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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering making a couple of 30"w x16"d x64"t cabinets with doors using 5/8" particle board. I called Kreg, and they said it will work fine...but don't overtighten the screws, and use glue.

My question is... has anyone used a Kreg pocket hole jig to fasten butt joints using particle board? How well does it work? Any pitfalls? Any recommendations?

I want to make it from particle board because it's cheap.
 

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Forget it. As Stick said, the screws will not hold. Spend a little more for some good plywood. A/C would work but, BB would be my choice.
 

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I made a 96" tall, 16" deep and 30" wide cabinet for the garage about 20 years ago. It was made with 3/4" particle board covered with melamine. The back was 1/4" plywood. I used 3 european style hinges on each door -- doors were 96" x 15". I had 3 fixed shelves -- one at 3" where I kept my 10 gallon air tank, one at 3 feet and one at 6 feet, plus a top. there were also 3 or 4 other adjustable shelves. I did not use Kreg screws - I used 2 1/2 " or 3" wood screws at each fixed shelf and the top along with glue. While most of the shelves were used for storage, I would not say that there was ever a great amount of weight on them.

I also built a 3 foot tall x 6 foot long x 15" deep file storage shelf unit that I use for file storage from 3/4" melamine covered particle board. It has no doors. There are cubbie holes about 11' tall x 18" wide. This unit is pretty well loaded with supports for the shelves about every 18". I've had it for about 8 years and it has held up well. I did use Kreg screws on that unit.

I also built a 6 foot tall x 30 inch wide by 12 inch deep bookcase out of the same material. The shelves at the 2 foot level and forefoot level are fixed as are the top and bottom. I used Kreg screws on this unit.This unit is fairly well loaded with books, three ring binders and other items, but they're not jampacked in. This bookcase is not subjected too much stress or movement and items stored on its shelves are not regularly moved.

None of these units was ever subjected to a lot of stress. The file storage shelf unit has a few files taken out and put back on a daily basis, but the files would be about the size of a pretty good size book. The bookcase and storage shelf were each moved on one occasion to another building without any significant problems; the taller garage cabinet was never moved. It had seasonal things taken out and put back from time to time but was not used on a daily – or sometimes even weekly – basis.

I don't believe that I would use 5/8 inch particleboard on the project. If the unit is going to be subject to much movement or stress, plywood would be by far the better choice. I agree with Stick and Gene that stress and particleboard are not a good combination.
 

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What are you planning on using them for Gary? That info might make a difference.
 

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Do you mean particle board or MDF? With MDF, you have to pre drill for each screw, if you don't, it will lift out a chunk or cause a split. I have an MDF cabinet, first I ever made, that is holding up OK. It holds the sander and has an MDF door and a shelf that holds a belt sander and the sandpaper. It was put together with rabbets, dados and glue. LOTS OF GLUE. If I were doing it again (no thanks, I'll use ply), I would put a coat of glue on the edges to be connected, let it dry, then re-glue. There area a few screws in it, but all holes were pre drilled.

I have collected a number of sheets of premium 5'x5' Baltic Birch in both half and 3/4 thickness. They are not really that much more expensive than 4x8 big box ply. I keep them covered with canvas and inside the garage so they won't turn yellow from sunlight. I just can't get acceptable results from the crumby ply at the Big Box store, and it's nice to always have some on hand.
 

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The trick with particle board & screws is to not over tighten them. Holes should always be pilot drilled. There is a lot of difference in various grades of particle board. The crap that the box stores sell is generally meant for underlayment not anything structural. Even the board meeting industrial standards varies a lot. Screws into the edges of ply have their problems also. Glue helps a lot. So does any form of inter locking joinery. Dados, biscuits, dowels, Dominos, splines will be stronger than just screws into an edge. Strong enough depends on the application. Use the correct screws for the material. Dry wall or wood screws are not the correct screws for particle board or MDF! The correct screws will have an auger point, deep wide spaced threads and a self counter sinking head. Caution about the "self counter sinking head" it will only work if you have enough thread into the board to pull well. Best to use a counter sink first. It will almost never work with a melamine coated board. Pocket screws have a different type of head and need to be used for that application. It's the same principle as hunting a bear with a 22 cal.
 

