Scott wrote in with an interesting question. Here’s looking to buy a new Kreg jig and is wondering whether their screw assortments are a good idea for initial investment.
I was hoping for some advice on Kreg entry-level products. I’d like to buy the basic pocket hole jig (about $19) as well as a set of pocket hole screws to play around with the basics on a few projects.
Kreg sells a few screw sets and I was wondering if you have an opinion on them. One is a 260 piece set for $20 and another is a 675 piece set for $27.
I don’t want to make too much of an investment in this yet as I’m just learning, but are these sets worth it for the variety, or would you recommend buying individual screw sizes as they’re needed? I mostly plan to join 2x4s and 1x material.
Quick Reference Links
Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Starter Set: $19
Kreg Pocket Hole Jig 320 Set: $39
Kreg K4 Pocket Hole Jig System: $79
Kreg 260pc Screw Starter Set: $20
Kreg 675pc Screw Assortment Set: $26.15
Kreg Screw Boxes: $4 and up
Kreg R3 System via Rockler: $29
(Kreg products are usually similarly priced across all retailers. These links are to Amazon for convenience purposes.)
Of the two Kreg screw assortments that Scott mentioned, the 675pc set is the better deal in my opinion. This is not so much that it gives you more “bang for the buck,” but because it gives you a little more variety. The smaller set has the addition of a 1-1/2″ size, while the larger set has an additional fine-threaded fastener option.
In my opinion, screw assortments are convenient. When working on a variety of projects and with different materials, having a screw assortment handy can save a last-minute trip to the store or having to wait several days for an online order to come in.
However, in this case, Scott is 1) starting out fresh, and 2) knows exactly what materials he will be working with.
With an initial budget of say $50, I think that Scott would be better off upgrading to the “320” pocket hole jig and buying a single box of fasteners for ~$5-6. This is assuming he already has a clamp for holding the pocket hole jig in place.
Kreg’s $20 jig isn’t a bad deal, but the 320 gives you a second drilling guide, a spacer, a case, and starter screws.
The good thing about the current $20 offering is that you can expand it in the future, with a spacer and second drilling guide for $17 at the time of this posting. Or, one could buy a second $20 starter set and get spacers separately at $9 for two. Still, the “320” set gives you a case and clamping pad.
So, that’s what I would do with a $50 budget, I’d put more money towards the jig rather than fasteners sizes that I might not even need upfront or even over time.
Rockler still has the discontinued R3 for $29, but I think the $40 320 set or $20 basic 310 set are going to be more versatile and expandable over time. (I might even upgrade to one of these sets myself.)
Kreg makes it really hard to tell which screws come with the 320 set, but squinting at product photos, it looks like you get:
20x 2-1/2″ indoor/outdoor screws (coarse thread)
20x 1-1/4″ indoor screws (coarse thread)
Here is Kreg’s screw chart:
Okay, so if you’re joining 1x material to 1x, you’re working with 3/4″ nominal material thickness and would need 1-1/4″ fasteners.
If you’re joining 2x material together, your material is 1-1/2″ thick and you’re looking at 2-1/2″ fasteners.
When you start joining different material thicknesses together, or boards with intermediate thicknesses, that’s when assortments can be particularly useful.
There’s also the fine-tooth vs. coarse-tooth discussion. Coarse-threaded screws work best in softwoods, and fine-threaded screws work best in hardwoods.
For users like Scott who are sticking to 1x and 2x boards to start off with, 1-1/4″ and 2-1/2″ screws are all you might need at first.
A box of 1-1/4″ fine-thread screws (100-count) is $4.77 at Amazon. A box of coarse-threaded 1-1/4″ screws (100 count) is also $4.77 via Amazon. A box of (50) 2-1/2″ screws is $4.28 via Amazon. That’s less than $14 for the fasteners you might need to work with 1x and 2x materials. Skip on one of the 1-1/4″ sizes, and you’re spending less than $10 on screws.
