Review By Dean Bielanowski  Kreg Website - http://www.kregtool.com


Kreg R3 Pocket Hole Joinery Kit
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

Regular visitors to the site will probably be familiar with the Kreg line of pocket hole joinery products, as we have reviewed both the K2000 and newer K3 models in the past, as well as some of the associated accessories that go with them. Now Kreg has manufactured and released another version of the pocket hole jig - the Kreg R3.

The Kreg R3 is designed to offer pocket hole joinery to the regular DIY'er at an affordable price. There is no doubt that pocket hole joinery is a very fast and strong way of joining wood, in many forms and angles, so is this just the kit for the DIY user or should they head straight for the "professional" offerings of the K3 Master kit (as an example) and spend that little bit more? Or perhaps you are wondering what the differences are between the Kreg Rocket (R2) Kit and the R3 kit? Well, let's take a look at what the new Kreg R3 kit can do, and hopefully we can answer those questions...

What's in the Box?
As with most Kreg kit offerings, they supply pretty much everything you will need right in the box, however, the small sample of screws included will soon diminish, so a trip to your local Kreg supplier or pocket hole screw retailer will be in order to collect more. You will also need your own clamp if you do not already have a Kreg face clamp.

In the kit itself you will find:

  • Kreg R3 Pocket Hole Jig
  • Clamp Pad Adaptor
  • Special Stepped Drill Bit
  • Depth Collar (with Allen Wrench)
  • 6" Square-Drive Driver Bit
  • Small assortment of sample screws and plugs

This all comes in its own plastic molded carry case. And this is one case to keep, because on the inside of the case you have a reference guide outlining the depth collar setting and recommended screw length required for each material thickness option. This will speed up the joinery process and ensure the correct setup when working with varying width materials. Additionally, alongside the stepped drill holding area is a guide to help you position the depth collar correctly for the material thickness being used. So don't go throwing that case away! You will need it... or at least make a copy of the information so you can refer to it later if you plan to ditch it. The case itself is pretty small - I don't see any practical reason to get rid of it. It keeps everything handy and helps avoid loss of the included components. And speaking of components, let's go through them one by one in detail...

6" Square Driver Bit
We will start here because it is the simplest! The 6" square driver bit (size #2) basically allows you to drive the square drive screws used in pocket hole joinery. Square drive screws are, I believe, the future of fasteners. It is very difficult to strip the head of a square drive screw, unlike regular Philips head and other older drive designs. Plus the square drive allows maximum torque with almost no bit slippage when driving the screw. If you have ever used a square drive screw before (in whatever application), chances are you haven't gone back to conventional screw tip drive designs. Square drive is far superior, not to mention much less frustrating to work with! The 6" length of the square drive bit is necessary to drive the screw deep into the created pocket without having the drill foul on the material edges (because of the angle the screw is driven).

Stepped Drill Bit and Depth Collar
This drill bit is what creates the "pocket hole" into which the screws are designed. It is a stepped drill because the stepped part of the drill actually creates a shoulder for which the pan-head pocket hole screws sit against to provide clamping force to the joint. There is a smaller diameter drill section just below the stepped section which drills a pilot hole close to the edge of the workpiece. When using pocket hole joinery, only one of the two pieces to be joined receives the drilled pocket holes, the other piece remains untouched. The special self-drilling pocket hole screws drill their own pilot hole (so to speak) in the second piece as you drive them, so pre-drilling both pieces is not necessary before joining them. Below is an example cutaway image to help show how the joint goes together and how the screws sit in the pocket hole:

The depth collar is used to prevent the drill bit drilling further into the wood then it needs to. It is set at different distances from the drill bit tip depending on the thickness of the material you are using. The last thing you want is for the pocket hole to be over-drilled and blast out the end or edge of your workpiece, essentially ruining it. Setting depth adjustment is simple. Just use the reference guide in the storage case to set the correct depth stop for the material thickness being used. An allen wrench is provided to secure the depth collar to the bit.

