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Kreg R3 vs K4: Is A Jig Upgrade Really Necessary?

by | Cozy DIY

In some previous posts I wrote about one aspect of DIYing with wooden materials: wood carving.

This time, I’m changing the angle a bit. I’ll be focusing on two tools that you can use to join pieces of wood. Might be a 2×4, a broken chair, a wooden frame you want to tighten…

In any case, the easiest, cheapest way to DIY is a pocket hole joint. With a very, very basic setup you can create long-lasting, strong joints that will stay put.

If you do only a few projects, Kreg’s R3 should be enough. However, you might feel tempted to step it up a bit and grab the more heavy-duty K4.

So: what’s the difference between them, you might ask…

Well, if you do a) more and b) bigger DIY projects, the K4 makes more sense. Kreg recommend it for work involving 25 to 50 pocket holes. The R3 is optimal for smaller projects with 10 to 25 pocket holes.

I’d say there are four main advantages of a K4:

  • 3 drill holes instead of R3’s dual hole system

  • Removable/portable drill guide block

  • Faster clamping & awesome toggle clamp

  • Drill guides are a bit sturdier

Here’s a quick look at how it actually functions:

However, I wouldn’t say that just because its better you need to get it over the R3. For smaller, less frequent DIY projects (say <5-6 times per year), R3 will be more than enough.

Kreg R3 vs K4:
A closer look at the DIY jigs

I’ll tell you where you won’t find any differences.

First, the tools are constructed in the exact same manner. Tough body made of nylon that’s additionally glass-reinforced. There’s no difference in their durability and overall quality.

Second – and the thing that matters the most…How thick of a material can you work with. 

Well, both pocket hole systems will joint wood that’s 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ in thickness.

Yes, that includes 2x4s which is probably the thing most DIYers will need these jigs for.

So the real difference lies not in the volume of the materials themselves.

It lies in how quick and versatile you can work with all that wood waiting to be connected.

The increased amount of drilling holes is self-explanatory. Who wouldn’t love a 50% increase in output?

Kreg R3 vs K4 jigs: My take on whether you need to upgrade..or not

K4s faster clamping and portable drill guide block might not make much of an impression if you work on small-scale projects. You also might not appreciate them fully if you only do 2-3 DIY projects per year.

For those who aren’t at the carpenter level yet, but are more frequent in their DIY pursuits though…These two improvements will prove to be a crucial convenience.

Given the fact that with K4 you expect more workload, it’s also great that Kreg decided to improve the overall sturdiness of the drill guides too.

Summed up in short, the K4 is a medium workhorse – a notch below the K5 monster, and slightly better performing than the standard R3.

Speaking of the Kreg K5…If you need something really high-end, check out my comparison between K4 and the beast itself here.

Speaking of the R3…here’s a video showcasing it in work. It wouldn’t be fair to only show how K4 copes with DIY woodworking:

What if I want to work with thicker wood?

Good question. Depending on your DIY, the basic Kreg package with its maximum of 1 1/2″ thickness can feel limiting.

This is where Face Clamps come into play and help out a bit.

Kreg has 2″, 3″ and 6″ clamps that you can use to increase the versatility of your basic jig.

Mind that those inches are the reach of the face clamp itself. The thickness of the materials it can clamp is a little lower than that.

For example, the 3″ clamp for R3 will clamp materials with thickness of up to 2 3/4″.

As for the K4, you can just get a full set that includes a handy face clamp and various pocket hole screw sizes.

So…are these really enough? Are the jigs easy to use?

Absolutely. Yes to both questions.

Professional carpenters work on serious projects and they need a wide variety of tools. Dovetails and dowels, for example.

For your typical home owner, a decent pocket hole jig is more than enough. Broken frames, chairs or 2x4s don’t require that much output anyways.

As for ease of use: even a total beginner can do strong joints with a Kreg. Quite literally a plug-and-play DIY setup that requires minimal knowledge on your part!

If you’re interested in my other observations of DIY tools…Check out my comparisons like those of the Dremel handheld saws, or brand comparisons like my Ryobi vs Ridgid post.

Ex-digital nomad, DIY enthusiast and an appreciator of cozy foot wear. Always ready to give lifestyle tips for men. Tea, not coffee is my fuel for writing.

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