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It's the same principle as hunting a bear with a 22 cal.
It is a proven fact, it has been done. I wouldn't want to try it tho.

I don't believe I have ever worked with particle board, plywood is my material of choice. If I did work with particle board, I would use glue blocks at every joint. I do that with plywood, no nails or screws, and it has worked well for me so far. Made a plywood toy box that way a bit over 20 years ago, for my son's then mother-in-law, who wanted it for the child care center she worked in at the time. When she quit it passed to my grand-daughter, then on to her young brother. It is still in use. Not saying it would work that well with particle board, but I would go that route before I went with screws.
 

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...and only use coarse thread screws....

I have a 'toy box' I made for the kids 40 years ago that I made from 'chip' board, before I learned about wood working. It is still in use as a tool storage...
 

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If I'm going to put time and money into a project I'd rather use solid, reliable materials and technique to build something that doesn't need to be babied over the years to stay useful. If it costs a few dollars more so be it. Better to build right and solid than produce, use, and scrap. Just my opinion of course...
 

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Yes it will work but 5/8 doesn't give you much to screw into so if you use it use 3/4". Also use coarse screws and not fine thread. A better way to go would be to use plywood and if you go to Lowe's or HD look for a sheet that isn't perfect (very easy to find) ask them if they can reduce the price and you'll get it for 50 to 70 percent off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
My wife loves to cook and over the years she has amassed a plethora of kitchen items (I call them tools). She has 4 storage cabinets that she uses now that are of the kmart particle variety made from 5/8" particle board, and has worked well for the last 15 years or so. They are nowhere to be found anymore to buy 2 of them. She stores things like Tupperware, stock pots, casseroles, slow cookers and the like. I realize particle board is delicate and would rather build it with plywood. I have only just recently used the Kreg pocket hole jig for a cabinet carcass (plywood) to display/store my hand planes. My preference would be to use real joinery in making the carcass but wanted to make it a cheap as possible so I called Kreg to ask about it and of coarse the said it will work with the downfalls you describe. I wanted some verification from real users and I think that is the reason no one seems to sell these cabinets anymore. The cost of making these cabinets from plywood will jump the cost to more than double to three times the price for plywood and even more for real pine lumber.
 

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Although not the ideal material, particle board has been around for many years and there are possibly millions of cabinets and furniture still in service in various conditions. The question was , can pocket holes be used in this, I have never tried, but I have used and recycled many particle boards and I am currently building my version of the New Yankee Workshop router table and the main carcass is particle board with a beautiful maple veneer on both sides. Let me explain why I am using this; several years ago I was at a local Home Depot and as I passed the lumber section I noticed in the liquidation bin four sheets of 3/4'' 4' x 4' particle board at $2.00/ea. Well at that price who could resist ! I was planning to make a bar with them but I am n ow in a smaller home with no room for a bar and I really don't drink much anyways. So after a couple of moves and still have the sheets, a few months ago I cut them up according to the dimensions on the plan. I will be cutting the Dados and rabbets soon and I will assemble with glue and coarse thread screws. The fact that it has the veneer I will trim out the end cuts ans apply a nice finish when it's done. I would not have purchased them had they been only 5/8'' thick. The first picture shows the sheets under the accessories before they were cut. The second shows then cut and stacked.
 

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There is one other option for screwing into particle board that is much more reliable (but time consuming) and that is to drill a hole for a wooden dowel and drive the screw into the dowel. You still need a pilot hole in the dowel the same size as the shank part of the screw as you don’t want the dowel trying to expand under the pressure, you just want the threads to bite into it. That’s also the best way to fix stripped holes if they are beat out and not just pulled out.
 

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The disadvantage of using particle board and pocket hole/screws is that you can't pre-drill the receiving end of the particle board. By not pre-drilling, you stand a chance of creating some sawdust in the joint from the screw trying to make it's hole.