Kreg R3 Pocket Hole Jig
This is the "meat and potatoes" of the system. Essentially, the R3 jig provides the means by which to accurately drill the angles required to create pocket holes. It is very difficult to drill pocket holes freehand. You can of course do them using a drill press (a radial arm drill press makes the job easier), but the fact is, that particular method requires a lot of setup time. Using the R3 jig and a standard corded or cordless power drill is much simpler. Take into account too that a lot of pocket hole joinery is done "on site" or right on the location of installation, so a drill press just wont work in these instances. The R3 is certainly the fastest way of the two to drill pocket holes where "in situ" joinery in required.

The R3 jig features two hardened steel drill guides which are actually backed by a lifetime warranty. If these are the same guides as on the K3, I dare say they will last the distance as I have used my K3 jig quite a lot so far and there is no sign of any damage or wear to the steel guides on that jig. I use a light lubricant and anti-rust spray on them now and then to help reduce friction and heat on the drill bit during use. The drill guides are angled to the body at 15 degrees to provide the right angle for the drill bit to drill the pocket hole. On the top side of each guide is a relief cut out of the jig body to aid chip and debris removal. In general, these work relatively well, and because with this type of jig you will be moving it when one or both holes are drilled in the one location, buildup of debris is not usually on issue on the jig.. Drilling the pocket holes in steps (i.e. plunge drill bit in, then remove, plunge then remove etc will also aid in removing all debris and produce a clean pocket hole while reducing friction heat buildup, hence prolonging the life of the drill bit. This is more so the case when drilling denser hardwoods. A sharp Kreg stepped drill bit powers through softwoods quickly and easily, especially when attached to a corded drill spinning at higher revolutions.

Now, in practice, the R3 performs the same end function as the more complete K2000 and K3 Master systems, however, the R3 is the most portable. It is also similar to the Kreg Rocket jig released a few years ago, however, the rocket required the manual addition of spacers to perform setup on different thickness materials, whereas the R3 does not. On the R3, there are two sliders (one on each side) that can be adjusted to suit the material thickness you are working with (the R3 can be used to join material from 1/2" to 1 1/2" thick). Simply push each slider grip end in and slide it into position so the arrow on the underside of the R3 body matches with the scale marking on each slider indicating the material thickness being used (see photos). Bear in mind that this setting is usually set for the material thickness of the piece that is receiving the pocket hole itself. The R3 can join materials of differing thicknesses, and in these cases, the thing that changes for the mating piece is the length of screw used. Adjusting the sliders correctly ensures the Pilot hole and pocket screw will protrude exactly through the center of the material's edge, and also ensure that (when used with the correct length screw) the screw will not exit the mating piece material on the underside and remain within the material itself. At the end of each slider is a small tab which projects below the plane of the underside of the body. These tabs are used to butt the R3 up against the edge of the material you will be drilling pocket holes in and ensure correct square-ness and alignment of the jig. Each slider moves independently of the other. This means you can offset each slider on an angle so the jig can also be used effectively for miter joins (see photos).

Clamp Pad Adaptor
The clamp pad adaptor is designed to attach to the top of the R3 jig. It is used in conjunction with the Kreg face clamps (sold separately). The face clamp simply slides into the clamp pad adaptor and is held in place on the R3 jig via the clamp pad. This may not sound like anything special, but if you have used one of the other portable Kreg pocket hole jigs in the past (i.e. the Rocket or Mini-Jig) you might have discovered that attaching the clamp can sometimes be a little tricky and the clamp can sometimes slide off the jig as you tighten it. While it wasn't a major issue, just a minor inconvenience on occasion, it is good to see that the addition of the clamp pad adaptor has now removed this problem. It is now very simple to attach the R3 jig to any material in any location, and with the use of only one hand in many instances. This not only speeds up work, but reduces or eliminates the possibility of frustration! Thumbs up to Kreg R&D department for this little addition.

