i posted a question on here a few days ago about the cheapest wood i could
use for patio furniture and some of you recommended pallet wood. well, i
found a bunch of places around town that had free pallets and brought some
home on the weekend. i failed to realize just how difficult it would be to
take these apart. i realize i could just cut out the sections of wood i want
to use, but i'm trying to keep the boards as long as possible. anybody find
a easy way to take these apart?
Garrett-Wade is stocking a nail puller model 20B03.01 for 35 bucks. My Dad
had one of those, or a very similar tool--they used to be available at
hardware stores before these newfangled "catspaw" things became the fad.
Never saw a nail it couldn't move as long as there was enough clearance to
pull the handle out all the way and put your back into it. Does damage the
wood some though. They've also got a set of that one and a smaller model
for 4 bucks more--20B03.10 is the set.
That's the kicker. The pallets I've taken apart used spiral shank nails
and once I *got* them out the surrounding wood was so beat up that I
ended up cutting the pieces down. If I had used a saw in the first place
to just harvest the sections between the fasteners I'd have been way
ahead of the game in time and effort.
I found that the $20 I had to pay to replace my (disposable) jointer
blades, combined with the time spent tearing apart the pallets, cost me
more than the wood itself. (It was the grit embedded in the pallets
that killed the jointer blades, not nails, etc.)
Heck, it isn't even worth cutting these up for firewood -- gotta grab
the file to sharpen the chainsaw after each one. Maybe I just got a bad
batch -- I haven't gone back for more.
You'd be amazed how quick you can reduce hardwood pallets to firewood
with an 8lb maul. Of course it isn't *neat* firewood, but it makes
smoke and heat just fine.
"We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and
bring something to kill"
Back when I had time for pallet-wood fuel, I used the chainsaw.
Ran it the "easy way" cutting the pallets roughly into thirds, with
each third having the 2x4-ish part and a bunch of slats, and then
cut each 2x4 in half-ish. Bite-sized pieces that went into the stove
well, and I never hit a nail (due more to luck than skill, I think).
Everyone is acting like this is an impossible task. Assuming you have
some time and enjoy things like this to save a buck and be able to say
that wood was free, just take your time and work them apart. I have
built quite a few items (including most of my shop cabinetes) from
pallet wood. Most was some kind of South American pine (pinkish
heartwood) but I have salvaged some hardwood plywood (currently
residing in a couple of shop cabinets), various tropicals, some maple
and some oak. The oak was the least worth the effort both because it
was a bear to take apart and the wood was usually less than great. I
have mostly used claw hammers and a small (damned small) pry bar.
There were a couple of times that getting my splitting wedge between a
couple of boards and whacking it a few times proved worthwhile. I
should invest in a bigger prybar though. You can minimize pry bar
damage to the wood by using scraps to take the brunt of the contact.
Beyond that, expect to either enjoy the ambience of the nail holes
(which is what I usually do) or get a good set of plug cutters as
trying to cut around all the nail holes means never having wood bigger
than 12" long or so. As I sit here in my office typing this I am
looking at a couple of 30" x 24" picture frames on my wall made from
pallet oak. They show the nail holes in all their glory with the black
discoloration intact along with some worm holes and trails, framing a
couple of old western scene prints. Just the right touch of rustic
while still being fully sanded, finished and shellaced. I am not into
barnwood or rough wood rustic, but a couple of nail holes or wormholes
can give an interesting look in the right situation.
It's not impossible of course, but time has value, and the time it takes to
get the pallets, bring them home, tear them apart, clean up the pieces, sort
through the stock, try to match the same type of wood (!), dispose of the
unusable parts, etc. I'd rather be using elsewhere. On top of that most of
the pallets I'm seeing nowadays at local retailers and beer distibutors are
spray painted a uniform color (at least on the sides) and recollected for
reuse/recycle? I'm sure there are more places that just toss them but I
think it will become less the norm. If WalMart is recycling them you can
bet there is a good rea$on behind it.
I know of at least two places with piles and piles of pallets. They
also have a very large chipper and make hardwood woodchips all day
long. They won't let you have any of their pallets :) Kind of like
the old days of reusing pop bottles, the economics of companies
collecting and reusing pallets for anything other than local shipping
type uses is not great. There is more value getting (or possibly
paying) a couple of pennies from someone who collects them and turns
them into woodchips. As a hobby I find some satisfaction in the reuse
of pallet wood. I don't really consider the few minutes (or in some
more difficult situations many minutes) of time and effort expended as
a "cost" any more than I figure my time into the "cost" of some little
box I build. If I did, and given how long it takes me to build
anything, I would never make anything because it would "cost" too
much. Far "cheaper" to go sit on my ass and watch TV :-) (of course
I could charge myself for TV watching too)
Basically, if you enjoy "found wood" and the process of getting and
taking pallets apart and seeing what little treasures you can find
then go for it. If it seems a chore and an effort and you would rather
buy some wood at the local lumber yard or mill and spend more time
actually building, then leave the pallets for others or for the
Apparently there are at least a few companies that refurbish pallets, (and
in large quantities):
The RFID tags on pallets that Wallyworld is now requiring is an interesting
sidenote to this thread.
Lately, I've been dismantling pallets to build a trellis. I've found some
success by cutting the nails with a reciprocating saw and then punching out
the pieces with a thin drift punch. This works OK on the 6, 8 and 10d
nails. The smaller ones ya just gotta pull.
yep my grand dad used to build some really nice stuff from pallet wood
he used to stand them on end and pry them open just enough to get the
blade of his hack saw in to cut the nails then use a punch to remove the
rest me I do the same but I use a recipicating saw hack saws just way
to much work
A MAN WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS CAN SURE SCREW THINGS UP
Since a lot of them are assebled with VERY large staples,
you will have little to no luck getting them apart easily.
I would use a circular saw with a decent blade and a
recip saw for the rally nasty ones.
I used a hole saw just larger than the diameter of the nail head, or a
center punch on the nail head, drill the head off leaving the top boards
intact and the body of the nails to pry out. This is the "price" you pay for
"free" pallets. Can you spell t-e-d-i-o-u-s? Pat- who just disassembled
pallets made out of Balsa!!!
IMHO, pallet wood is worthless. Maybe your pallets are better made.
Packing crates, now you're talking, but I've never seen a pallet useful
for anything more than a rabbit hutch.
I'd suggest dismantling them with a big tree-felling crosscut saw (a
sharp one) which is what I use. Second to that would be a garden bow
saw, which is much the same but easier to buy new. The easiest is a big
Don't use a chainsaw. One day you _will_ hit a nail.
I wouldn't bother dismantling by pulling nails. There are too many nail
holes in a small space and the timber is hardly usable past this mess.
If you must dismantle them, then I use a simple flat crowbar (a Stanley
Wonderbar is worth having in the toolbag). I've never had much luck
with a floorboard nail puller on pallets - the sort with a "parrot beak"
and a slide hammer to drive the jaws beneath the wood - but they're
about the best for direct-pull on nailheads.
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
This side of the pond they seem to be pretty decent. Sometimes better than
the quality of the goods shipped on them.
Another interesting source, if you can find it, is the wooden floors from
old railroad cars. A friend scored a massive amount of Mahogany for next to
nothing from an old car. Beat up, but after a couple trips through the
planer a marvelous gloat.
You can buy that grade of utility flooring from the right suppliers at
pretty cheap prices, without having it subjected to the rigors of freight
car use and abuse.
But what resource are we trying to save here? It's not like I have
unlimited funds, but my back doesn't have unlimited strength anymore, and
fuel for the truck is approaching European price points, without European
Would you turn any of that 'mahogany' on your lathe?
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