Most cabinet shops I know of rely on some pocket-hole joinery, typically using a high-production machine to quickly make either routed or drilled pocket holes. Until recently, drilled pocket holes have been the only economical option for trim carpenters, one-man shops, and homeowners, but the Castle 110 pocket cutter is a midrange-priced option for routed holes. While it’s not a high-production machine, it cuts low-angle pocket holes that offer some benefits over drilled ones. We do a lot of pocket-hole joinery on jobsites using Kreg’s Foreman pocket-hole machine, which is comparably priced to the Castle 110 machine. So it made sense to compare these two machines and the joints they make.
Unlike the Foreman, which has a lever-actuated drill equipped with a step bit to make the pocket hole, the Castle 110 has a router and requires a three-step process. First, you lower the clamping arm to lock the workpiece in place. Next, you push a handle that engages the router, which cuts the low-angle pocket with a router bit. Finally, you use a separate drill equipped with a long bit to drill the pilot hole for the screw from the reverse side of the workpiece through a guide built into the machine. The result is a clean, 3-degree pocket hole with minimal tear-out, around either the pocket or the pilot hole.
The Foreman machine is faster, because as you pull the handle down to clamp the workpiece to the table, it activates the drill to make the hole in one quick action. If the machine is set correctly, the pilot point stops right before breaking through. The resulting drilled pocket hole is not as clean as the routed one produced by the Castle 110 and is cut at a steeper, 15-degree angle.
The main advantage of the Castle 110 is that—with some practice—you can put together the joints without clamping, thanks to the clean cuts and the low angle, which minimizes joint creep as the screws pull the two pieces together. The main disadvantage is that it took me over twice as long to produce the pocket hole.
While both machines are light and portable, the Castle 110 has a smaller footprint and weighs less than the Foreman. And with the Castle, you can make pocket holes in large panels by taking the machine to a stationary panel; you can’t do that with the Foreman. Designed and assembled in the USA, the Castle 110 is mainly metal, while the Foreman has aluminum and steel components but is largely made of plastic polymer material. That said, the Foreman is plenty rugged; I’ve never damaged one on a jobsite.
I especially like the Castle’s material clamp, which seems sturdier than the Foreman clamp and doesn’t need occasional readjustment to keep the workpiece from slipping. Both machines offer a dust collection option, which is essential with the Castle because the small base quickly fills up with sawdust and chips from the router. To be honest, I’ve never used the dust collection with our Foreman. Drilling just produces chips, and if you disconnect the hose, you can use the tool all day and still not fill up the large base.
One last observation: During the routing operation, the Castle was a lot louder than the Foreman. $660 from Castle USA. castleusa.com