Common Applications
The R3 kit and associated jigs can be used for a wide variety of joints:
 

Common Pocket Hole Uses

  • Butt Joints
  • Mitered Corners
  • Face Frames
  • Angled Joints
  • Carcass Production
  • Curves
  • Post and Rail Legs
  • Beveled 90 Degree Corners
  • Table Tops and Aprons
  • Edge Banding
  • Window and Door Jam Extensions
  • Stairs
  • Shelving

In Use
The R3 jig is used in a similar manner to the older Kreg Rocket, however the addition of the depth slides, clamp pad and reference tabs make aligning and securing the R3 jig quite a lot faster, meaning you can drill more pocket holes in less time. There were no real problems experienced during our tests. Just ensure the depth collar on the drill bit remains tight, as this is the only potential issue that could arise if the collar slips, causing overdrilling of material. While we had no issue with this, it is worth keeping in mind to check it every now and then.

As I have used other Kreg products in the past, setup of the jig was fairly straightforward with regards to choosing settings and the right screws for the job. However, even if you are new to pocket hole joinery, you will have this "tool" figured out in less than 10 minutes. It is very user friendly and difficult to make a mistake!

I used the R3 to drill pocket holes to attach riser boards to a set of "open" stairs recently. Some pocket holes were made in the riser boards themselves (to attach to the stair treads) and some to the stair stringers to secure the risers to those. I was able to do both right at the jobsite with just the Kreg R3 jig, a corded drill with the stepped drill bit installed, and a cordless drill with the #2 square driver chucked up. Using two drills makes the job much easier, and while a corded drill is better suited to drilling the actual pocket holes, these can be drilled just as well with a cordless drill, albeit a little slower.

Pocket hole joinery is a fast and strong method of joinery that can be used in many applications. While some applications are better suited for this form of joinery (i.e. where the pocket holes will not be seen on rear sides of face frames, or for stair construction etc) you can also use it to add a designer touch to projects where the joints will indeed be visible. In these projects, you simply plug/cover the pocket holes with the special Kreg pocket hole plugs (which are available in a variety of species and in man-made materials for various projects). And not to forget that the R3 is great for little projects where joints have come loose that require re-securing (like chair joints for example). The R3 is great for these applications too

I was pretty amazed when I starting using my first Kreg jig product over four years ago now (the K2000). That level of excitement still remains with the later Kreg products, namely the K3 system, and now with this new portable R3 system.

If you are new to pocket-hole joinery, or just want to give it a try to see what all the fuss is about, the R3 offers a cost-effective introduction to the system, and what's better, it can do pretty much all the larger systems can do as well (just not as fast in some applications). Priced at around US$45 for the R3 kit, the value for money factor is certainly there.

I personally recommend this tool. I don't think you can buy a better quality tool that gets the job done for the same price. And check out the photos of my stair enclosure project to the right for proof of results :)

 

Available to Order Online through these companies...
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Rockler.com (USA)

Kreg Jig R3
Kreg Jig R3


As reviewed!

Kreg Face Clamp
Kreg Face Clamp

Kreg™ 675-Pc. Self-Tapping Pocket Hole Screw Kit
Kreg™ 675-Pc. Self-Tapping Pocket Hole Screw Kit

Amazon.com (USA)
Hartville Tools (USA)

Kreg R3 Kit

Kreg R3 Photos
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Use without prior written permission prohibited


The boxed R3 kit


Inside you find this...


The R3 jig ready to go.


Note the hardened drill guides and the notched slides for matching material thickness.


On the underside you can see the various thickness settings. Here the jig is set for use on 1/2" material.


Note the reference tabs hanging over the edge of this piece of melamine.


Use the case tray to set your depth collar correctly. Here it is set for 3/4" material.


Don't know what settings or screws to use? Just look at the table inside the case... too easy!


The clamp pad adaptor added to the R3 jig.


The Kreg face clamp (not included) is attached to the R3 jig via the clamp adaptor. Very handy!


Here you can see how the drill bit runs in the drill guides at that important pocket hole angle.


Application shot showing use of a standard F-style clamp.


Independent sliders allow mitered joints to be made.


My first Kreg R3 project. Here the R3 is clamped to the stringer to cut pocket holes to secure the riser boards to fill in an "open" staircase.


Using the R3 to make the pocket holes in the riser boards.


The riser boards now installed in the existing staircase to fully enclose it.


The finished product. Riser boards fully installed, and no sign of any fasteners from the outside! They look great! And yes, I need to clean the dust off the treads :)

 

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