The Kreg K3 Master system is the company's
newest pocket hole joinery system, following on from a long line of
successful pocket hole joinery products going back many years. The
company's K2000 system, which we have reviewed previously on this website,
somewhat popularized pocket hole joinery among the woodworking masses. It
was one of the few systems that was designed for the serious woodworker or
woodworking enthusiast, allowing pocket holes to be created with relative
ease, and in a timely manner. The company also produces a line of
commercial pocket hole machines designed for mass production use. Since
the K3, several other manufacturers have produced pocket hole jigs, but
the Kreg line remains the favorite among the majority of enthusiast and
semi-professional woodworkers and cabinetmakers. So let's take a look at
the latest offering from Kreg, the K3 master system, and see what
improvements have been made in the latest model over their popular,
earlier K2000 pack. You will also notice we have included our existing
reviews of various Kreg accessories and products to the end of this
review, so new readers have a chance to read up on our thoughts on these
optional extras, which also complement the K3 Master system equally well.
What's In the Box?
Well, the K3 system actually comes in two versions, a standard kit
system and the Master kit system, the Master kit system has everything the
standard kit system includes, plus more. This review will be primarily
dealing with the K3 Master System (the full kit) but we will talk about
the contents of the standard system also so you can tell the
difference between the two, as well as find out what operational
limitations the standard kit has over the Master kit.
To begin with, the master kit ships in a plastic molded
carry case. It is a useful case because it allows you to keep everything
together, and most importantly, offers protection from damage in transit,
or in storage. But I doubt this kit will remain in storage for any length
of time... pocket holes are a very fast, effective and strong joinery
method, and I have used the K2000 system extensively in the past for
making pocket hole joints, and will continue to do so with the new K3 kit.
Package Contents (Master Kit):
A Closer Look at the Components...
As you can see from the list, the Master system comprises several
individual components that can be assembled to the benchtop base
to perform extra or additional functions. Some of these components can
work on their own, and the combination of components used will vary from
task to task. The benchtop base is, however, the main bench component of
the product, and is included in the Master system only. It is designed to
be secured to your workbench for use via screws, however, it is
recommended to mount the system to a piece of suitably thick plywood or
MDF and then clamp this to your bench (saves your worktop). Securing the
base down provides stability and accuracy during use. The Benchtop base
incorporates its own set of handy features. To begin with, on each side of
the base are drill collar depth adjustment scales. These help you set the
depth collar for the stepped drill bit at the exact location for the
thickness of material you are using. This measurement, along with the
height of the drill guide block (discussed below) are the two important
measurements to set for accurate pocket holes. Don't be scared off by the
accuracy talk however, the settings for both the depth collar and drill
guide height are extremely easy to obtain and set. It's child's play
really. And if you get stuck, the printed manual has all the instructions
you will need, along with excellent line art images. On one side of the
base, there are depth stop indicators for 1/2", 3/4", 1 1/4" and 1 1/2".
On the other are the markings for 5/8", 7/8", 1", 1 1/8" and 1 3/8"
In front of the upright (vertical) section
of the benchtop base are further markings etched into the base. These
markings, arranged in a ruler-type scale from 1/2" to 1 1/2" are designed
to show you where the screw will exit the pocket hole once created. The
screw will generally exit from the midpoint of the thickness of the
material if you have set everything up right, but there may be occasions
where you might want to offset the exit point of the screw, and these base
markings play an important role in getting it right.
The benchtop base includes an integrated clamp which is now operated from
the front side of the unit, directly in front of the user. On the older
K2000 model, the clamp locking lever was operated from the back of the
unit, and you had to reach around to clamp and unclamp materials, which
was a an issue if you had a large piece to work on. It does
seem to appear that the front-mounted clamp may actually get in the way of
the user, but this is not the case. In use, there is plenty of clearance
between the user and the K3 jig, and there is a natural distance created
because of the angle the drill guides place the user in when drilling
pocket holes. I can say that having the K3 clamp operated from the front
of the jig is much better than having it at the rear. There is less
reaching, less back ache (particularly if you are doing a lot of pocket
hole drilling in one session) and it seems easier to hold material to the
base while applying clamp pressure than what I experienced using the K2000
kit. The mechanical clamp mechanism works below the unit to provide the
control to the clamp above, so the clamp in general is very unobtrusive,
and conducive to fast pocket hole drilling tasks.
