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So I borrowed a Kreg jig from a friend and was using some scrap 2x4's to work on the Community Project: Lets build a workbench!. Unfortunately I came to an impasse. I went to 3 local hardware stores on none of them carried "pocket screws" when I asked for them by that name.

Sure I can order the genuine article from the Kreg website but I am more interested in what other hardware alternatives are there to pocket screws?

  • Agree with answers below, but if you're absolutely desperate, use a normal countersunk wood screw with a small washer. If the wood is soft enough that you don't feel a need to pre-drill, spin the screw backwards initially to make a dent for it to screw into without wandering. But seriously, that's desperation mode... – Aloysius Defenestrate Jun 9 '15 at 0:46
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    That's surprising, both Lowes and Home Depot have carried them when I went in. Kreg screws when I went in, though if I recall, they were in their own display near the jig itself. – Daniel B. Jun 9 '15 at 17:10
  • @DanielB. Yes... you live somewhere bigger than me I will imagine then.... My options were smaller versions of Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and Rona. None of them carried the jig either but they all knew what I was asking about. – Matt Jun 9 '15 at 17:30
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Not a direct answer to your question but thought I'd add that if you can find a screw of suitable overall form but it's unfortunately not self-tapping you can modify them so that they are.

Any screw can be modified to make it self-tapping, and the process is surprisingly easy. All that's required is to create clearance and effectively a cutting edge, or more than one, and the existing threading takes care of the rest (just as it does on manufactured self-tapping screws).

This sounds like a lot of work but it can be a very quick operation, literally a few seconds per screw at fastest. So I'll concentrate on the fast-and-dirty method instead of those that create a groove similar to that seen on many commercial types.

Grip your screw in gloved fingers or pliers (pad jaws to prevent crushing the threads) and hold it against a grinder or belt sander to create one flat face on it, approximately 1/3 of the way up the threads. Ideally it should retain its original point, looking something like this when you're done:

Screw converted to self-tapping

Bingo, your screw has just become self-tapping.

  • Graphus... I will make a new question so that you can move this there. This is awesome. Never even considered doing that. – Matt Jun 9 '15 at 11:23
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    I made another question where this would fit in perfectly and it will get better exposure: woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/1716/… – Matt Jun 9 '15 at 11:32
  • @Matt, that's a great idea. I'll reply there with further details on the other methods to convert a screw to be self-tapping. Don't have time to do the Photoshop work this evening, will try to get to it in the morning and post before lunch. – Graphus supports Monica Jun 9 '15 at 20:34
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The important parts are to have self-tapping screws (unless you want to do a little predrilling before using the screws, not recommended) and having a flat surface on the bottom of the head.

Depending on what you expect it to need to bear, most screws would handle this fairly well. However, the Kreg pocket hole screws are HARD. Your average deck screw is very soft in comparison. I accidentally hit one with my biscuit joiner and totaled the blade. It also made a terrible racket and barely touched the screw. So that would be the biggest difference between them and some other screw you would likely use that looks similar.

  • Are you aware of a generic reference for screw hardness? – Matt Jun 8 '15 at 20:05
  • @Matt I went and did a little searching, and no. I couldn't find anything. I have cut many different screws in half and these were significantly more difficult. that is all I got. Sorry – bowlturner Jun 8 '15 at 20:12
  • How is there not a hardness rating for screws? The cheapo Home Depot screw heads strip instantly, and even bend quite easily. – Michael Lewis Dec 14 '17 at 21:42
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I've made several rough projects where, just for practice, I used pocket screws, including a couple sawhorses, a little outside bench for taking off shoes, and my own workbench. Each time, I actually just used regular drywall screws instead of the Kreg screws, for convenience and (a very little bit of) money saving -- not because they're at all the right screws.

One thing I really had to do with the drywall screws that I wouldn't have had to do with the right screws was to pull the joint very tightly together before screwing. This is because the pressure on the screw to start tapping wants to push the joint apart -- even with a real Kreg screw. But then, the threads of a drywall screw run all the way to the head, so the threads near the head grab the first board, and don't let it pull snug against the second board. This is why Kreg screws have the partially unthreaded shank; that unthreaded part slips right through the first board, so the joint pulls snug.

In summary, for a rough project like your workbench, you can use any screw that fits if you're willing to clamp the joint very tightly before screwing. And while the self-tapping feature and wide washer on Kreg screws are very nice features, the one feature I would really look for if I couldn't find Kreg screws is that partially unthreaded shank.

  • FYI Mike, drywall screws are actually a very poor choice for joining wood. Related Answer. – Graphus supports Monica Feb 23 '16 at 18:43
  • Sure, but I've got an endless supply, so I'm happy to practice with them for rough and non-critical applications. – Mike Feb 23 '16 at 20:07
  • And endless supply is actually no recommendation for using them :-D – Graphus supports Monica Feb 23 '16 at 20:23
  • Agreed. But an endless supply and not caring about the joint is. Anyway, the point is just that you don't need Kreg-brand products to make a pocket hole. – Mike Feb 23 '16 at 21:51
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From what I can see of the pocket screws and their intended purpose you can find similar properties in screws that have pan or truss like heads. Basically a wide head with a flat bottom. You can also get screws with washer heads.

I ended getting screws advertised as Particle Board screws. They had a washer head and looked similar to this. The ones I purchased were threaded all the way unlike typical pocket screws. It is also important to use self tapping / type-17 screws. Like Doresoom points out:

It's a huge pain to drill a pilot hole at the same angle

Washer Head screw

I would still be curious to know of any other ideas people have. I suppose you could also just purchase washers which you could partner with other screws but that would be a costly venture.

  • Don't forget to mention the self-tapping feature that pocket hole screws have. Looks like the screw in your image has it too. I've tried using regular wood screws before in 1x material, and ended up splitting the wood. It's a huge pain to drill a pilot hole at the same angle, so self-tapping is just about the only way to keep thinner material from splitting when using pocket holes. – Doresoom Jun 8 '15 at 17:05
  • Forgot to mention that. Thanks. Made a small update to reflect. – Matt Jun 8 '15 at 17:23
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I know this is an old question, but I recently had to solve this problem myself, so maybe I can help someone who finds this later.

I used the SPAX screws, 1-1/4" Long for 3/4" stock. They are REAR PANEL screws, and they have a 3/8" head. $3 for a box of 30, and it took me about 15 mins to modify them all. Not great time-wise, but batching them out helps, and it works in a pinch. I modified them in two stages:

First took them to the bench grinder and ground a flat in the first couple threads as mentioned here:

Ground Flat*

Then I chucked them in my mini lathe (but probably would have been faster chucking them in a drill), and ran them against a rotary tool with a mounted grinding wheel of larger diameter then the screw head (3/4" in my case) and ground the first few threads off to make the clearance on the shaft.

Final Product

  • That's a lot of work, but in a pinch... Welcome! – FreeMan May 31 at 17:34

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