So…you’re looking forward to your first home improvement project with a Kreg jig. No surprise about your choice of a brand here. Kreg still manufactures the best pocket hole joints you can work with.
What I see many beginner DIYers being torn about is whether they should pick the basic Kreg R3 or the more sophisticated K4 jig.
I hate saying a simple “Well, it depends!”, so I thought I’d write a post outlining the main differences between these two jigs. Honestly, there are four very important points I want to discuss in my review.
If you are in a hurry and only want the final verdict, here it is:
➥➥ The R3 Jig will be enough if you are looking to do basic home improvement work. It’s great for small-scale projects like broken chairs or drawer boxes. Can’t beat the price either!
➥➥ The K4 is a significant improvement if you’ve set your eye on frequent DIY projects of a larger scale. It’s pretty much worth it as this is a faster, more versatile, and functional tool.
One crucial factor to consider is the number of pocket holes you’ll be dealing with in a project. Kreg themselves mention that the R3 is best suited to modest home improvement work involving 10 to 25 pocket holes. The K4 has double the output potential:
Is this an arbitrary number? Why is the K4 better suited for bigger DIY projects?
Let’s take a look.
4 important advantages of the Kreg K4 over R3
I realize some of you might be pretty busy, so here’s a bullet-point list of what K4 does better. I’ll expand more on these after that:
3 drill holes – an extra one over the 2-hole system of R3
Faster clamping mechanism with a convenient toggle
Portable drill guide block that can be removed for upgrades
Better quality drill guides
As you can see, all of these improvements point to a single conclusion:
If you want to do more projects at a faster rate, the K4 has got you covered. It also looks cooler:
Sticking to the upgraded drill hole structure of the whole “K” family of Kregs, K4 pairs the three drill holes with significantly improved clamping. Yes, you won’t notice this that much if you work on small tasks like repairing broken chairs.
However! If you see yourself attaching bigger pieces of wood – cabinets, wardrobes, etc., this improvement will save you hours of work.
R3 and K4 produce the same pocket holes, but the latter speeds up the process significantly.
(Not to mention it’ll be easier on your hands – a convenient clamping mechanism with easy toggling won’t tire them at all).
Here’s a K4 product tour that demonstrates this:
Portable drill guide block = more flexible DIY
As I mentioned, another very important difference is that K4 has a removable drill guide block. What this means is that you can upgrade it depending on the kind of DIY work you want to do.
With Kreg tools, this means that you can switch to either the Micro-Pocket drill guides or the HD variation.
The Micro-Pocket support is great for low-profile pocket holes and thinner stock with its extended support of tight 1/2″ pocket holes. Those narrow wood pieces you couldn’t join as tightly with standard drill guides are now a breeze.
As far as the HD block goes, this one is for better working with 1 1/2″ extra thick stock. It’s also pretty good with 2x4s, or for tasks like wall framing for example. The #14 screws are even tougher than usual and deliver sturdiness you’d need with more demanding projects.
Keep in mind that both the Micro-Pocket and HD have to be bought separately. Nevertheless, you have the option to switch to them with the K4. A luxury you don’t have if you stick to R3.
So…is the R3 better at anything?
Not per se, but if you’re not into larger projects or are OK with a more modest working pace…Well, the price of R3 is pretty attractive.
After all, in terms of construction, both jigs are the same. R3 sticks to the high-grade Kreg standards despite the cheaper price tag. It’s made of glass-reinforced nylon which is more than durability.
The R3 pocket hole system also works fine with 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ thick wood, so there is no difference in the general support between the two models. Keep in mind that, however, you’re losing some precision due to the lack of Micro-Pocket/HD support.
I have to admit it, though – for a total rookie, the R3 is the easiest tool to set up ever. So newcomers to DIY matters, this will come in more than handy. Here’s a short setup video:
What about further tool extensions?
As I noted in my article on the “K” family – comparing K4 and K5, stock Kregs can feel somewhat limited with their material thickness support.
You can extend the capabilities of both R3 and K4 with face clamps. They come in three sizes of 2″, 3″, and 6″. Remember that the sizes run larger than the actual thickness support – the 3″ clamp will actually properly fit with wood that’s 2 3/4″ thick.
Honestly, the K4 jig is a substantial enough improvement to consider over the R3. For the more curious and adventurous homeowner, it opens up a world of easier, faster DIY work.
For people who prefer small-scale projects and don’t tinker around the house that much, R3 is a modest yet efficient choice.
In my opinion, the vastly improved clamping and three drill holes allowing for way faster output are essential DIY sidekicks. I wouldn’t glance over them for a few bucks.