There is no technical data to derive how much force the
clamp can actually assert, but you do not really have to worry as there is
more than enough force obtainable to hold any construction material
securely in place. You
do have to manually adjust the clamp pad by rotating it in or out for
varying thickness materials, but it can readily accommodate slight
material thickness changes without re-adjustment (say if one of your 3/4"
thick pieces of stock is 1/16" thinner or thicker than the rest, as an
K3 Drill Guide Block
The drill guide block is the essential part of the setup. It
contains the angled drill guides for drilling constant 15 degree pocket holes, and is part of
the Standard kit as well as the Master Kit. It can be used in conjunction
with the portable base component, and of course with the Benchtop base as
well. Or, it can also be used alone for specific pocket hole drilling
tasks. It is worthy to note that all of the blue material that makes up
the base components is 40% glass-filled nylon hard plastic. This is
extremely durable, shock resistant and strong material, and the glass
nylon component makes them very resistant to scratching and abrasion. The
actual drill guide holes in the drill guide block feature zinc-plated,
case-hardened steel, and they will take a beating and still provide drill
accuracy. The visible guide insert on the face of the drill block is aluminum.
The drill guide block
features three drill guide holes, arranged to accommodate three different
pocket hole spacing needs, dependant on the width of material being used.
They are marked A, B and C, with B and C sitting closely next to each
other and A spaced further apart.
The the drill guide block is used with either the portable
or benchtop base. It slides into those components and is secured in place
via a brass index pin. On the reverse side of the drill block are evenly
spaced screw holes to accept the brass pin, and adjusting the position of
the brass pin into different holes in the guide block provides the means
to "raise" or "lower" the position of the guide block in relation to the
end of your material. Raising or lowering the guide block provides the
adjustment feature to work with different thickness material. For thicker
material, the guide block is raised, which has the effect of moving the
pocket hole further back from the end of the workpiece and properly
positioning it so the pocket hole screw, when applied, does not break
through the bottom of the material and makes a solid entry into the mating
piece at the right position and angle. It's all a little mathematical, if
you wanted to work it out, but luckily you do not have to. The drill guide
block features permanent etched, molded markings on the side that allow
you to accurately and readily set up the guide block at the correct
position that matches the thickness of material you are drilling, so all
the measuring work has been done for you. It is also certainly quicker and
easier to set up the K3 system for different thickness materials than it
was with the older K2000 system, which involved adding and removing additional
The dust collection shroud is new to the K3 Master System, and it
is certainly a welcome addition. The earlier model could sometimes gather
a buildup of chips around the chip evacuation hole, and the only means of
removing them was brushing them away, blowing them away, or getting the
vacuum out on regular occasion. Now with the K3 System, a plastic dust
shroud is included so you can have your vacuum system attached
to work with you to remove chips, dust and debris as you drill. If you
have a vac system with an onboard power outlet for automatic
tool-triggered ON/OFF function, and you use a corded drill for drilling
pocket holes, things are even easier as the vac will automatically operate
as you drill. The dust shroud attaches to the vertical section of the benchtop
base facing the user and clips into place. Long slots in the vertical
face of the base match with the evacuation holes in the rear of each drill
guide to provide an open passage for debris to be collected by the shroud
and evacuated by the vacuum system. You will need a shop-vac type system
to hook up to this shroud. A large dust extractor will not be efficient
because of the small diameter extraction port. Regardless, with a
good vacuum system, the dust collection shroud goes a long way to helping
clear debris and chips from continuous pocket hole drilling, and removing
these chips will allow the next drilled hole to be drilled faster and with
less heat buildup, extending drill bit and drill guide life.
The support/stop is another new addition to the system. Basically it
sits to either side of the benchtop base and features an adjustable screw,
which can also be flipped out of the way for drilling wide sheet
materials. The screw acts much like a stop on a miter saw does in that it provides a reference
point to butt material up against for repetitive
drilling tasks on same width materials. You simply align your first piece
to be drilled so the pocket hole drill guides are located where you want
them, then adjust the material stop so that it touches the edge of the
piece, hence setting up your reference point. Then for your next piece, you
simply butt the edge up against the stop, clamp and away you go. No fine
motor skills in getting subsequent pieces lined up for drilling. It
certainly speeds up repetitive drilling tasks on same width material and
ensures all resulting pocket holes are accurately aligned and matched with
the original referenced piece. It's certainly a useful inclusion to the
system, and although basic in design, it does the job it is intended to do
Stepped Drill and
The special stepped drill bit supplied with the K3 Master and Standard
system allows rapid cutting of pocket holes, and at the right diameter for
special pocket hole screws. The drill bit will cut a small pilot hole near
the edge of the piece, backing up on the stepped section to provide a
larger diameter 'face' to which the pan head pocket hole screws engage.
