Kreg produces an entire line of pocket hole jigs, with the R3 and K4 firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of function and price. The very first Kreg pocket hole jig, invented in 1986, had only a single drilling hole, and now the top-of-the-line Kreg costs a few hundred dollars and is motorized.
Are you struggling to choose between the R3 and the K4? There are some significant differences and the right one for you is not necessarily the right one for your neighbor.
If you’re new to woodworking and just want to try out a pocket hole jog, the R3 is a good choice. Its small size also gives it the versatility to go to a repair job you can’t bring to the shop, such as a built-in bookcase or a countertop.
But if you know your way around a drill and lumber already, you’ll want to head for the K4, a more substantial piece capable of helping you blow through piles of wood quickly and accurately. The K4 is a pocket hole jig that straddles both the professional and the hobbyist audiences.
Both are small and entirely portable, but the R3 will fit in the palm of your hand. It provides only two drilling holes, instead of the usual three, and its depth gauge is cleverly embedded in the tool’s carrying case. The larger size of the K4 is due almost entirely to the onboard project clamp.
A tool doesn’t have to be large to be effective, and in fact, smaller can be better. (Would you want a tape measure the size of a circular saw?) But we worry that the size of the R3 makes it feel like a toy instead of a legitimate tool. On the other hand, you’re only drilling pocket holes – do you need a beast of a machine to do that? Probably not. We’re calling a tie on size.
The K4 is a portable tabletop tool. You clamp it to your work surface with a separate clamp, and then use the onboard clamp to secure your project to it before drilling your holes.
The R3 doesn’t need a work surface – you just use a separate clamp to secure the R3 directly to the wood you’re drilling.
Both can give you a dependable grip between tool and project and both require a separate clamp to work properly. (Although you can jam the R3 into a small corner, like a drawer, and temporarily secure it with a small screw if a clamp won’t work.)
But again, the clamping set up makes the R3 feel like a gadget or a toy, not a real tool. We like the K4 for a more reliable attachment.
A pocket hole jig that will actually fit in your pocket
The traditional Kreg pocket hole jig
Kreg pocket hole jigs are immensely popular no matter which model you look at, including both the R3 and K4. Reviews do reveal, though, that the R3 is more like a toy than a tool. Serious woodworkers are looking down their noses at the R3 – it’s flimsy and only good for occasional use.
The K4 pleases both the pros and the weekend woodworkers. It has the heft and durability to drill many a pocket hole in an afternoon, whether you’re building a kitchen table for your wife or cabinets for a customer. And although it is not actually the first Kreg pocket hole jog, the K4 is seen as the epitome of the tool, making anything smaller seem a bit pointless by comparison, and anything larger best left to contractors.
The biggest fans of the R3 are generally people who have never before drilled a pocket hole. But the K4 also is user-friendly enough for first-timers, as many of its fans are.
Critics of both tend to be clustered on one of three camps – those disgruntled by a faulty or incomplete shipment, those who appear to have not read the directions, and those who grumble that people should just make pocket holes the old-fashioned way. But these complaints are all few and far between.
Making pocket holes with a Kreg jig is so easy (and safe) that a child can master it in a few minutes. The key difference between the R3 and K4 boils down to how you expect to use it. Are you going to be puttering in the garage every weekend, turning out tables and bookcases for gifts throughout the year? Or do you still startle when you fire up your power drill?
If you’ve got woodworking experience under your belt, and expect to hone your craft, go for the K4 – it’s a no-brainer. If you’re new, welcome to the joys of the woodshop – and for you, we suggest the R3. It’ll get the job done at a much lower price point. (Once you’re hooked, you can move up to the K4. Buying new tools is half the fun of this hobby!)
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!