I would try to find a way to clamp the pieces so the screw doesn't try to push away the receiving piece...
 
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For what it's worth, a few comments about my experiences with MDF (hundreds of sheets) and particle board (only one batch of 500 shelf sized boards)

MDF is by far the primary material for building car audio speaker baffles and subwoofer cabinets, sometimes powered by thousands of watts of power, and having to withstand the pressure and vibrations, as well as the huge swing in moisture and temperature variations of the automotive / marine environment.

Notice to Reader: Newer mdf (within the last 6 or 7 years) is ostensibly water resistant due to the higher glue content and more modern manufacturing techniques. On a recent flight, I sat next to an industrial engineer who was responsible for setting up and commissioning the latest mdf production presses in the market place; he told me the new stuff is almost water proof, in part because it is so easy to produce it that way, and it helps minimize goods lost to environmental factors. The density and reference flatness and straightness of these sheet goods is the standard. Having Home Depot cut it properly on their Holzherr panel saw yields CnC level accuracy btw......

Just saying these things for reference and background.

1/2, 3/4 and 1" Mdf - always pre drilled w/ countersinks, and at a slight angle when possible so the threads bite thru the "grain"/layers to some extent....they are there, if not officially...... Then glued, stapled into position and screwed tightly. Experience tells you what size hole to drill for which screws sizes in stock. On rare occasion you might get some lift of end grain visible ; drill perpendicular countersunk hole, shoot in a screw, problem solved. Hundreds of applications, never a failure or come back, which would suggest this method works. I still have some enclosures I built 20 yrs ago that remain solid as ever.......having lived thru 3 or 4 cars and damp garage storage.

The particle board story is even better:

A customer calls me about 18 yrs ago and says I can have as many lifts of green melamine 5 sides 5/8' particle board shelving as I want - ideally all of it. 3 tractor trailers full. I managed to take 10 skids. Used it to build highly stressed garage shelving units for my neighbors friends and myself.
Same assembly process as described above. In damp garage environments......for 18 yrs......zero failures.

Have always believed in overbuilding anything functional......so it lasts and performs.
Not everyone's method nor always required, but I try my best to do my best.......even when typing out these longwinded tales, lol

That is not to say the original question has been answered directly, but I do think the level of anecdotal evidence would suggest at least trying the jig and screws and experimenting would not be a waste of time, as long as there is a desire to modify and adapt as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Tulowd, Ok...I will at least try testing using my Kreg pocket hole jig. I am presently working on another display cabinet for my hand planes. Once that is done I will test on particle board and mdf...at least give it a chance. Thank you for your insight.
 

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i have an old entertainment center my mom bought me in the early 70's. my kid had been using it for years but now its out in the garage. i needed it to take about 4" off the width to make it fit the only place i have for it. it would be great to have better storage. it looks like veneered mdf but i'd say not as good as todays. i tried cutting off one side and just got tired of bracing and propping it up so i just knocked the crap out of it and now its 100% deconstructed now. tomorrow im gonna cut the last few pieces try putting it back together using pocket hole screws. as long as it holds together until i can scoot it back a few feet into the corner it should be fine.
 

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In general it’s how much abuse they get subjected to that deters what material gets used. Particle board has been the material of choice for years in euro style cabinets but the slamming of doors and drawers shut caused screw failures so plastic plugs and soft close hardware was invented to compensate. If the application won’t see much abuse then lots of materials can be suitable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
i have an old entertainment center my mom bought me in the early 70's. my kid had been using it for years but now its out in the garage. i needed it to take about 4" off the width to make it fit the only place i have for it. it would be great to have better storage. it looks like veneered mdf but i'd say not as good as todays. i tried cutting off one side and just got tired of bracing and propping it up so i just knocked the crap out of it and now its 100% deconstructed now. tomorrow im gonna cut the last few pieces try putting it back together using pocket hole screws. as long as it holds together until i can scoot it back a few feet into the corner it should be fine.
Let us know how that works out...with photos please.
 
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