I use pocket screws and pocket hole joinery from time to time. For me, this joinery method is so dang simple and fast, it is hard not to use pocket screws. If there is such a thing as seductive joinery, pocket screws would be it.
When I heard that Taunton Press, parent of Fine Woodworking magazine, was going to launch a book about pocket hole joinery, I felt the need to buy it. I wanted to see how a book from a company which writes about fine woodworking would approach this joinery method. The book by Mark Edmundson is simply titled, Pocket Hole Joinery.
Some fine woodworkers have a hard time calling a piece made with pocket screws “fine” – I have heard at least three of the staff writers at Fine Woodworking talk with concern about this joinery method. But the back cover of Taunton’s new book says this about pocket hole joinery: its “strong, quick to learn, and easy to master.” So what’s up with that? How can it be strong and yet a joinery method to be cautious with? Hopefully the answer lies within the pages of Mark Edmundson’s new book.
Who is Mark?
Concerning the author, Mark Edmundson is very much a serious woodworker. He studied under master woodworker James Krenov at the famed College of the Redwoods and has been a professional furniture and cabinet-maker since 1997. Mark has also written several articles for Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding magazines.
Once I had this book in hand, I looked immediately for construction methods which would back up the statement that pocket hole joinery is strong.
For most all projects, strength comes from the abundant use of pocket screws. Logic would dictate that more screws = stronger construction. Mark adds biscuits and dowels to many of the pieces found in his book, but these things are present only to correctly align mating parts. As pocket screws are driven into wood, the cutting action of the screw will make the mating part shift – one of the few difficulties found in pocket hole joinery. Biscuits and dowels hold parts in place while the joinery is executed and are not used for additional joint strength.
A Bazillion Screws
When I say Mark uses a lot of pocket screws, the dresser project in the book uses 29 pocket screws for the right side alone. Pocket hole joinery is found in the top, opposite side, web frames, drawers, etc. etc. By my estimate, well over 100 pocket screws are used in this project and there are larger projects in this book. Prior to building one of Mark’s pieces, it would be wise to count the number of screws needed so you don’t run out.
The projects found in Pocket Hole Joinery are a mixture of case pieces, legged furniture and picture frames. These pieces are all well suited for pocket hole joinery. I would have no problem building the case pieces with pocket screws. The blanket bench and end table are light duty pieces. The daybed resembles a case piece more than a bed. The combination of dowels/biscuits along with pocket screws seems reasonable enough for these projects. Concerning the bed; I wouldn’t rely on pocket hole joinery and dowels to provide enough strength for the bed rail to head-board/foot-board connections. Metal bed rail connectors are more reliable and are not very difficult to install.
Designing for Pocket Hole Joinery
With each project, design considerations are discussed. Mark acknowledges that successful pocket hole projects include zero visible pocket holes. So, his designs have been created to hide them. And his designs are very tasteful. Mark’s time at The College of the Redwoods and the influence of James Krenov is evident, but there is artistic restraint in his pieces. They are traditional shapes with a slight modern twist. I think that many readers would desire to build some of these projects regardless of the joinery method.
A few of the projects from the book (click an image to start a slideshow)…
There are plenty of construction photos in the book. They show yummy lumber being used like black walnut, cherry, maple and quarter sawn oak. The photos alone are enough to make me want to get into the workshop and build something. You will also find illustrations and cut lists with each project.
While Mark Edmundson does not provide any scientific evidence that pocket hole joinery is proper for heavy-duty use, the evidence is really throughout his book. Chapter by chapter he is making a case for this quick and easy-to-execute joinery method.
The projects found in Pocket Hole Joinery are designed with enough structure to last for many years (I still don’t like pocket screws for bed construction). And the projects found in this book are well designed with just enough modern styling to look good in both traditional homes as well as modern ones. Mark is a top-notch designer.
Pocket Hole Joinery shows us how a woodworker can use pocket screws to make strong, quality furniture quickly. Before you dive into one of these projects, make sure you have a full charge on your screw gun, because you’ll need it.
I purchased this book at my local Woodcraft store. You can buy it online directly from the Taunton Press by clicking here.