Hiding Holes for Pocket Screws

Ways to mask pocket screw holes, or at least make them inconspicuous. January 11, 2008

I'm looking for advice from pocket hole people. How are you building your upper cabs using pocket holes? I normally use pre-finished ply, face frames. Uppers: 1/2 sides, 3/4 tops and bottoms, 1/2 back. Maybe it was the heat, but I was thinking way too hard on how to use pocket holes only and hide most of the screw holes, keeping the finished interior nice with pre-finished ply.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor C:
Forget the pockets and just use z-rips. Just use the pockets for putting on the frame. I would venture to say that they would be stronger if you are using 1/2" sides. (The screw would be going into 3/4" instead of 1/2".)

From contributor P:
I have a few different styles of boxes. But what I use most is 5/8" sides and top, 3/4 bottom, 1/4" back in a rabbet and a face frame. 5" x 3/4" stretcher/nailers inside the box to gain the extra 3/4". I p/s on the outside and cover with applied panels. I prefer to build boxes as long as I can, so usually I'll biscuit and screw the dividers in place. On builder and rental cabinets, I go ahead and p/s the dividers and plug the holes. The majority of our kitchen work has become mid-line stuff. I do the nice stuff a little different, but this method works well for us.

From contributor D:
In 1/2" material, pocket screws would be a wasted effort. Brad nails would be stronger. Hell, masking tape would be stronger than that.

From the original questioner:
Z-Rips? Please describe. 1/2" sides... I think I need to just stick with 3/4 like I've done in the past. I was trying to lighten it up without having 3 sizes of ply - 1/2, 5/8 and 3/4". So those who pocket hole uppers, what are you using for materials and where are you hiding them?

From contributor F:
I think he meant zip-r assembly screws that are made by Hafele. I use confirmats which are a bit thicker. If you want to hide the pocket holes from being visible on the bottom whenever someone sticks their head underneath and looks up (or happens to be tying their shoe in the kitchen!) on upper cabinets that are not at the end of a cabinet run, you can butt joint the end panels on top of the deck and under the cabinet top so that the pocket holes are placed on the sides. For an end of run cabinet, I would screw on a finished raised panel or another piece of pre-finished ply.

But do you really want to use pocket screws? There's a slight creep whenever I try perpendicular butt joints. I can't see a great advantage in speed unless you've got one of the DK500's lying around. By the way, I use 3/4" material for my cabinets and 1/4" for the dadoed back.

From contributor J:
There's really no way around using some sort of skin or overlay when using pocket screws for assembly (unless your cabinets run wall to wall). Still much faster, though, than clamping.

I pocket screw on the sides first, either making it flush if there will be a finished raised panel applied, or setting it in 1/4" if the cabinet will be against the wall. So those holes are now out of sight. If you're using 3/4" tops, leave the sides 3/4" short, staple through the top into the sides and put a couple of pocket holes into the frame at the top.

Next, pocket hole the bottom into the sides with the holes on the bottom and cover with 1/4" finished skin. Add supports and nail rails and you're done. You'll have to do something different on vertical dividers to avoid seeing the holes.

From contributor C:
Thanks for the correction. I would also use all 3/4" for top, bottom, and sides, then 1/2 for the backs. Or if you want to make things really simple, just use 3/4 for everything. I personally use 1/2" for back, but I fully understand the benefit of buying one type of sheet good.

From contributor B:
I use pre-finished ply and face frames and the way I do it is to carefully space the pocket holes between the 32mm shelf peg holes on the inside and just leave it. My typical customer is medium to high end remodel between $15,000-$25,000. Never a question about it. With all those 5mm holes on the inside, what's a few more perfectly spaced holes?