This face area, combined with pan head screws provides the force area to
'clamp' the materials together as the screws are driven. It is also
interesting to note that when making pocket holes, the second piece to be
joined to the piece that has the pocket holes drilled in it, does not
actually require any drilling at all. The special
square-drive pocket hole
screws are self tapping, and will cut their own pilot hole as they are
driven into the mating piece. I am not sure why square-drive screws aren't
available more readily in general these days, they are great and virtually
eliminate drill bit slippage and stripped screw heads.
It is important to use proper pan head-style pocket hole screws,
they are a vital link in making pocket hole joinery as strong as it is.
Normal countersunk head screws just will not work effectively. In
fact, Kreg has had independent testing done on pocket hole joinery
strength, and they found pocket hole joints to be stronger than a
comparable mortise and tenon joint, which is certainly interesting. And
while pocket hole joints can be secured with screws only, and still be
very strong, adding glue to the joint will make it even stronger, and
there is no need for clamps at all with pocket hole joints because the
pocket hole screws provide the clamping force needed while the glue cures.
A 6" #2 square drive bit is included in both the Standard and Master kits
for driving screws into pocket holes, and an additional 3" #2 square drive
bit is included in the Master system, and useful for general square
The Portable Base
The portable base is supplied with the Master System, but it is also
the main component of the standard system. Essentially it performs most of
the functions that the benchtop base can perform, except that there is no
mechanism to measure/set the drill bit depth collar. Additionally, there
in no onboard clamp. You must use the face clamp provided in the standard
kit to secure the portable base and drill guide block to the material to
be drilled. Small locking tabs attach to the portable base to hold one
side of the face clamp to the base for ease of use. Note also that in
situations where it is not possible or practical to use the portable base
or face clamp, you can attach the drill guide block to the material to be
drilled directly with screws, as small screw mount positions onboard allow
this opportunity. The portable base has a lip which indexes against the
end of the material to be drilled, and the guide block can be adjusted for
various thickness material in the same manner as it is done with the
benchtop base. While the portable base will handle most of your pocket
hole drilling tasks, for repetitive drilling, the benchtop base and
associated accessories included in the Master system provide a much faster
and easier way to drill pocket holes in my opinion.
Contents on the K3 Master System
Contents on the K3 Standard System
The K3 Master/Standard System and associated jigs can be used for a wide variety of
- Butt Joints
- Face Frames
- Angled Joints
- Carcass Production
- Post and Rail Legs
- Beveled 90 Degree Corners
- Table Tops and Aprons
- Edge Banding
- Window and Door Jam Extensions
It also has application for outdoor use as the
pocket holes can be plugged, meaning no water or moisture can pool
around exposed bolts/screws and seep into the wood. The K3 is
my new tool of choice for butt joints and carcass construction. My
clamps/cramps may actually start building a dust layer on them
soon, which is certainly a scary thought!
Both the K3 Standard and Master systems are pretty easy to
use once set up. If you work with constant thickness material,
there is even no need to adjust your K3 once initial setup has
be completed. Only when your workpiece thickness changes do you
need to make adjustments to the height of the drill block guide
and depth stop collar, and this is easily achieved via the
measurements provided on the guide block/benchtop base and
secured via the brass screw pin. When the workpiece is
positioned in place, all you need to do is chuck up the provided
stepped drill bit in your corded or cordless drill, set it for
high speed drilling, and drill the pocket holes by inserting the
drill into any of the three pocket hole drill guides in the
guide block and allowing the guides to drill a 15 degree pocket
hole. The drill bit is very sharp and holds it edge very well.
It can be tricky to sharpen the drill bit by yourself if you are
not an experienced tool sharpener, however, Kreg offers a
sharpening service for their stepped drill bits that is
reasonably priced. I'd suggest buying an extra drill bit, that
way when one needs to be sharpened, you have a second on hand to
use, so their is no downtime.
We made a stack of face frames for cabinets using the K3 Master
System and it is definitely one of the easiest and quickest
joinery methods going around today. It is very easy for anyone,
no matter what their woodworking skill level is, to create
strong and accurate joints for a variety of woodworking
applications. Using the face clamps allows flush joints to be
achieved when joining similar thickness material. The end joint
will require very little sanding to achieve a flush finish.
However, butt joints are not the only joint types that can be
made. We readily created a square picture frame with mitered
corners using pocket hole joinery (see photo) and other
applications are listed above in the table.
