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About half the time I drive a screw into a pocket hole, the screw bites in and goes into the material, but doesn't tighten down.  It'll freely spin, even on a relatively low torque setting (10/24)

Other times, the operation works as expected.

This seems to occur most often with coarse 1 1/4" screws into 3/4" (1x4, 1x8) pine, but I seem to recall having the issue with the 2 1/2" screws (into 2-by) as well.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what could be causing this? 


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I have experienced this as well. I agree that using a drill/driver gives less "feel" for the torque and I would use a very low torque to drive the screw to begin with to avoid a lot of manual turning and then finish by hand. It depends a lot on the wood used. I find that even in some hardwood there are soft spots that give the same problem.

An Old Timers solution for stripped holes in wood:


Back the screw out and stick a wooden match stick, toothpick, or sliver of scrap wood into the hole, if you think it neccessary - add glue into the hole and then re-insert and re-tighten down the screw slowly and carefully as the others have suggested.  Trim the matchstick/toothpick that extends beyond the screwhead.


(I learned that from 'Howdy' Olson, a friend, who passed more than a decade ago.  Took a bullet above the knee while running up a beach in the Pacific "oh that's me" - but it only slowed him down.  I recollect him each time I use his wooden match stick fix.)


Another tip for driving screws where I am concerened about splitting - I coat the screw with wax/parafin beforehand.

soft wet wood
I had a similiar issue.  I found that I did not set up the drill bit correctly.  On the jig I measured the depth from the drill bit tip vs where the drill bit began.  I was not getting the proper depth in the pocket hole.  It caused the screws to not enter the pieces of wood fully causing them to be a weak joint and also freely spin.  Especially, when using pine.
Use a drill with a clutch and torque adjustments.  Set the torque on low and clutch about 7-8 and test on scrap wood.  You may have to adjust the clutch setting up or down.

You might want to take a file and tone down the bite on the self tapping flange at the end -side of the screw, if the cutting flange is too wide it makes too large a hole for the threads of the screw to grip forcefully



Gene Knobloch

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