OR, the 310 set plus 2 boxes of screws plus Kreg face clamp ($21 via Amazon) brings you just over $50. You can use other locking c-clamp pliers, but personally I have been wanting for the Kreg version for a very long time and wish I bought it initially.
Back to the Screw Assortments
Let’s say a user is working with 1x hardwood and softwood boars, and 2x softwood boards intended for indoors applications.
The smaller $20 260pc screw assortment has ~$7.40 in usable screws (based on two half-boxes of 1-1/4″ screws and 3/5 of a box of 2-1/2″ screws. If you include the 2-1/2″ outdoor/indoor screws, that’s another ~$3.88 in value for ~$11.28 in value.
The larger ~$27 675 screw assortment has $14.31 in 1-1/4″ screws and $9.71 in indoor/outdoor 2-1/2″ screws (a box of 50 is $6.47). That’s ~$24.02 in usable screws. However, you’re spending more for indoor/outdoor screws when you might only need indoor screws. If you could use the 1″ screws, this starts to look like a good value.
But, what if you get the smaller assortment and need fine-thread 1″ or 1-1/2″ screws? Or if you get the larger assortment and you need 1-1/2″ screws? You’re buying more screws down the road.
Summing Everything Up
If you are on a tight budget, and you know you will only be working with 1x and 2x wood boards of known type or species, the screw assortments are not the best use of limited resources.
I don’t like having to stop everything to go out and hunt down fasteners for a project, especially projects that would otherwise be quick and simple.
But consider this – you can always buy a Kreg screw assortment down the road, and you can always buy more boxes of screws, if not from Kreg then from other brands of pocket hole screws.
I would either consider spending more on a more-featured Kreg jig, such as stepping up from the 310 to the 320, or I would put that money towards a locking face clamp. Or, I would simply buy the Kreg starter kit, 2 boxes of screws, and save my money towards future purchases, whether that will be for more screws, expansion parts for the Kreg 300-series components, or even a K4-series jig.
The screw assortments are a good value for what you get, especially the 675pc set, but for someone who knows they will be working with 1x and 2x wood boards exclusively, I wouldn’t recommend it.
You can always buy more fasteners when you need them.
Home centers even carry the most common sizes, at least near me, and some are even available for free delivery.
What Would I Buy?
Kreg 310 jig + 2 boxes of screws
Kreg 320 jig, which comes with (40) total starter screws
Kreg 310 jig + 260pc assortment
Kreg 310 jig + 2 boxes of screws + Kreg face clamp
Kreg 320 jig + 2 boxes of screws (ToolGuyd Recommendation)
Kreg 310 jig + 675pc screw assortment
Kreg’s 300-series jigs are newer, but their R3 is still available at some retailers, and it’s still very useful. It can be a good idea for anyone stuck between $20 310 and $40 320 options.
I’m trying to think back to when I purchased my Kreg R3-style jig. I *might* have also purchased a screw assortment, or maybe just a couple of boxes of screws in the size/style I thought I would need. But, my thoughts and recommendations above are what I would advise today.
I also at one time purchased a pocket hole screw assortment from McFeely’s.
My gut instinct is actually to buy the 675pc assortment. But the math – and the voice in my head – says that it’s better to buy pocket hole screws as you learn more about the sizes you need.
I often buy fastener sizes that I think I will need, and yet I will inevitably still need to place an order or visit the local home center.
Think about this – if you want to get into baking, there are 4 different types of flours you might need, 3 types of sugar, 2 styles of cocoa, and 4 styles of chocolate chips. Those ingredients are always available (well, usually), and so money is better spent on supplies that will offer greater impact. Getting into pocket hole joinery is similar.
Given the reader’s criteria, I really don’t think that a screw assortment is the most impactful use of limited funds at this time. If someone finds they enjoy pocket hole joinery, they can always buy more screws or value assortments later on.
I realize that I’ve written a lot of words to make a very basic point, but it was necessary to approach this question in such a manner. My instinct is to say “yes, get the assortment,” and as much as I wanted to show the reader why they shouldn’t get the assortment now, I was also working to convince myself of the same.
Do you think I’m on-target with these recommendations?