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How to Join Two Pieces of Wood With Screws


Are you looking for a step-by-step guide on how to join two pieces of wood using screws?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

From building benches to shelves and plenty of projects in-between, you’d be surprised at just how often you’ll find yourself needing to join wood either at 90-degrees or end-to-end.

Thankfully, compared to many other woodworking joints, using screws to join two pieces of wood together requires very little in terms of tools and skill, with the biggest investment being a bit of time and patience to get it right.


How to Join Two Pieces of Wood With Screws – The Quick Answer

The easiest way to join two pieces of wood with screws at 90° is using a butt joint. Pocket hole joinery is stronger but often requires a special jig. To screw two pieces together end-to-end, you can either screw a wooden ‘strap’ in place to connect the pieces or use in-line pocket hole screws.


How to Join Two Pieces of Wood at 90-Degrees With Screws

We’ll assume you’ve already cut your two pieces of wood to length. If you haven’t, go ahead and do that first.

There are two different options that we’ll look at here, including:

(clicking either of the images below will take you to the relevant step-by-step tutorial for that option).

There are various advantages and disadvantages to each of these methods.

The main advantage of a screw-reinforced butt joint is that you don’t need any additional equipment other than perhaps a pilot drill bit. Of course, you can drill pocket holes by hand, but for an accurate, repeatable finish, it’s best to use a pocket hole jig.

Having said that, pocket holes are arguably stronger because instead of driving the screw into the end grain (as you would with a screw-reinforced butt joint), the screw is instead inserted into the long grain, which is quite a bit stronger.

It’s also easier to hide pocket hole screws as you can conceal the drill holes on the inner face instead of screw-reinforced butt joints, which are visible from the outside. You could always drill a hole deeper and plug the hole with a dowel after to conceal it, so this disadvantage is relatively easy to overcome.

Let’s look at both options in a bit more detail:

Using a Screw-Reinforced Butt Joint

A butt joint is one of the easiest joints to create, and it consists of two pieces of wood that are ‘butted’ together.

In this case, we’ll be using screws to hold our joint together.

Here’s what you’ll need for this option:

  • A pilot drill bit (for pre-drilling holes)
  • Screws
  • A screwdriver or drill driver
  • Optional:

  • Speed square
  • Wood glue
1
Set Out Your Timber / Verify It’s Square

Set your first piece of timber horizontally on a flat surface, and butt your second piece of timber against it vertically.

It isn’t always necessary to use wood glue in addition to screws, but if you’re building something that will need to hold a lot of weight, for example, a bench, we’d recommend using wood glue.

We’d recommend using something to verify that your angle is exactly square (i.e. at 90-degrees) before proceeding, for example, a set square as we’ve used here or a digital angle finder.

an image showing two pieces of wood butted together at 90 degrees

an image showing checking for square using a set square

2
Drill Pilot Holes / Insert Screws

Once you’re happy that your butt joint is at 90-degrees, go ahead and drill pilot holes through the first piece of timber into the second.

In most cases, two screws will be sufficient. However, in some heavy-duty applications, you might need to use more than two (especially if you aren’t using wood glue).

Once you’ve drilled your pilot holes, go ahead and insert your screws.

!

In terms of screw size, the general rule of thumb is that the screw should enter at least half of the base material.

This is fine where you’re screwing together two pieces of timber (i.e. one on top of the other); however, it won’t work in the case of a screw-reinforced butt joint.

In this case, we like to have a screw with an overall length of twice whatever we’re first drilling into.

For example, if the horizontal piece of timber is 1.5″ thick (as we’ve used here), we’ll use a 3″ screw to provide a good amount of bite in the timber’s weaker end grain.

It’s worth checking afterwards that your butt joint is still at 90-degrees after inserting your screws.

If not, you can loosen the screws slightly and retighten until you’ve got a perfect right-angle.

an image showing pilot holes being drilled in timber

an image showing two pieces of wood joined together using a screw reinforced butt joint

Using Pocket Hole Screws at 90-Degrees

Pocket hole joinery involves drilling an angled hole (usually at 15°) into one piece of timber and then using a self-tapping screw to join it to the second piece of timber.

You can drill this hole freehand, but we recommend using a jig to make the process more accurate.

Here’s what you’ll need for this option:

1
Mark the Timber

Set your first piece of timber horizontally on a flat surface, and butt your second piece of timber against it vertically.

We’ll create pocket holes from the horizontal piece to screw into the vertical piece, so we’ll mark our horizontal piece with an arrow for easier identification, as shown below.

an image showing two pieces of wood set at 90 degrees

an image showing two pieces of wood set at 90 degrees

2
Drill Your Pocket Holes / Insert Screws

Once marked up, take the piece of timber with the arrow and place it arrow-side-down in your pocket hole jig as shown below (the side with the arrow is the side we’re drilling into, so make sure you haven’t put it in the wrong way round).

Make sure your pocket hole jig is set correctly – in this case, we’re using 1.5″ thick timber, so we’ve set our pocket hole jig to reflect this.

