I can now drill these holes with just two fingures, I have a demo up on utube under cabinetmanwayne. Look for my homemade pockethole machine. It cost about $25 dollars for the parts if you allready have a jig and drill and some scrap plywood. Drills and clamps with one handle. Going to start selling plans on ebay. Have a look at my demo.

    This is an absolutely great idea... I tried this and it made a perfect and super fast pocket-screw mortise (only); but I had no problem what-so-ever in guiding in a standard drill bit and screw completely free-hand in the angle and direction desired. And, it makes buying the expensive step bits and special screws totally unnecessary; wonderful!


    8 years ago on Step 5

    This is an absolutely great idea... I tried this and it made a perfect and super fast pocket-screw mortise (only); but I had no problem what-so-ever in guiding in a standard drill bit and screw completely free-hand in the angle and direction desired. And, it makes buying the expensive step bits and special screws totally unnecessary; wonderful!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good concept, I made mine with very few revisions. your background in mass production is obvious to me,but maybe not to less dedicated wood workers. novices might miss the fact that as presented this unit will only create only the pockets, other means have to be supplied for the holes. I did add a piece of Lexan in line with the centerline of the router to line up my layout to. I can envision my next version with a squaring fence and a much deeper  throat.
    Thanks for the preliminaries, I might have missed adding a valuable piece to my shop. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Hopefully step 6 is some elaboration until I can get pictures or video of the actual machine.  It has yet to make the move with me, but when it makes it home I will get pictures at least, and hopefully a video, too.  Admittedly it helps to be familiar with the industrial machine.  

    One intent with making this machine is that it is much more production friendly than the jigs.  If you have a fence set up or some sort of fixed guide, (safety nazis do not read ahead) you can even cut the holes without clamping down the board every time, which makes for a much faster system.  That does create more of a safety concern, but I still have all ten fingers, toes, both eyes, etc. and never worried about losing them with this machine in the shop.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I have to agree, I have no idea how you get a hole on an angle into a board with this. Where do you put the board? Can you post a video of it in use, and the results?


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    Are you familiar with a pocket hole machine and this just doesn't make sense, or are you not familiar with a pocket hole machine?

    I will try to show some pictures of what a pocket hole is if that would help, and maybe I can find a picture of an industrial-made pocket hole machine as well for comparison and explanation.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Even though it may look the worse for wear could you add some photographs of the device, possibly arranged as it was in use?



    9 years ago on Step 4

    I'm familiar with pocket holes  using the Kreg system, but perhaps not a pocket hole machine.  Some comparison would be helpful.