There are very few things to criticize about the K3 system. The
Master system is definitely worth buying over the standard
system, particularly if you plan to do a lot of pocket hole
joinery. It has everything the standard system includes but with
the addition of the benchtop base and material clamp, the
reference/index system flip stop, and the dust collection
shroud, which to me was perhaps the best new feature of the K3
system over the older K2000system, not forgetting how much
easier it is also now to adjust the system for varying thickness
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Kreg has
popularized pocket hole joinery in recent years, and the K3
system goes further to ensuring Kreg retains the dominance in
the market. And rightly so. The k3 system is a well-engineered
and well-thought out system for pocket hole joinery. I was
impressed with the older K3 system when we reviewed that system,
and I am even more impressed with the new features of the K3
system, which will now be the standard for affordable enthusiast
pocket hole joinery construction.
Kreg Accessory Mini-Reviews
Kreg Right-Angle Clamp
One important accessory to the
K3 that I think is well worth
purchasing is the Kreg Right-Angle clamp. The 6" Face clamp that comes
standard in the Pro pack does a great job clamping pieces flush but cannot
clamp right angled joints, say for chair construction or even cabinet
construction. Without the right angled clamp, it can be difficult to hold
these joints together while you drive the screws. I had to use either long
clamps or picture-frame style clamps to hold these joints previously. So
when I got my hands on this accessory clamp, it certainly made joining
right angles much easier, and much quicker.
right-angle clamp is not much different to the standard face clamp in
construction. It is a standard vise-type locking clamp but with one
important difference... One clamp end is designed to sit neatly into a
pre-drilled pocket hole while the other face is a standard circular face
to clamp to the mating piece. This allows you to clamp a right angled
joint with relative ease and provides an excellent clamping force in the
process which will not move when driving screws. The catch is, that you
cannot use the clamp if you only have one pocket hole on the assembly, as
it needs that single pocket hole to slot one side of the clamp into. With
a standard 2-pocket hole joint, you simply apply the clamp to one of the
pocket holes to clamp the joint. You then drive the first screw into the
other pocket hole. Once the first screw is in, that usually provides
sufficient holding force to remove the clamp from the second hole and
drive the second screw in. Pretty quick and simple. For joining wide
boards where you have multiple pocket holes along one face, you simply use
the clamp in an adjacent hole while you drive the first screw. You then
systematically move the clamp from pocket-hole to pocket-hole as you drive
screws along the entire width of the board.
rocket science involved here, but for long boards, you need to make sure
your right angle joint is flush, or in the position you need it to be as
you go along with the clamping/screw driving process.
In testing, the right angle clamp was a god-send, proving
itself much quicker and easier to use than any other method of clamping
right angle joints we attempted. One small issue we found however, was
that when working with soft woods like pine, if too much clamp pressure
was applied, then top edges of the pocket hole itself were prone to a
little chipout which may, or may not be cause for concern depending on
whether you plan to have your joints hidden, or displayed on the project.
We found easing the clamping pressure a little and using a slight more
upright clamping position on the joint resolved this issue in most cases.
In hard wood and MDF, we had no problem at all.
Overall, however, we found the Kreg right-angle clamp extremely useful in
holding right angled joints while driving pocket hole screws. It is also a
great general purpose clamp for innumerable other workshop tasks. It comes
at an additional cost, but is well worth the investment in our humble
Well, it's really
hard to fault this product. It seems to be the golden answer to fast and
strong joinery that won't give you grey hairs in the process! The only
downside that could be mentioned is the extra time needed to fill a pocket
hole for finishing purposes, although with the right tools, this isn't
much more time consuming than plugging screw or nail holes with
traditional wood plugs or fillers. The Kreg jig has had an overwhelmingly
positive effect on my woodworking practice and is also great fun to use.
It's almost like an addiction, but woodworking in any form does seems to
have that effect on many! This is certainly one jig that will barely see a
layer of dust form on it and kudos to Kreg for creating a fine product
with the K3 and accessories. I definitely recommend it for EVERY
Kreg Universal Bench Klamp Review
There is no doubt that pocket holes are rapidly becoming the method of
choice for joining face frames, among many other uses. This use in
particular seems to be growing much faster than any other. I have used
pocket holes extensively recently for the same purpose. They make a fast
and strong joint, and with face frames, you won't see the pocket holes
themselves, so no need to fill them to hide them from view. One problem
that plagued me and used up some valuable time was trying to handle the
face frame pieces to clamp them at the right angles I needed accurately
and without hassle. I did build the assembly box/table as shown on some of
the Kreg demonstration videos, however, that had limitations too.
Thankfully, someone at Kreg came up with a simple product
to solve that problem, and as we know, simple things are often the best.
Enter the Kreg Universal Bench Klamp...
