Is Scott Phillips (American Woodworker) preventing new wood workers from learning proper Joinery ?

4,480 posts and 35 followers
1980 34 0

Having a rather lazy 4th of July I decided to watch some TV. As I flicked through some channels I saw Scott Phillips making a project,so I thought I’d see what he was up to and wanted to see if he changed his approach to joinery from the last time I saw his show(years ago),he had not changed his aproach.
At this point, I have to admit I’m not a fan of much of his workmanship.
Scott seems like he would be a great guy to know and be friends with. My issue with Scott and his show is that no matter what casework project he makes he always uses pocket screw joinery. As joinery goes pocket screws are relatively strong for what the are(a butt joint with mechanical fasteners). But when I open a door or look inside cabinets and see pocket screws my first thought is the builder is a very new woodworker and or they want to only make quick projects that are not top quality ,products like those made for Walmart.
I believe Pocket screw joinery has its place ,mostly in hidden locations like the back of face frames.
This brings me back to my question. If a newB only watches “American Woodworker”they may think that since Scott has been around for years that pocket screw joinery is the do all woodworking joint, and not bother to learn other types of joinery that takes some time and practise to learn.
This approach has been brought to my attention by a few of my new students saying," why not pocket screws" for almost every project they want to make.
Does all this mean pocket screws are evil and should never be used? No! But if you’re a new to woodworking or not and you want to keep improving your woodworking skills then look into and learn some more time-tested Joinery.
To those of you who love pocket screw joinery for its ease and ability to make quick projects.Enjoy!

What’s your take on this subject?

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Interesting subject Jim. You and I both are members at the “other” woodworking site, I’ve been there for 6 years and you for ?10 years; I’m not sure how many thousands of projects we’ve both seen posted there, from beginners to well seasoned professionals to master woodworkers. It seems like most of the members that I’ve seen as brand new beginner woodworkers start with really simple projects, glued, screwed, nailed together. Then they either continue with simple stuff like that or those first simple projects are an inspiration and stepping stone to gradually pick up more complex projects and joinery. I started that way, and gradually have tried to build my skills. My grandfather, uncle and my wife’s grandfather were all very competent hobbiest woodworkers but 99% of what they did was with pocket screws, brad nails and glue. That was the era that they learnt woodworking, unless you were fortunate enough to have someone to teach you otherwise, you were stuck with learning from watching guys like Scott Phillips. Now I think the internet and the multiple woodworking forums online are a huge influence on many beginning woodworkers; it exposes us to multiple different ways of doing woodworking. In some ways, the old model of learning woodworking from a PBS show and a set of books ordered from Popular Mechanics is extinct. So, I think we’re in a new era, and yeah, some will continue to learn solely from PBS shows and then go into their basement and fire up their radial arm saw (no offense to radial arm saw users!) and pocket screw the heck out of some face frames, but the majority will be inspired by the mass and volume of fantastic and varied woodworking that there is online.

Rob, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Very good point Manitario ,even though I’ve spent so much time online dealing with woodworking subjects,I tend to forget the great influence all of the woodworking websites ,you tube and other things like woodworking magazines have on today’s woodworkers.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

For me, pocket screws were a stepping stone. I built a lot of fairly complex projects, like my home built camper that I never would have tackled if I’d had to figure out traditional joinery. I started with pocket screws, then graduated to dowel pin joints, and now I’m doing mortise and tenon joinery.
If you are really interested in woodworking, you’ll always be looking for new challenges. If you are going to build every piece the same way, you might as well get an assembly line job at an Ashley Furniture factory.

Every project I build gets a different way of being built.
What ever is appropriate for the job.


Pocket screw joinery are the new way of toe nailing in my opinion .
I prefer not using metal fasteners as much as possible as they leave unsightly holes that have to be dealt with especially on items like jewelry boxes or other fine work .
I will use screws and other metal fasteners on shop items and properly used screws and bolts have their place .
I also see a trend to industrial style furniture with exposed metal and bolts and just shutter when I think of all these metal edges and points looking for an injury to happen .
Most of this is new type of wood working is driven by good marketing
and sets the new standard and style ..
Sorry about the rant !

Yes we all take those steps Jeff

I agree Railway ,my point is exactly that deferent joinery that meets the need of every build

Not a rant Klaus ,good point , For years and years high-quality furniture makers have stated ,hand cut dovetails ,no nails no screws. Your right to follow your own path rather than someone who wants to follow ever trend that comes along
that includes the industrial look. Besides with your talent and design ability you don’t need to follow trends.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Well, now this a subject I have been waiting to approach. I, as a middle of the road woodpecker, have never used a pocket screw for anything I’ve built. My favorite joint is the miter joint. If one looks at the jewlery boxes or other finer builds, I use a miter joint in 90% of them. It’s a very difficult joint but, when done correctly, there is nothing that looks better. Pocket screws to me are just what you all have said , A beginner’s joint. It does build confidence in completion but, not something to base your whole woodworking on. I love trying something new and would never tell anyone to use a pocket screw. Good for the ones who like it but, better if you get away from it and really test your skills. Test yourself and watch your confidence take a HUGH leap. Thank you for sharing this subject and reading this post.


Thanks James
I think trying something new is what it’s all about.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Pocket screws are just lazy in my opinion. Just Google “wood joints” and you’ll get more than enough examples of joints to choose from to suit your needs. Once you’ve chosen a joinery method you can look up specifics on how to execute them. Pocket Screws are time saving but not quality joinery. There’s a reason you don’t see antique furniture with pocket screws, (besides the fact they haven’t been around that long) It will never be as strong as quality hand crafted joinery. Could any of you ever say “look at the quality craftsmanship in those pocket joints”? I don’t think so. People have to realize also that woodworking is a skill of practice and patience and basic skills need to be taught and learned.


The pocket screw thing has been around since ever and was used to fasten tops to aprons but for joining two boards especially end grain to edge grain I don’t think its the right application .
I won’t knock it as a lot of guys use it and it heavily promoted but there are much better ways to make a joint .