Questions after first project

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kristen's picture
Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59
Questions after first project
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I jumped in and completed my first project yesterday--DIY Storage Closet Doors!!  It turned out okay, but I'm glad I started with something that is going inside of the closet.  My hat is off to those people whose initial project was entertainment units!  I need some advice before I build something that people will actually see...


The two biggies:


1) My project joins are not as pretty as I'd like.  I used a Kreg Jig and clamps (Irwin Quick Grips), but for some of the boards, one board would be slightly smaller than the one I was joining it to and the clamps would not be tight.  At the last second when attaching them, they would shift.  Any hints on making a good, crisp, even, join?  Will this only come with practice?  I hate learning curvesSmile


2)  This is a real biggie and would have ruined a project outside of a closet.  When I was attaching the shelf fronts (the 1x2 that keeps the stuff from falling off the shelves when you open/close the doors), I split the wood I was attaching to (the box part of the shelf unit).  I used 1 1/4 coarse kreg screws to attach whitewood 1x2s to whitewood 1x6s.  I tried to keep the drill at a slow speed, but even then it split, just not as bad.  I don't know anything about drills and the settings/adjustments you can make to them.  I just pushed the "go" button at varying degrees to speed it up or slow it down.  The drill was a cheapo one, but my husband does have a nicer Craftsman 19.2 V with all sorts of numbers that look like adjustments.  I hope this is an easy fix.  Dreams of building bigger projects were seriously affected by this problem.  Help!


And one not-so-biggie: When adjusting the Kreg Jig, do you use the lumber dimensions in the name (1x6 setting of 1") or the actual dimensions (1x6 setting of 3/4")?  I used 3/4" and it seemed to work like it is supposed to...


Thanks for any help!  Priming and painting today--can't wait to see it up in the closet!


Sharon L.'s picture
Joined: 2010-09-03 22:28

HI Kristen,
Congrats to you on your first project! Mistakes are how we learn! I have been yearning to make these and just don't have all the supplies handy as of yet :o) I was scouring the barn for hinges, to no avail! Can't wait to see yours all installed and painted!
To address your questions:
1: Depending on your boards. If you bought stud grade lumber there can be tons of variations in the straightness, warp, cupping and where knots may be located. You have to check and recheck your lumber before you buy to make sure it isn't bowed or cupped or twisted. If you bought finish grade lumber, chances are there would be less worries about this, but depending on how they were stored at the store, there can be bowing as well. Joints go together better when they are square. I did notice when working with the Kreg on a 90 degree joint, that it wanted to shove the boards a bit.
2. I am assuming you got the splitting because you were screwing into end grain. On small pieces like that, you may be better just using a brad nailer, or if you don't have one, try pre-drilling with a smaller bit and using regular screws, as Kreg joints seem to crush in delicate areas.
When I adjust the depth of the Kreg jig and collar, I use the actual measure of the board, not the 'dimensional' measurements given by the lumber people.
Hope this helps!

kristen's picture
Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

Thanks Sharon!  My husband does think that one of the boards wasn't quite as straight as I thought it was, so that was probably a problem.  It took forever to find the few boards that I thought were good enough, but it looks like I might need to get pickier (or spend more on the better wood!).


I think I might invest in the Kreg right angle clamp (I think that's what it's called).  I thought I could hold the wood tight enough without it, but obviously that wasn't the case!  I watched some of the Kreg YouTube videos since I built the closet organizer and I should have done that right before instead of after.  I made some of the steps harder (and less accurate) the way that I assembled it.  You are right--we learn from our mistakes!


I appreciate your response.  Thanks!

amanda.leonard's picture
Joined: 2010-09-23 18:46

I found getting long clams helped to hold everything together until all of the screws were established.  I build on my own so I use the clamps as though they are  a second pair of hands.  Made everything on my second project SOOOOO much straighter and cleaner.



Joined: 2010-08-29 18:45

I feel your pain!  As much as I am sorry you had a tough learning curve, I am happy to hear I am not the only one. 

I started my first project the other day, the Simple Bench, and used my Kreg Jig and put it together a bit different than the plans show since they are written without the kreg jig.  I had so many issues with splitting the wood, or the joints not joining just right, or the screws popping through the edge and ripping out,  I was ready to give up building all together at a few points and light a bonfire and burn the whole thing.  I was seriously frustrated. 

I took a break for a few hours and watched a bunch of Kreg videos and it always looked so easy and they didn't have any of the issues I was having.  It motivated me to try again.  I noticed they always clamp, which I hadn't been doing.  I have the small kreg face clamp.  I used that and a table and was able to join my end pieces successfully.  My clamp wasn't large enough to use on any of the pieces other then the end.  I did the rest on the garage floor and sometimes put a folded up cloth under one piece so it would line it up as close as possible to the spot where the screw would come out in the exact middle of the piece I was screwing in to.  I did this because I found that not all pieces are exactly the same width and being off slightly seemed to cause the damage many times.  This helped some, but with or without it, I still split the wood I was screwing in to at least 10 times. 

