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.)
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:
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