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  • Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

    All the drawer boxes I have made have been machine dovetailed. This particular drawer box is 14" deep and the limits of my dovetail jig are 12". I decided to try pocket screwing some together but have not had any success. I am using 1/2 nominal birch, cabinet grade, plywood stock. First the pocket screw washer head protruded from the drawer box side. I called Keller and, as suggested, bought some of their washerless 1" screws, Lowes carries them. I set the stop collar at 3 1/4 inches from the shoulder of the drill bit, as told by Keller - I think it should be set 3 1/4 inches from the tip of the bit - and now not only does the head still protrude from the side of the box, although not as much as with the integrated washer type screw, the tip of the screw comes out the front of the drawer box approximately 1/8".

    I could have hand dovetailed the drawer boxes together in less time than I spent fooling with those pocket screws. In frustration I glued and nailed the boxes together and plan to glue and screw blocks to the inside corners. The drawer box will be used to store light, bulky items like bike helmets, so I feel pretty sure the nail, glue, glueblocks combination will be strong enough to work. I plan to machine dovetail the other, smaller drawer boxes.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I may be doing wrong with my pocket screw technique? Many of my cabinet making books show using pocket screws to make drawer boxes so it must be workable but the process sure frustrates me.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • #2
    Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

    Sorry I can't help with the pocket screws as I have never used them. This solution is not as good as dovetails but does produce a very strong joint that pulls tight when clamped for glue up and provides ample glue surface.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

      wbrooks,

      Thank you for the suggestion for the drawer lock bits. I attempted to find one yesterday in the Albany, NY area, but since the Woodcraft store has closed my alternatives seem to be limited to mail order. I think I will bite the bullet and order one. Even though I will be completed with the rest of these drawers by the time it arrives I will have it in my arsenal for future considerations.

      Tom

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

        I have a gluejoint bit that came with a Freud cabinet door making set. If I ran one piece horizontally and the other vertically on my router table will that produce an acceptable 90 degree drawer joint?

        Tom

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

          Originally posted by Tom W View Post
          I have a gluejoint bit that came with a Freud cabinet door making set. If I ran one piece horizontally and the other vertically on my router table will that produce an acceptable 90 degree drawer joint?

          Tom
          Interesting. I would think that there would be a problem of strength with the vertial part of the joint. That's because the grain fibre would be cut into short sections when cutting the "fingers" of the joint. Then, when the joint was torqued, all you would have is cross-grain tensile strength holding it together, if that makes sense. It may be worth and experiment though.

          Frank

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

            Seems like a similar bit to the drawer lock. I think it will actually work especially with plywood. Have you checked Home Depot for the drawer lock, they carry them up here in Canada

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

              If the head protrudes and the tip of the screw comes out, then I'd say the screw is too long. Pocket screws for drawers seems odd to me.
              I've used pocket screws for carcases and face frames and they can be a little finicky until you get the hang of optimal screw length and hole depth. With 1/2" ply I'd say you have near zero room for error.
              www.TheWoodCellar.com

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                Originally posted by Tom W View Post
                All the drawer boxes I have made have been machine dovetailed. This particular drawer box is 14" deep and the limits of my dovetail jig are 12". I decided to try pocket screwing some together but have not had any success. I am using 1/2 nominal birch, cabinet grade, plywood stock. First the pocket screw washer head protruded from the drawer box side. I called Keller and, as suggested, bought some of their washerless 1" screws, Lowes carries them. I set the stop collar at 3 1/4 inches from the shoulder of the drill bit, as told by Keller - I think it should be set 3 1/4 inches from the tip of the bit - and now not only does the head still protrude from the side of the box, although not as much as with the integrated washer type screw, the tip of the screw comes out the front of the drawer box approximately 1/8".

                I could have hand dovetailed the drawer boxes together in less time than I spent fooling with those pocket screws. In frustration I glued and nailed the boxes together and plan to glue and screw blocks to the inside corners. The drawer box will be used to store light, bulky items like bike helmets, so I feel pretty sure the nail, glue, glueblocks combination will be strong enough to work. I plan to machine dovetail the other, smaller drawer boxes.

                Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I may be doing wrong with my pocket screw technique? Many of my cabinet making books show using pocket screws to make drawer boxes so it must be workable but the process sure frustrates me.

                Thanks,
                Tom
                Tom
                First most plywoods are not as thick as they claim. 1/2" ply is usually a 1/32 to 1/16 thinner.

                Second using pocket holes will have the pocket hole showing either on the inside or outside of the drawer.

                Third if the drawer is light usage why not simple butt joint or rabbeted joint. The new glues have been proven to be stronger than the wood itself.

                Fourth thre is a simple utility joint cut with a 1/4" dado, a depth setting of 1/4" and a fence setting of 1/4 inch. First with the side board laying flat on the table run the board past the blade. This will cut a slot in the board 1/4" deep, a 1/4" from the edge and 1/4 inch wide.
                Next pass the a front or back with board vertical against the fence and the face, facing the fence past the blade this will cut a tongue a 1/4 deep and 1/4 wide in the board. Apply glue to all surfaces and put them together. If your using Titebond or Elmers wood glue the joint will never fail.
                If looks are important reverse the boards use the front and back for the first cut, cutting the 1/4 slot and then cut the tongue into the side.
                The resulting joint will be very similar to one producted by the drawer router bit you were talking about.
                Rev Ed

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                  What jig, if any, are you using to drill the pocket holes?

