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


Kreg K3 Pocket Hole System
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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):

  • Benchtop Base

  • K3 Drill Guide Block

  • Portable Base

  • Dust Collection Shroud

  • Material Support Stop

  • Premium Face Clamp

  • 3/8" Step Drill Bit

  • 6" #2 Square Driver Bit

  • 3" #2 Square Driver Bit

  • Printed Manual and Warranty Card

  • Starter pack of coarse- and fine-threaded screws and other small fixings.

A Closer Look at the Components...

Benchtop Base
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" settings.

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.

Material Clamp
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 example).

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 components.

Dust Collection Shroud
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.

Material Support/Stop
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 very well.

Stepped Drill and Drivers
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 driving tasks.

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

Common Applications
The K3 Master/Standard System 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

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!

 

In Use
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 material.

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 Review (Accessory)
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.

The 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.

No 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 opinion.

Conclusion
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 woodworker!

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 Review
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 science here! 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.

 

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

Rockler.com (USA)

Kreg K3 - Kreg Jig® K3 Master System - Pocket Hole Systems
Kreg K3 - Kreg Jig® K3 Master System - Pocket Hole Systems

Kreg Jig® K3 Standard Pack
Kreg Jig® K3 Standard Pack

Kreg™ Universal Bench Klamp
Kreg™ Universal Bench Klamp

Kreg™ Large Face Clamp & Right Angle Clamp
Kreg™ Large Face Clamp & Right Angle Clamp
Amazon.com (USA)
 
Hartville Tools (USA)

Kreg K3 Master System

Kreg K3 Photos
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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 place.


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 except...

[Image of RAC]
Application on wide boards
Photo from Kreg Website.

Kreg Universal
Bench Klamp


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!

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