Plyoboxes, Part Four: Pocket holes, Handles, Routers and Jigs

cont. from part 3.
Today we’re moving onto drilling those nifty pocket holes that are going to help hold our boxes together.
Pocket-holes as defined by Wikipedia

Pocket-Hole Joinery, Pocket-Screw Joinery, or Kreg Joinery involves drilling a hole at an angle into one workpiece, and then joining it to a second workpiece with a self-tapping screw. The technique, in addition to doweling, has its roots in ancient Egypt. Egyptians clamped two workpieces together and bored a hole at an angle from the outside workpiece into the second workpiece. They then inserted a dowel with glue, and cut it off flush with the outermost surface.

There, now don’t you feel just a little bit smarter?

I use a Kreg jig to create my pocket holes. But since there are different systems, please refer to the instructions that came with yours for details on setting the depth of the jig and drill bit collar.

I started using the Kreg Jig® Jr. , and about a year or two ago I upgraded to the Kreg Jig® Master System. NOTE: for those on a budget you could probably even get by with the Kreg Mini. The units basically perform the same functions, it’s just a bit faster to use the Master system.

Drilling Pocket Holes

In order to have your boxes look just a touch nicer, drill your pocket holes on the backs of your side panels. With the back of the panel facing you, make a long pencil mark every three to four inches along the left side of the work piece. Do the same along the top edge next.

Now, grab your pocket hole jig and align it with the first mark on one edge. Drill a pocket hole at each of the marks along the top and edge.

In this photo, I started with the top.

Repeat the process for the remaining 3 sides.
Cutting Template for Handle Holes
You can cut each handle individually but since we’re cutting lots of handle holes I prefer to create a template.

Using a Forstner Bit on the drill press, I remove the bulk of the material by drilling holes in a bit of scrap stock.

I then smooth out the remaining “peaks” so the final shape mimics what I want for handle holes. This forms the template for the handle holes. Imperfections in the template will be repeated on all of your boxes. NOTE: I position the template handle holes the same distance from the edge of the scrap piece as the final box handles. That way, I can easily register the top edge to the top of the box panel.
Mounting Template to Box Panels
Take the template and mount using a pair of screws to the back of a plyobox side close to the top.
You can see in the images I use a set of “cross hairs” to mark the horizontal and vertical center of the template. You can then easily align the center of the template with the center line of the panel you’re working with.
If you have cut your template handle holes the same distance from the edge as you want your box handle holes, you can also register the top edge of it to the top of the box panel as I did. This helps give you a nice consistent look to each of the boxes.
Cutting Handle Holes in Box Panels
Use a flush cut trim bit in your router to transfer the shape of the template to the box.
But before you start, you’ll need to drill a hole to start the bit in.
Working from the back of the box, drill a hole (slightly larger diameter than the router bit) in the center of the template hole. You could start near an edge, but the drill will create tear-out and this will save some time sanding later.
Once you’ve got hole for the bit, clamp your work piece face up and in such away that it is secure but also there’s room for the bit to move freely beneath.

Now with your flush cut bit in the router, adjust the depth lock of your router so the bearing can ride along the inside surface of the template. This is pretty important as the template is going to guide the cut. I like to check this from the side view before I begin routing the hole.

Place the router on the work piece and extend the bit to the working depth and lock it in place. Start the router and move immediately to an edge of the template. Once you’ve made contact with the template, begin to move the route
r in a clock-wise direction around the edge of the template hole.
Follow the template all the way around and past your starting point.
Passing your starting point slightly will give you a cleaner cut. Repeat this process on one more panel to create a second handle.
Rounding Handle Edges
Remove your flush cut bit from your router and replace it with a round over bit.
Without using the template, clamp your work piece down but this time set your depth of cut so the bearing rides on the inside of the handle hole.
Allowing the bearing to ride on the inside of the handle hole, move the router in a clockwise direction and finish by overlapping your starting position. Be sure to repeat this for both sides of each handle.
Next week: Screwing it up

2 thoughts on “Plyoboxes, Part Four: Pocket holes, Handles, Routers and Jigs”

  1. Just about to finish up my first set of boxes using these plans. Couple suggestions:

    1. the 24 inch boxes require a second sheet of plywood, might want to include a cutting plan for that;
    2. The kreg’s jig is really a neat tool – but you need POWER to go into 3/4 inch ply. Corded drill works better.
    3. Cutting the edges (side edges) straight is hard, with a table saw or a hand (circular/skill) saw. I ended upwith lots of wavy cuts, and a belt sander comes in handy to even things out. Without straight edges on the side, it is tough to do the joining.
    4. I think many people (like me) won’t have access to a drill press or router, so maybe some alternative ways to cut handles? I tried a hole saw, that lasted for one hole and it broke, I think I am going to do with a jigsaw now.

    Thanks for the instructions!