Armor Tools, known for hold-down clamps, have entered new tool markets before, introducing tools such as bolt cutters. Now, they’ve come out with something a little unexpected, but definitely true to their woodworking roots – a Pocket Hole Jig.
The new Armor Tools pocket hole jig doesn’t look like a “me-too” tool, as it has some compelling features that could make it a strong alternative to the industry leader.
Pocket Hole Basics
If you are not familiar with pocket hole joinery, it is a popular way of joining two pieces of wood together using a concealed screw. To achieve, this you need an accurate way of drilling a hole at the proper angle and depth. A pocket hole jig takes all the complexity out of the process.
Armor Tools Pocket Hole Auto-Jig System
Armor Tool’s jig ships with all the parts you need to get started with pocket hole joinery:
- Self-adjusting drill guide block with screw size guide
- Self-adjusting drill bit
- #2 square driver bit
- Auto-adjust clamp
- Stop collar
- Hex key
- Dust collection port
- (50) screw assortment (10 each size)
- User guide
- 6″ face clamp
The Armor Tools jig has an integrated clamp to hold your material in place, and a drilling block that adjusts to suit the thickness of the material you are working with.
On the side there’s a guide for setting the position of the depth stop collar. This ensures the hole you drill is exactly the right depth for the material you are working on.
The jig features a working height that is the same as a 2×4, which makes it a breeze to create side wings for material support.
There’s an integrated dust port for attaching your dust extractor of shop vac of choice.
The kit includes a face clamp, which holds material together when you are screwing it together.
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More Info(via Armor Tools)
Here is Armor Tools’ video introduction of their new pocket hole jig:
It’s hard to talk about pocket hole jigs without mentioning Kreg, which is widely regarded as the leader of the pocket hole jig industry.
I like the look of Armor Tools jig and I see a couple of advantages over the Kreg jig. To give you a sense of where I’m coming from, I have owned two Kreg jigs and currently have a K5 system that has a very similar feature set.
- The Armor Tools jig has an integrated depth setter built into the side of the jig
- You can use the 2×4 to support the material you are working on.
- The integrated clamp looks easier to adjust than Kreg’s, which can be a little hard to dial in.
I think that the new Armor Tools pocket hole could be a worthy competitor, at least to the similarly-priced Kreg K5 system. It remains to be seen whether Armor Tools will launching smaller and more affordable jigs as well. Kreg is king of the hill when it comes to basic and fully-featured pocket hole jigs alike, but there’s definitely room for new competition.
I’ve got the K4 and love it. I have one issue with it and that is it needing 1″ blocks to support material hanging out.
My concern with the Armor jig is that the hole guide opening doesn’t support the material at the top of the cut. Kreg’s profile is the same as the hole so it helps reduce tearout when drilling. I have tried other brands that didn’t support and have had horrible tearout, which is why I ended up with the Kreg.
Ah interesting, I didn’t spot that. Thanks for commenting!
I recently bought a K5, and took a good long look at the Armor jig before going for the Kreg. The auto adjust feature is pretty awesome, and simultaneously setting the stop collar was icing on the cake. However, I wanted the extra options of the Kreg system with micro screw inserts and custom plug cutters, which is eventually what swayed my decision for the Kreg. Hopefully Armor comes out with those add ons in the future.
Competition and new ideas are always good.
This might be OK for a small shop and/or for use on the jobsite. In that niche – its a bit like the Porter Cable jig that Stuart posted about several years go. For production work – the Achilles’ Heel – of many of these jigs is the step drill – which is a bit fragile and prone to breakage in some usage patterns. I think that the Castle machine that we had in the shop used more robust boring bits. But in the field – we carried around Kreg jigs and extra step drill bits.
Haven’t seen or researched the Armor jig, but I’ve had 3 kreg jigs including the very first one they made out of all aluminum as well as the PorterCable/Castle bench top unit.
Good to see it comes with a vacuum port, makes the process so much cleaner and faster and helps to keep your drill bit sharp by eliminating heat buildup on larger projects with many repeat uses.
I’ve never seen taper head screws used for pocket hole jigs – thought the idea was the cap head screws stopped the screws securely while allowing maximum clamping force without having them split the wood.
Aside from maybe blue for metric and red for SAE I can’t see the point of arbitrary color coding without any frame of reference. Kind of like color coded hex keys – how the heck am I supposed to remember what size purple is?!
I think Armor does use the cap head styles and the countersunk head is just a graphic.
That’s a pretty bad graphic. Aside from the taper head that’s prone to splitting through the pocket hole, the proper screw should only have threads in contact with the mating board to insure they get pulled together tight.
Thanks for spotting this, I didn’t notice it when I found the image!
The idea behind the color coding is that the jig auto-sizes, and has a cursor that points to the right color screw to use with the pocket hole you just bored. So it eliminates the need to stop and think about what screw length goes with what thickness of stock – just grab that matching color of screw.
So if you don’t want to use it, no sweat – regular pocket hole screws and a lookup chart should work. But it’s a convenient time saving feature for those that do.
digging the depth stop adjustment riding along with the clamp end. that’s a neat idea.
I have the K4 today – and I don’t do production quantity (or to be fair quality) work so I don’t know I would spend that sort of money. But had this been out the same time – and I was looking at both kits MSRP. I might have bought this.
Agreed my biggest pet peeve with the kreg is the adjustment and set of the hole guide to the base. It’s finicky to say the least.