The Klamp, which I will refer to hereon as "clamp"
to describe it in grammatically correct terms of its function resembles one of Kreg's standard face clamps with
one of the "arms" removed/modified to attach to the solid 10" x 10" x 1/4"
thick metal base. So simple is the idea that it becomes quite a valuable
tool in itself. You can either install the metal base directly into your
workbench or use a ply board to install it into. You install the base by
routing out a square in your table/board big enough to house the plate.
You have to chisel out the corners to square for a snug fit, and also
ensure you set your router depth to match the depth of the base so it sits
level with your table/board surface. This is an important consideration as
it will affect your joint accuracy and may interfere with other work if
you decide to mount it direct to your workbench surface. With the plate
mounted flush to your workbench or board and secured using the 4 screws
provided in the countersunk holes, you can attach the clamp to the plate.
The clamp is removable, which allows you to maintain that flush surface
across your bench for all other woodworking needs.
The clamp essentially allows you to take your face frame
pieces, which are of equal height and clamp them together and down to the
table so you can drive your pocket hole screws. The metal plate ensures
your pieces are flush with each other and the hold down clamp has more
than enough clamping pressure (which is adjustable) to ensure your pieces
do not move during the process. The clamp can be rotated 360 degrees and
moved forward/back a couple inches or so within its groove machined in the
base. It also makes using the mini or rocket jigs much simpler than before,
leaving both hands free to setup for driving the pocket screws.
There are no problems using it as a general hold-down clamp
for any number of purposes, like holding down boards/pieces for planing,
routing, sanding and more. The rubber-capped foot on the clamp ensures no
damage or marking of the workpiece.
If you want to make offset joints, you will probably need
to use spacer blocks under and/or on top of one (or two) faces of one
piece so that it creates the necessary offset desired while creating a
flush surface for the clamp to push down upon. So with a bit of
user-intervention and some small shop-made jigs and spacer blocks, the
Universal Bench Klamp can be adapted for an even wider variety of uses.
There really is not too much more to say about the product.
It is a really simple idea that delivers for more than just one specific
purpose. While the hold-down clamp idea is not new to woodworking, the
Universal Bench Klamp will certainly make pocket hole joinery with the
K3 system a much easier and hassle-free affair. A great addition to the
range of accessories for the K3 product.
Kreg Mini Jig
The Kreg Mini Jig
(sold separately) is your pocket-sized single hole jig that can go
anywhere quickly and easily and can also be used to strengthen
existing joins where pieces cannot practically be clamped in the
K3 for drilling. The mini jig, like the rocket jig is fast and
simple: Align it
and clamp it on the workpiece to be drilled and drill your hole. No rocket
The plug-setting feature on the underside of the jig allows you to
quickly position and insert pre-cut wood plugs to cover/fill your
pocket holes. The wooden plugs can then be flush cut or leveled off
with a router and the appropriate router bit for a flush, smooth
finish, with the pocket hole and screw neatly hidden away. You can
use contrasting plugs to accentuate or highlight the pocket hole
joint if you so desire. Kreg manufacturers and retails pre-cut
wooden plugs in a variety of wood types for a reasonable price.
Kreg K3 Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior
written permission prohibited
The K3 benchtop base
The drill guide block features three zinc-plated,
case-hardened drill guides with an aluminum face.
The drill guide attached to the portable base.
Various markings on the benchtop base surface allow
setup of components for accurate pocket hole drilling.
Drill guide assembled in the benchtop base. Note the
three drill guides marked A, B, and C and their spacing.
Drill guide block height is adjustable for various
thickness material. The brass locking pin secures the guide block in
Note the slots in the back of the base to allow
efficient dust collection.
It can be difficult to adjust the drill block height
with the dust collection shroud in place, so it usually needs to be
removed to adjust the drill guide block and re-secure it tightly.
The stepped drill bit and square drivers supplied in the K3 kit.
Drilling a pocket hole with the dust collection shroud
cleaning as we go.
The material clamp keeps things secure. Note the
material stop in use here as well.
Face frame components drilled and ready to be joined.
Driving pocket hole screws with the face clamp keeping
the joint flush.
And here is the front side of that face frame. Note the
joint is tight, and it is also very strong.
A pocket hole drilled for a miter joint.
Mitered, pocket hole joined pictured frame!
Kreg Right-Angle Clamp
Not much different to your standard vise-grip clamp
Application on wide boards
Photo from Kreg Website.
Clamp, Metal Base, Screws and
Instructions... Ready to install, just add a router.
This is essentially what the Universal Bench
Klamp is designed for... to hold pieces flush and securely
while driving pocket screws. Works a treat!
The Universal Bench Klamp makes a great
general hold down clamp on your workbench!