Once configured correctly, go ahead and drill your pocket holes.

Next, we’ll use our pocket hole clamp to hold the timber in position, as pocket hole joints tend to move when screws are being inserted. If you don’t have a pocket hole clamp, a regular clamp will suffice.

Again, as with the other options above, it might be a good idea to apply some wood glue to the ends of the timber to create a stronger joint.

Once you’re happy with the alignment, go ahead and insert your pocket hole screws as shown below to join the two pieces of timber together.

an image showing pocket holes being drilled in wood

an image showing pocket hole screws being inserted into wood


How to Join Two Pieces of Wood End-to-End With Screws

As with the options above, we’ll assume that you’ve already cut your two pieces of wood to length.

There are two different options that we’ll look at for joining wood end-to-end, including:

(clicking either of the images below will take you to the relevant step-by-step tutorial for that option).

Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail:

Using a Wooden ‘Strap’

With this option, we’ll be using a plywood ‘strap’ to bridge the joint between the two pieces of timber, keeping them connected.

In this case, we’re only applying a strap to one side, but you add one to the opposite side for heavy-duty joints, too, effectively sandwiching the timber for added strength.

You could also add wood glue between the timber pieces and the underside of the strap to strengthen the joint further.

Here’s what you’ll need for this option:

  • A ‘wooden strap’ (we used an offcut of plywood)
  • A pilot drill bit (for pre-drilling holes)
  • Screws
  • A screwdriver or drill driver
  • Optional:

  • Wood glue
1
Cut Your Wooden ‘Strap’

The first step is to cut your wooden ‘strap’ that you’ll use to join your two pieces of wood together.

It’s worth remembering that the thicker your timber and the stronger the joint you need, the thicker this strap will need to be.

In our case, we’ve used 1/4″ plywood, although a thicker piece, for example, 1/2″, would create a much stronger joint.

Next, set your two pieces of timber down end-to-end on a flat surface.

an image showing a wooden strap cut from plywood

an image showing two pieces of wood butted together end to end

2
Drill Pilot Holes / Insert Screws

The next step is to drill pilot holes to stop the wood splitting.

Although we haven’t done it here, it can be helpful to clamp everything together to stop it from moving while you drill your pilot holes.

We’re going to use four screws in each piece of timber, so we’ve drilled our eight holes in total, as shown below.

!

In terms of screw size, the general rule of thumb is that the screw should enter at least half of the base material.

In our case, we’re using 1-1/2″ thick timber, and a 1/4″ thick strap, and so a 1″ screw is ideal here.

We’ve also used a countersinking drill bit to ensure the head of the screw remains flush with the plywood ‘strap’.

The final step is to screw in the eight screws to connect the two pieces of timber.

image showing drilled strap used to join wood together

image showing wood joined together with screws and strap

Using In-Line Pocket Hole Screws

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the plywood ‘strap’ used in the previous option won’t win any design awards.

If you’re looking for a cleaner look, then pocket hole joinery could be a good option, and an added advantage is that it minimises the overall thickness of the joined timber.

However, a downside to this option is that you’ll be screwing into the end-grain (as opposed to long grain), which isn’t as strong, and it’s easier to split the wood when drilling into end grain.

Here’s what you’ll need for this option:

1
Mark the Timber / Drill Your Pocket Holes

The first step is to lay both pieces of timber down flat end-to-end.

Then, mark an arrow extending from the center of one piece of timber to the edge (see below image).

Once marked up, take the piece of timber with the arrow and place it arrow-side-down in your pocket hole jig as shown below (the side with the arrow is the side we’re drilling into, so make sure you haven’t put it in the wrong way round).

Make sure your pocket hole jig is set correctly – in this case, we’re using 1.5″ thick timber, so we’ve set our pocket hole jig to reflect this.

Once configured correctly, go ahead and drill your pocket holes.

an image showing two pieces of wood butted together

an image showing pocket holes being drilled in wood

2
Insert Pocket Hole Screws to Join the Timber

Next, line up your two pieces of timber again end-to-end.

We haven’t done it here, but it can be a good idea to clamp your timber in position as pocket hole joints tend to move when screws are inserted.

Again, as with the other options above, it might be a good idea to apply some wood glue to the ends of the timber to create a stronger joint.

Once you’re happy with the alignment, go ahead and insert your pocket hole screws as shown below to join the two pieces of timber together.

As we mentioned above, one of the main criticisms of pocket hole joinery is the large holes that are left behind. In this case, we’ve added screws on the inner face to keep the holes hidden, but you could also add dowels with a bit of glue and trim these back to plug the hole and improve the look if preferred.

image showing wood being joined using pocket hole screws

image showing pocket holes used to join two pieces of wood with screws


Final Remarks

We hope we’ve shown you just how easy it is to join two pieces of wood using screws.

It’s worth mentioning that you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for whatever tools or materials you’re using, and don’t forget to read the instruction manual or safety data sheets thoroughly to avoid any safety-related issues.

If you have any questions on this article, leave us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Good luck!

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