I don’t know why Kreg went away from the hole guide setter built into the base. I find the K5s method of using a plastic jig to be a regression. I’m sure they had a good reason but they could find a better method.
The K4 still does that – or mine does. but you have to move the collar down to a mark and get close. What I like about the armor is that you pull the lever to move the clamp arm – and it moves the color for you – to set even. Every time. Seems a touch more repeatable I guess is my point.
Like you, I don’t like the collar setting system on the K5. I don’t trust it, since it seems to give me wrong results part of the time. I will use it but then check my results manually. The K4 was better in that regard, and this looks even better. It would be definitely worth considering.
Maybe I should try 3D printing one 🙂 I’m sure Benjamin can give me some tips!
Thanks for this. I was looking at getting a Kreg system, but now I’m going to consider the Armor. I’ve used a Kreg jig many times, and have loved it, but there’s some room for improvement.
I have an older K2000 which works well for what I do. If I were to replace it, I would seriously look at a Foreman paired with an R3. I’d love to see some competition in those areas though.
i have a Kreg K4 which i like very much and while there are some nice features on this new Armor Tools version I don’t think they addressed the biggest drawback of the standard product.
When you take a board on the jig it can rock a bit if you are trying to do multiple holes in a panel for instance. The solution a lot of people have adopted is to build a fixture to hold the jig so larger pieces can be accommodated. I think a new product should identify those deficiencies and it would get more consideration as a new product in the market. As it is there are enhancements but maybe not enough to sway users.
They should have assembled a focus group of K4 & K5 users before bringing a product to market.
Competition is a good thing, glad to see it
+1 on this.
I’m honestly surprised, considering the sheer number of different things one might need a Jig for, that there aren’t more competitors in the Jig Making market.
In fact, I’ve only ever heard of Kreg and Veritas in this field before. This article, and the following comments, have informed me of at least 3 more I’d never heard of. Armor, Porter Cable, and Castle.
Where is everyone in this market? They can’t all be covered by Kreg, there have to be several niches where other companies can survive, right?
Safety Speed Saw (probably best known for their vertical panel saws) has been a more recent entrant to the pocket hole machine business to compete with Castle. They offer 2 machines – one at $5299 and another at $6999. Castle offers a much broader range – starting with their AD100 that lists for $475 – up through their CSI 1.5D inserter machine that lists for $55,650. The Castle machine we had was wired for 3-phase.
I thought it was patent related but I found two valid patents for Pocket Holes. Kreg owns one and it’s valid for a few more years. Black and Decker own another with a similar date but I don’t think they do anything in this area.
I’m also surprised there’s less competition in this area considering how user friendly Pocket Holes are. My HomeDepot stocks a bunch of Kreg tools now.
Not having read over the patent claims (no being a patent attorney to know how to properly do interpret them) – it may be that what Castle does with their machines is different enough to avoid infringement.
The Castle machine that we had – placed the holes at 6 degrees versus Kreg’s 15 degrees, Castle claims its better – avoiding joints that tend to shift when being drawn up with the screws. The Castle machine also uses separate operations and bits to bore the recess and bore the pilot hole (no step drill). It was very fast on our machine and there was no bit breakage – which sometimes happens with the Kreg step-drill.
Its also good that HD carries the Kreg line – I recall that the guys would have to hunt for a Lowes (seem to be fewer of them in our neck of the woods) to replace a broken step drill if they didn’t have a spare or it was too far to come back to the shop.
Here is one not made of plastic. https://www.axminster.co.uk/ujk-technology-pocket-hole-jig-503726
So is this one – albeit its much more expensive – even thought its the entry level for Castle:
I have this one. It is incredibly solid, accurate, and easy to use. I looked hard at Kreg, and the thousand other versions of the Kreg jig but chose UJK for it quality engineering. I bought it for a project with about 400 pocket holes in (don’t ask!), and it worked flawlessly. It continues to give good service, long after.
Despite all that, I do like the auto-adjust features of this Armor jig. If you are building kitchen carcasses, then set-and-forget metal ones like UJK will probably win, because of their solidity and longevity. But if you are moving from one type of workpiece to another with different thicknesses (as I do now, really), then this ultra-easy set-up jig has a lot going for it. If I were buying one to fix the rail on a kitchen table, and then whatever else fate throws my way in future, I reckon Armor could be an excellent choice. I’d love to see it in the flesh/plastic.
Interesting that Harbor Freight’s version is all metal. My first pocket holes were made with a borrowed one that I believe was Harbor Freight’s. I wouldn’t recommend it above others, but at the time it was the only thing I knew and seemed ok.
The dust collection on the Axminster looks slick. The other problem with the K5 is that the dust collection port isn’t very stable, pops out sometimes and also flimsy. I’ve never broken mine, but believe the reports I’ve heard of others breaking it.
On the up side, Kreg’s accessories make it more versatile, and I really like the carrying case for the K5, you can fit everything in it, pretty compact and well organized, including a couple of Kreg clamps to clamp it to the table. In fact, it seems like the best feature of the K5.
Have any of you used the Port-Cable QuikJig (now discontinued), and if so, how did you like it? Any plusses vs these?
I bought the armor on pre-order. I had never used it or the kreg before. I had bought the kreg from HD on the Xmas sales, came across the armor and ended up returning the kreg.
Very Happy with the armor. I found it much easier to use, I really like the auto adjust and that 2×4 line up for out feed. Also build quality I think is better. I’ve used it for one large built in project this far and am very happy with it.