Pocket Screw Joints: The Outdoorsy Types

July 24th, 2009 by
6 Comments


A quick fence gate came together even faster with pocket screw joinery.

A quick fence gate came together even faster with pocket screw joinery.

Summer is quickly slipping through our fingers, so hopefully you’re busy with outdoor projects. For me, it’s always a nice change of pace during these “dog days” to set aside the hardwood and dig into a stack of cedar or cypress! This season, I’ve got a pair of rickety Adirondack chairs that’ll get the heave-ho for something better, plus a garden fence that’s way overdue. (If anyone has a good plan for a removable garden fence, I’m all ears.)

These gate-frame joints suffer slam after slam from my kids, but they're holding fast. Stainless-steel screws were the right choice here.

These gate-frame joints suffer slam after slam from my kids, but they're holding fast. Stainless-steel screws were the right choice here.

In the spirit of exterior projects, I’d like to recommend pocket screw joinery. We all know that they’re great for building face frames or cabinet boxes, but pocket screws don’t seem to show up in outdoor furniture very often. I don’t know why that is, because they’re definitely up to snuff. As a matter of fact, here are two projects in my yard that testify to how well pocket screws work outdoors.

First case in point: my backyard fence gate (top photo). Three years ago I needed a fence gate in a hurry, so I built this super-simple “Z” frame using treated lumber and stainless-steel screws driven into pocket holes. No glue. Since then, this gate takes a beating every day from both the kids and me. It’s on my way out the shop, so I’m constantly back and forth through it, year-round. My kids think closing the gate means slamming it…and that alone is a torture test. Through it all, those butt joints haven’t budged.

I also used pocket screws to fasten the seat slats on the “Hoopback Garden Bench” that ran in our August 2004 issue. The bench has seen quite a few freeze/thaw cycles since then (bottom photo), but the pocket-screw joints are going strong. Not one slat has come loose. At that time, I used Kreg Tool’s “Weather Resistant” pocket screws. Now, Kreg has two exterior pocket screw options: stainless-steel or a product they call Blue-Kote ™. I haven’t tried the blue screws yet, but the top layer is ceramic, which seems like a smart solution. If you’ve tried them out, post a comment to let us know how well they work.

Here’s a link to learn more about the Blue-Kote™ screws:

http://www.kregtool.com/products/spp/product.php?PRODUCT_ID=99

These bench seat slats are fastened to the framework with pairs of weather-resistant pocket screws. They aren't budging.

My garden bench seat slats are fastened to the framework with pairs of weather-resistant pocket screws. They aren't budging either.

All of this is to say, as you’re designing your outdoor projects this summer, don’t forget the pocket screws. They’re fast, easy and plenty tough for whatever Mother Nature—or my kids—can dish out.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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6 Responses to “Pocket Screw Joints: The Outdoorsy Types”

  1. Would not the pocket screw on the gate be better going from bottom up, rather than top down(makes for better photo this way)? Would allow water to drain vs accumulate

  2. William Grasser says:

    Since I bought my Kreg Kit, I have used it for everything. Many outdoor projects and well as construction projects. Got a couple of puppies and made a small fenced yard, but needed a gate – ripped some 2×4′s into 2×2 and made the frame with pocket screws. Dogs have jumped on it for 8 months now – still solid.
    skirting at an old farmhouse
    Love to solve problems that only the pocket jig can do – there are places and times that glue cannot be used.

    Used the blue screws to attach deck skirting at an old farmhouse – secure, but removable if access is needed under the deck.

  3. Chris Marshall says:

    Robert,

    Good point on the screw direction for the gate. Bottom up would have been a better approach–but it hasn’t really seemed to matter here. The gate framework is treated lumber, and there’s no sign of decay…at least not yet.

    Great tip, though!

  4. Chris Marshall says:

    William,

    It really amazes me how tough those pocket-screw joints really are! Something that strong almost shouldn’t be this easy to make–and yet they’re as easy as rolling out of bed. Looks like you needed a gate, and quick, just like me. Glad yours is standing strong like mine is.

  5. roman tesson says:

    Anyone try the White Oak router jig. It looks a lot cleaner for less money.

  6. Mark Rennhack says:

    Are you talking about the route a pocket from http://www.whiteoaktools.com? It looks interesting for clean joints.

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