Pocket Holes Vs Dowels: Which One Is Right For You?

Have you ever found yourself confused between pocket holes and dowels? 

Yet, if you still wonder which among pocket holes vs dowels will win, we will very happily make that closing argument for you.

Undoubtedly, pocket holes and dowels are two important choices when it comes to woodworking joinery. While both of them rely on different mechanical and technical approaches, one works just as well as the other.

While people are still arguing about which one is better, we decided to test out both of them ourselves. But to compare them both, we will first have to understand them individually.

Pocket Holes Vs Dowels: The Difference 

Before diving deep into the difference, let us first recall the working mechanism behind pocket holes and dowels separately.

Pocket Holes Dowels 
Joinery by screwing two pieces of wood at a 15-degree angle.Joinery by using hardwood pins, glue, and same-sized holes in both logs.
Doesn’t require clamping of the joint afterward.Require clamping of the joints as the glue dries.
Fastest way of connecting two pieces of wood.Requires more time than pocket holes as glue may take 24 hours to cure.
Joinery may be visible from different angles.Dowel joinery is not visible from any angle.

Pocket Holes

Pocket Holes
Image Source: Kregtool.com

Pocket holes are used for joinery between two wood pieces using holes and screws. It involves drilling an angled hole using a jig. 

After the pocket hole joinery is made, a self tapping-screw is drilled at a 15-degree angle into the adjoining piece. This creates a tight bond between the two pieces of wood. 

Pocket holes can be drilled through mortise and tenon on the edges, as well as the face screen. But for utmost strength, the pocket hole screw must be drilled into the face grain or edge grain, and never into the end grain.


Image source: Leevalley.com

Dowels are hardwood pins, which are used instead of screws in dowel joinery. These hardwood pins are inserted in holes made on both faces of the adjoining woods. 

Dowelling starts by drilling the required number of holes into the board. Then the adjoining wood piece is aligned with the first set perfectly using the jig. 

Once drilled, wood glue is squeezed into the holes. A dowel is inserted into each hole of one piece, and the second wood piece is then clamped shut making the joint. The joint is kept clamped until the glue dries completely.

Are Dowels Stronger Than Pocket Holes?

After trying and testing our team is pretty confident that dowels are indeed stronger than pocket holes. And the simple explanation behind it is the grain direction and glue surface. 

A dowel butt joint increases the glue surface. This is because each hole in both the boards bores more area for the glue. 

Moreover, the fibers in the dowel bond with the fibers in both pieces. And when the glue parches, all the fibers latch to each other, creating a super strong joint. 

When Should You Use Pocket Holes?

Irrespective of its potency, pocket holes can be used as a strong-enough joint in many situations. 

Pocket holes are perfect for a lot of DIY woodworking projects including picture frames, DIY cabinets, and even DIY shelves. This is also because pocket holes can often look very ugly in most cases. 

In these projects, the pocket screw is hidden inside the cabinet. In the picture frames, it is hidden at the back of the frame. And for shelves, it is present at the bottom. 

Pocket holes screw joinery tends to shift slightly when tightening the screw, bringing a slight change in the alignment. This will require a whole lot of sanding to bring the board back to level. 

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig 320

Kreg Pocket hole jig

When Should You Use Dowels?

Dowels joints are twice as strong as pocket holes, but they are also very hard to align precisely. However, with a little hard work, comes great consequences. This structural joint method is barely visible when the project is finished and is worth all the extra effort. 

This is useful for any project that is visible from multiple angles. So, you can use dowels for cutting boards, cabinetry, jewelry boxes, and even furniture where pocket holes are hard to hide.

Dowels can also be a very good joinery mechanism for table tops, benchtops, and other flat planks. Dowels can keep these boards perfectly aligned during the glue-up than pocket joinery. 

What Are The Disadvantages Of Using Pocket Holes?

As strong as pocket holes may be, they are not always the superior choice. Here are some disadvantages of using a pocket hole in cabinetry.

  • Pocket holes, once broken or damaged can’t be repaired. You need to start over again with new pieces of wood if the joint breaks. 
  • They are not a good choice for thin pieces of wood. If you are working with wood that is thin, consider something other than pocket holes. 
  • They are aesthetically unpleasing. If you want your furniture to look as pretty as your efforts, they really are not the best choice. 
  • These joints require highly precision drilling techniques. So if you are new or considering DIY projects, think considerably. 

FAQs – Pocket Holes Vs Dowels

When should you not use pocket holes?

As pocket holes are not the most attractive type of joinery, it is best to not use them on pieces that are visible from different angles. If you are someone who does not care much about the aesthetic, pocket hole joinery may not be a bad choice for you.

Are dowels stronger than nails?

As dowel holes are much denser and sturdier than nails and screws, they can be a very versatile and reliable source for woodworking joints. The dowel joinery bonds with wood fibers, making them all stronger than pocket holes.

Should you glue pocket hole joints?

Adding glue to your pocket holes can provide a bit of extra strength to the joint. However, it is not at all necessary to glue your pocket holes. This is what makes pocket holes a much faster joint than others.

Do you need a pocket hole jig?

Creating a pocket hole without a jig may cause a high chance of the wood tearing out. You may also have inconsistent angles, resulting in weaker joints. A pocket hole jig allows a user to make consistent and accurate angles with proper depth.

What are the disadvantages of a dowel joint?

Dowels joinery can be a little tricky for a beginner. It requires precision drilling skills and alignment. Also, you will need to clamp the pieces together for 24 hours, so time is not the best aspect of a dowel joint.

What can I use instead of pocket holes?

There are many alternatives to pocket holes, these include – tenon joints, dados, dovetails, and the famous mortise joint.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of screwed joints?

The main advantage of a screwed joint is that it is fast, and is a relatively cheaper option than other joints. On the contrary, it is not the strongest of the joints. The screwed joints are more vulnerable to joints that may receive regular stress.

Dowels Vs Pocket Hole Strength: Which Is Worth It?

Deciding between pocket holes vs dowels was a difficult one. In our opinion, using dowels will result in much stronger and aesthetically pleasing outcomes. 

Whereas, if you are short on time and do not care much for aesthetics, pocket holes are not a bad option at all. All-in-all, both of them have a different approach but the end product will be pretty similar.

We suggest you consider your needs, time, and resources before choosing a joinery type, and make your decision accordingly. Thank you for reading. We hope you found this helpful!

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