I use them where they won't be seen in the final assembly, and mostly so I don't have to use clamps when gluing and assembling my projects. This lets me continue assembling in large sections, or do the complete assembly without the need to wait for the glue to dry before removing clamps so I can continue with the glue-up of the next stage if the assembly. I don't depend on them for full joint strength, letting the glue do the work of holding the project together. Because I hate their look in places where they will be seen. This sometimes requires using clamps, and when this happens I then have to wait for the glue to dry before I can continue. Still, they let me work faster, and this is my main reason for using them.
But how many times will pocket holes get that much pressure exerted on them when the whole project is put together? But never use pocket holes myself, closest I ever came to them was using dowels. Usually just use glue blocks.
When I was a kid I was taught:
Use screws when you expect to take something apart later.
Use nails when you do not expect to ever take something apart.
Use hide glue when you may have to take something apart later
Use regular glue for joints and such.
I use the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig all the time. The pocket screw/hole system is pretty strong by itself but is not as strong as glue and pocket screws. Just like regular glue joints modern PVA glue is stronger than the wood itself and failures are usually next to the glue line and not at the glue line. So for me if it is a utility project I tend not to use glue. For cabinets I use glue and the pocket screw as someone else said "Belt and Suspenders". Pocket holes are great but you need to clamp the work when screwing it together. The angle and/or the torque of the screw usually makes the non-hole part move away and can sometimes stay that way not to mention it shifts out of alignment. I use the Kreg vice grip type pliers to hold the joint together while screwing the first screw. Usually that is all that is required to keep alignment. If you want to make something fast and strong pocket holes are the way to go. The holes are unsightly but they do have pieces of wood to plug the holes and a cutter to make your own plugs out of the species of wood you are using. There is a newer pocket hole system from castle that is not as steep of an angle. I want to find out if they work better than Kreg but you can get Kreg stuff every where.
Pocket Holes have their place and are easy and accurate if done right.
My favorite use is for face frames. Turns out that what makes the frame square is the acuracy of the 90 degree cuts. I spend some time making sure the sawblade is exactly 90 to the table and use a very acurate sled to make cuts. The screws then pull the frame into the perfect alignment. Someone posted about pre gluing the end cuts, letting it dry, then reapplying glue for the final glue up. I now do that on face frames. For awhile I also trimmed the ends with my Griz miter trimmer, which gave a perfect, almost glass smooth surface. I found that wasn't necessary and just use a good Freud industrial rip blade that gives a glue ready cut.
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