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    Assembling a Face Frame with Pocket Screws

    A quick and easy strategy for building face frames.

    This article originally appeared in Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Choosing & Installing Hardware (2003).

    Begin by ripping your stock to width and cutting all the pieces to length. For the best results, the edges of the stock and the end cuts must be square. I usually do most of the sanding prior to assembly to minimize cross-grain sanding scratches.

    Cut stock to width

    Rip stock to width Square edges and end cuts will yield the best results

    Identify the face of each part with a piece of masking tape, then mark the relationship of the parts to each other on the tape. I like to use the time-tested triangle marking system. As a rule of thumb, always drive the screw through the end grain of one piece and into the long grain of the other piece because long grain holds a screw better than end grain.

     Adjust the drillbit 

    Prepare the drillbit Adjust the stop collar and check the setscrew

    Adjust the stop collar on the drill bit to the correct length for the stock you’re using, and make certain that the setscrew is snug. Clamp a rail into the jig, and drill the pocket holes using a corded drill running at full speed. This jig offers the choice of three different hole locations to suit various stock widths. I cover the unused hole with a strip of tape to prevent mistakes.

       Clamp and drill   

    Clamp and drill Use a rail to secure the jig and drill and pocket holes

    To clear the chips, keep the drill running when you exit the hole. Double-check the stop-collar depth setting by driving a test screw into one hole and gauging its projection against the thickness of the rail. There should be a minimum of 1⁄8 in. between the tip of the screw and the face of the stile.

        Test it out    

    Check stop-collar depth There should be at least 1/8-in. between the tip of the screw and the face of the stile

    The assembly clamp supplied with the jig helps to keep the faces of the rails flush, even if they are slightly different in thickness. Position the large pad on the face of the joint, and align the edge of the rail flush with the end of the stile. Using a driver with an adjustable clutch, drive the assembly screws.

          Clamp the rails flush      

    Keep the rails flush Use an assembly clamp to ensure alignment

    You should also have a hand driver available for small adjustments. The joint may temporarily separate while you’re driv- ing the first screw in each joint but should close completely when that screw fully seats itself. If you add a bar clamp along the joint, you’ll prevent the temporary separation during assembly.

           Drive the assembly screws       

    Drive the assembly screws Use a driver with an adjustable clutch

    When I’m working on a complex face frame, I assemble its perimeter first, then add the intermediate rails and stiles. To ensure precise dimensions, I use a spacer block to set the distance between a fixed part and the piece I’m adding.

             Add intermediate rails and stiles         

    Add intermediate pieces For more intricate set-ups, use a spacer block to ensure the correct dimensions

    With a little practice, you can make joints that require no additional sanding. But if you do have a slightly misaligned joint, you can quickly erase minor misalignment on the face by using a random-orbit sander.

              Correct mistakes          

    Correct mistakes Use a sander to fix misalignments

    You’ll find wood plugs in a variety of species and plastic plugs in several colors to fill the pocket holes. The tip of the mini jig has a small recess that helps you push a glued plug into place. Let the glue dry for a wood plug, trim it flush, and sand it smooth. If you’re using a plastic plug, simply glue it in place after applying the finish to the wood.

                Fill the pocket holes            

    Fill the pocket holes There are a number of possibilities out there

    VARIATION To use the mini jig on stock that is 3⁄4 in. thick, clamp its end flush with the end of the rail and drill. Adapt it to other stock thicknesses by moving its end forward or back and resetting the stop collar on the drill bit. With the mini jig, the face clamp, and the drill bit, you have a complete pocket-hole system that’s small enough to fit into the corner of your toolbox or even into a tool belt for job- site work.

                 A pocket-hole system             

    Another efficient method Use a mini jig, face clamp, and drill bit to create a pocket-hold system