How to Use a Kreg Jig R3: A Step-By-Step Guide

The Kreg jig R3 is without a doubt one of the most popular pocket hole jigs on the market and has been the starting point for many woodworking hobbyists. It might not sport all the bells and whistles of Kreg’s fancier models, but it contains everything you need to get started with pocket hole joinery.

If you’re new to the world of pocket hole joinery, then this breakdown will also give you a good idea of how to use pocket holes for making repairs and building DIY furniture. The process is essentially the same no matter what you plan to build or repair, so you should be able to repeat the process yourself in no time.

I’ll break down the Kreg Jig R3 components, how to set it up and use it, and give some examples of using the jig to make basic pocket hole joints.

Kreg Jig R3 Kit

Open up the kit and you’ll a number of different components. The three main ones are the two-hole drill guide, the 3/8” stepped drill bit, and the #2 square driver.

kreg jig r3 components

There’s also a small hex key for adjusting the stop collar length, an owner’s manual, and mine came with a selection of different-sized pocket screws and small wooden dowels.

Also, keep in mind the carrying case is an important component of the kit itself. Not only does it have slots to house each of the main components, but it also has etched-on measurements for setting the depth of the drill bit stop collar.

Noticeably absent is a clamp to fit the clamp pad adapter. You can use any quick-grip clamp that fits in the adapter here, or you can also purchase Kreg’s specially designed face clamp. I’ve always used a simple quick-grip clamp myself without issues, so you can probably skip the face clamp unless you really want it.

Let’s take a closer look at the three main components and how they work together to make pocket holes.

Drill Guide

First up, the main body of the jig is the two-hole drill guide. It’s made from the same tough plastic as all of Kreg’s other products and each hole contains a hardened steel guide that protects the jig from damage as you drill holes through it.

drill guide
Two hole drill guide.

The drill guide has two grey-colored easy-press sliders on each of its sides for adjusting the jig to different workpiece thicknesses.

Also notice that the grey clamp pad can be removed from the body of the jig. This allows you to use a screw to mount the drill guide directly to a workpiece if it’s too cramped to use a clamp.

Stepped Drill Bit

The next major component is the special 3/8” stepped drill bit with its adjustable stop collar. This is the actual drill bit used for drilling pocket holes.

The stop collar has different settings on it to match the varying thicknesses of your workpieces.

6” Square Driver

Lastly, the 6-inch #2 square driver gives the clearance needed to fasten pocket screws with your drill driver. The added length is needed as you wouldn’t be able to reach far enough with a standard length drill bit.

How to Use the Kreg Jig R3?

Now that you’ve got an understanding of the basics of the Kreg Jig R3, let’s take a look at how to actually use it.

Step 1: Measure Board Thickness

The jig needs to be adjusted to the thickness of your work piece. Make sure to measure the actual thickness of the wood, as dimensional lumber differs between its nominal and actual measurements.

measuring board thickness with tape measure

In my case, my board measured 3/4-inch thick so I’ll be adjusting the jig’s settings to 3/4-inch.

Step 2: Adjust Drill Guide Sliders

Next up, you’ll want to adjust both of the grey sliders on either side of the drill guide. Look closely at the bottom of the drill guide sliders and you’ll notice measurements etched into the plastic.

adjusting drill guide sliders
Adjusting the drill guide sliders. Note the 3/4″ measurement lines up with the blue arrows.

Depress the ridged tab on each slider and adjust it until the measurement aligns with the arrows on the jig body.

Step 3: Adjust Drill Bit Stop Collar

Next up, you’ll need to adjust the drill bit’s stop collar to match your work piece thickness.

Keep the drill bit inside the carrying case with the tip of the bit all the way forward. Then loosen the collar with the included hex key and adjust the stop collar so the top lines up with the measurement on the carry case.

adjusting stop collar heightThen tighten it with the included hex key.

Step 4: Drill the Pocket Holes

Now the jig is set up and you’re ready to start drilling pocket holes in your material.

The jig comes with two hole guides making it ideal for narrow workpieces between 1 1/2-inch and 1 7/8-inch thick. If you’re working with a wider board, then Kreg recommends placing pocket holes 9/16-inch from each edge and adding one or more holes so that the distance between holes does not exceed 6 inches.

You’ll want to clamp the drill guide on the edge of your work piece so the grey sliders are flush against the edge.

kreg jig clamped in place
Make sure the grey sliders are flush against the edge of your board before drilling.

Next, insert the stepped drill bit into your drill and line it up with your desired pocket hole guide. You’ll want to set your drill’s speed to the highest setting before drilling.

Then withdraw the bit about a 1/4-inch from the material turn on the drill until it’s running at full speed and feed the bit into the work piece. You’ll notice that the bit creates a lot of wood shavings, so you’ll want to withdraw it every so often as you go.

drilling pocket holes
Drilling the pocket hole makes a lot of wood shavings, so be sure to pull back and let the shavings come free as you drill.

When the stop collar reaches the edge of the drill guide your hole is complete and you can withdraw the bit from the jig.

If you have multiple holes that need drilling, you can repeat the entire process over again for the next hole.

Step 5: Fasten Your Work Pieces

At this point your pocket holes are complete and all that’s left to do is fasten your work pieces together.

In order for your pocket hole joints to work properly, you’ll need to use the right length screw to match your pocket hole measurements. Kreg includes a chart with material thicknesses and the corresponding screw length.

Here is the screw length selection chart for reference:

Material Thickness Screw Length
1/2″ 3/4″
5/8″ 1″
3/4″ 1 1/4″
7/8″ 1 1/2″
1″ 1 1/2″
1 1/8″ 1 1/2″
1 1/4″ 2″
1 3/8″ 2″
1 1/2″ 2 1/2″

You’ll also want to use the right screws for the job, as pocket hole screws have a number of different features that make them optimal for use in pocket hole joinery. Kreg makes both coarse-thread screws for softwoods and composites and fine thread screws for hardwoods.

In my case, the board thickness was 3/4-inch pine, so I’ll be using 1 1/4-inch long coarse-thread screws.

Before fastening your work pieces together, you’ll want to clamp them together securely. Then insert the 6-inch driver bit into your drill, and carefully drive the screws into place.

driving pocket screws

You’ll want to be careful not to overtighten your screws, as this can lead to wood splitting on the far board. Set the drill’s clutch to one of the lower settings to avoid overtightening.

finished pocket hole
Completed pocket hole joint.

Wrap Up

The Kreg Jig R3 is a fantastic way to get your feet wet with pocket hole joinery and has everything you might need to get started making repairs and building furniture. It’s moderately priced at about $30 for the basic kit, making it significantly cheaper than some of Kreg’s more elaborate models.

Kreg’s recently updated the kit to the 320 Jig, which is essentially the same kit with a few small updates.

The jig is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it and is so popular that you’ll actually find dozens of knock-off brands copying the same basic design. For my money, I’d have a hard time recommending anything other than this jig to pocket hole newcomers!

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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