I had learned through my previous mistakes, and the wonderful people in this community, that you should measure the wood and set the Kreg based on the actual width not based on what it's called.  That helped things, but still I was having issues. 

So I am sorry I don't have answers for you, I'm in the same boat with you.  But I want you to know that you are not alone and with practice, and lots of advice we will figure this all out.  I also am so glad I started with my bench and not the entertainment center I am dreaming of.  That was going to be my next project but now I am going to make a bunch of small things just to work on this learning curve.

I am going to get the right angle clamp, I think it will make a big difference.  I also am going to get some larger face clamps so it has a better reach and I can clamp more things that aren't on the ends. 

I also learned the hard way that you must work on the most level and flat surface you can.  That caused a bunch of my initial problems.  I was working on what seemed like a flat surface, but it wasn't level.  Once I moved into my garage floor which is extremely flat and nearly perfectly level, it made a difference.  I know Ana says this all the time, but I didn't realize the big impact it has. 

So thanks to epoxy for the major cracks, and wood filler for the minor ones, my bench is salvageable, luckily I was planning on painting it anyway.  I think I will love it even once it's done since it was such a learning experience.

Good luck!  We WILL figure this stuff out.  It just takes practice and patience. 

Joined: 2010-08-30 13:54

I just finished my first project, the Swedish Planked Bed... At first I had a lot of problems with splitting the wood and the screws breaking through. I decided to use the Kreg screws instead of the standard wood screws and had great success. Using the Kreg screws I had no spilting and only one other break through (which I'm pretty sure was a result of how I drilled the pocket holes and not how I screwed.) The Kreg screws are actually cheaper than the wood screws I had purchased before! HTH.

kristen's picture
Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

Thanks for the advice and encouragement everyone!  One thing that is motivating me to try again is how useful the closet organizer has been.  My daughter has used so many more of her toys out of her closet since she can see it all, and knows where it is and where it goes when she's done.  Yay!! 


I had wondered about the surface I was working on, but it was my garage floor.  I thought maybe I was in a part that may not have been level (wishful thinking!  I think it was mostly my skillSmile).  I am thinking about constructing some collapsible saw horses and buying a plywood top for it so I have a work surface off the ground.  I did find that as I moved the wood around I was scratching it with the debris on the garage floor.  Wish Ana had a plan for a portable work table!


Sounds like I need more and bigger clamps, especially since I am working alone.  I think they will be worth the investment.  I only had two 6" Irwin quick grips for this project.


I am still worried about the screws splitting the wood I am screwing into, since I did use the Kreg screws and used the wood's actual dimensions for the jig settings.  Maybe I'll post the question on the Kreg Jig site and see what they have to say.  The only thing I can think that might be causing it is the drill itself, since it seems like I am doing what I need to, to make it work.  I was happy with the cost of the Kreg screws–I was expecting them to be more expensive than they were.


Thanks again everyone!  I'm glad to know that I am not the only one who is having some initial problems.  The photos are so inspiring, but they all look so perfect, and perfection was definitely not what I was experiencing!

Joined: 2010-09-20 13:56

I also build alone and found clamps to be ESSENTIAL. I have a couple right-angle clamps which were great for putting together boxes, and some large clamps that helped me with pretty much everything else! I totally recommend them.

kristen's picture
Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

I'm slowly building up my supply list before I tackle my next project.  I got a right angle clamp just the other day (maybe I need another?  I only got one based on the Kreg YouTube videos, but sounds like you have two?), and my mom is giving me some hand-me-down large clamps I'm hoping will be what I need (haven't seen them yet).  I won't have any problems with what to put on my Christmas list this year!  I REALLY need a worktable, but a member on another thread had some recommendations that were surprisingly affordable, so that problem may be solved.


BTW--I found a supplier for General Finishes stains based on your recommendations and will be headed over there this week.  I want to refinish our dining room table and chairs before the holidays and I love the color of your projects.


Thanks for your input!

lollypoppy's picture
Joined: 2010-08-30 21:03
Thanks for asking about what

Thanks for asking about what setting to use on the kreg jig for the size wood. I too was confused if I should be using the actual size of the wood or the size the wood is called.

Although I am still getting the tip of the screw pushing through to the front of my piece even though I'm using the recommended kreg screw size for my wood size.


Joined: 2011-05-11 08:21
Wood Splitting

The reason most lumber cracks is the screw is being driven into a thin piece, on end grain or close to an edge. The answer is to drill a pilot hole first to remove some of the wood in the hole. If you drilled a pilot hole and it still splits the pilot hole was too small or move away from the edge. wood splitting is not a drill problem umless your drill is forcing the head of the screw into the board to deep. If your trying to countersink the head you may have to counter sink the hole too. Finally all clamps are not the same as far as pressure it has to hold, To hold a joint for a pocket hole you need alot of holding power, like Kreg clamps, c clamps and f clamps whick hold really hard. The Irwin type or quick camps clamps just dont have the pressure needed sometimes. Gotta have the right tools to do the job sometimes.