Pocket holes create a clever joint. Modern pocket hole jigs allow you to place screws accurately and securely. As you become familiar with pocket hole joints, you may wonder, should I glue pocket hole joints?
In this article, I’m going to share what I know about this topic. Hopefully, it will help you in your workshop.
Should you glue pocket holes? In many cases, you can and should glue your pocket holes. Gluing your pocket holes provides a tight joint that won’t separate with changes in temperature and moisture. However, you don’t always need to glue pocket holes.
As we continue, I’ll share some of the times you should glue pocket holes and some times when you could probably get away with omitting the wood glue.
Whether you’re new to woodworking or you’ve been using pocket holes for years, the sections below will offer some valuable tips.
When Should You Use Glue with Pocket Hole Joints?
Let’s start by saying this: you can glue any pocket hole joint without any major issues. The thing you lose from gluing pocket hole joints is time.
In the brutal world of the internet, people will argue back and forth, doing little to clear the air. Some people state you should glue every pocket hole. Some say this isn’t necessary.
In the article, I take a pragmatic approach. There are times when it’s probably wise to glue pocket holes. And, there are times when gluing your pocket hole joints is not as important.
After we discuss some of the times to glue pocket holes and some of the times not to, I’ll share with you some mistakes to avoid when gluing pocket holes.
Here are some times you should use glue with your pocket holes:
- Long-term projects
- To prevent separation at the joint
- High-end projects
There are three reasons to use glue on your pocket hole joints. Let’s dive in.
Use Glue with Pocket Holes for Long Term Projects
There are certain projects you want to last forever. However, there are also some projects you may want to remove or takedown in time.
If you’re using pocket screws to build a dining room table for your forever home, then you’ll want to use glue with your joints. The glue will give you some added strength and inhibit your joint from separating.
However, if you’re building garden boxes, and you know that you don’t need them to last for years on end or the wood will eventually rot anyway, you can probably pass on the glue.
Again, even with something like a garden box, you might decide to use glue, and that’s okay. Much of the decisions will come down to personal preference.
Use Glue with Pocket Holes to Prevent Joints from Seasonal Separation
If you didn’t already know, wood has a lot of personalities. And wood changes with the seasons.
Wood that is still drying can potentially warp, as one area of the grain dries faster than the other, twisting the wood. There is also potential for the end grain to split as the wood shrinks in the dry season.
Some types of wood are affected more by seasonal changes – others are more resilient. Read up on the type of wood you plan to use and how well it does in your environment.
Adding glue to your pocket hole joints will help prevent some problems with seasons. You may see a decrease in end splitting and separation of the joints.
Not all wood reacts the same; however, the glue won’t hurt and will probably help.
Use Glue with Pocket Holes for High-end Work
We will talk more about what is considered “high-end” later on. For now, know that if you’re trying to build something nice, something you want to last for many years, then adding glue to your pocket hole joints is a good idea.
First, you’ll notice that glue allows for a clean joint. Wood glue will fill in all those micro gaps and help your project take a good stain or paint.
Also, for a high-end project, you’ll want to use pocket hole plugs to cover the heads of screws. These plugs will require glue, so you might as well have everything glued.
Second, the glue will help protect your project from seasonal changes. We talked about this in the last section. You don’t want your nice new table to develop a wobble. Using glue will keep everything tight.
Now, let’s go over the times you might avoid gluing your pocket holes.
When Can You Use Pocket Holes Without Glue?
Though it’s a good idea to glue your joints, there are times this isn’t practical. If you’re a beginner trying to learn your skills, then feel free to glue anything and everything.
However, if you’re someone who needs to get quality projects finished promptly, there are times you don’t need to glue.
Here are three times you can comfortably skin gluing a pocket hole joint:
- Projects you want to disassemble later
- Simple projects
- Old-timer vs. Modern
Let’s discuss these below.
Projects You want to Disassemble
Though this isn’t a common idea, there are times you might want to disassemble a project.
First, if you live in a rental or move frequently, perhaps you’d want to take that big bookshelf down before trying to move it to your new home.
One of the bonuses of using screws for any project is the ability to remove them if needed. When you glue your pocket hole joint, you take this ability away.
Second, maybe you need a temporary set of steps. You can build them with pocket hole joints, use the steps until you’ve constructed something more permanent, and then take the project apart.
In this way, you can recycle wood from a project that would otherwise have been tossed to the side.
Simple Projects Don’t Require Wood Glue
Maybe you’re gearing up for a big project. You look around your workshop and realize you need a few more storage boxes. So, you whip out your handy dandy Kreg pocket jig and begin building.
For non-structural, strictly practical applications, you probably don’t need to take the extra time to glue a pocket hole joint.
Many people state that they never use glue with their pocket holes and that their projects work out just fine. I don’t necessarily suggest taking this route; however, I will share a little more of the thinking behind this in the next section.
Old-timer Joints vs. Modern Joints
This section will deal with joint theory. Hopefully, it helps you understand where each side is coming from.
Some woodworkers consider themselves artists. Indeed, woodworking can be an art. We’ve all seen the exquisite work of a master – not only does their project perform its job, but it’s also beautiful. Sometimes these pieces even tell a story.
On the other hand, some woodworkers consider themselves strictly handymen. They see woodworking as a means to create something useful and are less concerned with the artistic side of the craft.
This is similar to many other areas of life. Think about a textbook versus a novel. A painting versus a diagram. A song versus a siren.
So what does all this mean?
If you want to get into woodworking as an art, you will find many will consider glue and classic joints (like mortise and tenon) the only way to go. This camp of thought believes pocket holes are unsightly and should be avoided – especially without glue.
However, the modern woodworker who builds strictly for utility will have no problem with the pocket hole joint. With glue. Without glue. Whatever works! tends to be their motto.
Neither side of this discussion is wrong. However, it’s good to understand where the two groups are coming from. Doing so keeps you from becoming confused when you hear one thing, and then the next minute you hear something completely different.
How to Glue Pocket Hole Joints – Mistakes to Avoid
In this section, we share a few important things to know when gluing pocket hole joints.
Here are some mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t rush the measurements
- Use clamps
- Drill clean pocket holes.
Don’t Rush Measurement when Gluing Pocket Holes
When you’re using glue, it can be very difficult to change a joint’s location if you make a mistake during your measurements. They say measure twice, cut once. In this case, you may want to measure three times!
Use Pocket Hole Clamps
Whenever you’re working with glue, there can be a tendency for the wood to slide around. I suggest you use pocket hole clamps when gluing your pocket hole joints.
The clamps will hold the joint in place as you place your first screw. This keeps your project clean and accurate.
Drill Clean Pocket Holes
If your pocket holes are all messed up, no amount of glue will fix this. Take your time to understand the fundamentals of pocket hole joinery. If you know how to make a strong pocket hole, this joint will work synergistically with the glue, giving you a quality structure.