                  With 1/2" stock you have, as stated above, nearly zero room for error. However, you can make this work with a little cheating. Factor in that plywood isn't really 1/2" thick and it's an equation leaving little tolerance. You're only going to get about 3/8" bite into the front so it's gotta be maximized...

                  Most jigs angle your pocket hole in at (or around) 15 degrees in order to exit your attachment piece near the center of the end width. Using a 1" washer-head screw means your pocket hole has to have its shoulder at least 1/2" away from the end of the side piece. Now, moving the shoulder way from the end (leaving slightly less than 1/2" going into the front piece) will probably mean your screw head protrudes from the pocket, right?

                  Try putting a thin shim under the end of your jig (maybe 1/8" thick), nearest the end of the side where the screw will be exiting, and put your collar closer to the bit tip. This will result in a lower angle of attack (more horizontal) which should keep your screw head below the surface while also still keeping the screw tip exiting near the center of the end. You might have to set the jig back from the end a tad. Overall, this setup will result in a longer overall pocket that is more parallel than normal to the face of the workpiece.

                  I've never measured bit depth when doing pocket joinery. Just do setup-by-what's-there. Set two pieces side by that are the same thickness as your sides, but with leave a gap between to slide and position your bit, and set your shim in place. Set your front piece in place, vertically, in front of those, but offset from the gap, so you sort of see a cross-section of the front piece and your drill bit "penetration". You can eyeball your bit depth by sliding the bit into position to be 1/8" or so from the face of your front piece, and just lock in the collar at that point.

                  I hope the above made sense and proves helpful. In person, it'd be a 45 second demonstration, but writing it out is so hard!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                    Rev Ed,

                    While looks are not important in this application size is. I have the cases already built and the drawer slides on hand. Drawer width is crutial, I have an inch to play with in the drawer length. If I understand your 1/4" utility cut correctly I should use the second technique of cutting the groove in the drawer fronts and backs first and then cut the tongue into the sides. This should maintain the correct width. If I use 1/2" plywood, I then subtract 1/2" from the total overall length ( 2 x 1/4" additional at each end = 1/2") to give the desired final length. Is this correct? Since I have an inch to play with in drawer length, even if the plywood is not exactly 1/2" it won't matter, but, without subtraction, the drawer should be approximately 1/2" longer.

                    Tom

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                      If someone already suggested this I missed it. I scanned through the responses and didn't see it discussed.

                      Why not use a box joint?

                      A box joint jig is very simple to make and once you have the jig you can cut box joints faster than dovetails with a router and jig.
                      ---------------
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                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                        Originally posted by Tom W View Post
                        Rev Ed,

                        While looks are not important in this application size is. I have the cases already built and the drawer slides on hand. Drawer width is crutial, I have an inch to play with in the drawer length. If I understand your 1/4" utility cut correctly I should use the second technique of cutting the groove in the drawer fronts and backs first and then cut the tongue into the sides. This should maintain the correct width. If I use 1/2" plywood, I then subtract 1/2" from the total overall length ( 2 x 1/4" additional at each end = 1/2") to give the desired final length. Is this correct? Since I have an inch to play with in drawer length, even if the plywood is not exactly 1/2" it won't matter, but, without subtraction, the drawer should be approximately 1/2" longer.

                        Tom
                        I assume you intended to butt the side to front so yes you would lose 1/4" at each end for a total of 1/2".

                        Another suggestion have you thought of using dowels. Do a simple butt joint and then drill each joint 2 or three places and glue in a dowel. Again the strength of this joint will surpass the overall strength of the word.
                        If the dowel is contrasting color it will actually add to the overall look.

                        A third option would be to cut spline or biscut joint. I would use any of these before I used a pocket joint in a drawer.
                        Rev Ed

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                          I use a locked rabbet joint for almost all my drawers. Cut a 1/4 X 1/4 dado 1/4 from the end of the sides, then cut rabbet the front and back 1/4 X 1/4 and insert in the dado.
                          Attached Files
                          Only a surfer knows the feeling. Billabong ca. 1985 or so

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Pocket screw technique for drawer boxes

                            Hi Tom,

                            This thread is pretty old and I'm sure you've solved your problem by now, so I'll post this for anyone who happens to run into the same problem.

                            You never stated what kind of pocket hole jig you're using. I use the Kreg k4 kit and have never had a problem with 1/2" plywood. You must use 1" panhead style screws with this thinner plywood to keep the head from protruding above the surface.

                            Your pocket holes should be drilled on the front and back drawer panels or you'll see them when you open the drawer. I'm assuming that you'll be adding a wood drawer front to cover those pocket holes. The rear ones won't show unless you pull the drawer completely out.

                            The Kreg jig has a scale on the base that allows you to set the drill stop collar at the correct distance for different thickness material. This adjustment makes sure the screw will exit in the middle of the plywood.

                            There's also a scale on the drill guide block that must be adjusted for the correct pocket hole depth. If these are correct, you can't go wrong.

                            If you're not using a Kreg jig, you might need to set your pocket hole depth a little deeper and make sure you're using the right 1' panhead style screws.

                            Good luck!

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