I've taken apart a good deal of wood for recycling, here's some tools
and tips, in rough order of importance:
1)Well-made long crowbar. Gorilla bars are nice. You need good
machining on the nail-catch part. Sometimes cheap ones won't grab bent
or broken nails very well. Length is important for leverage: if you're
only doing a few it won't matter much, but if you pull many nails
it'll save you a great deal of effort.
2) Largest Channel-lock pliers you can get your hands on. These are
for nails whose heads are bent, broken, or otherwise won't fit into a
Those two tools will get most of your nails, at least the ones whose
heads can be raised above wood surface level. For problem nails that
won't come up...
...if the nail is holding two boards together, I use two methods, in
this order: 1) Heavy (3lb+) deadblow hammer from opposite side of
nail-head. You need only pound it a little, just far enough to get the
crowbar to work, or 2)use a hammer and an automotive ball-joint
separator to carefully pry the two boards apart enough to get at the
...if, on the other hand, the nail is buried in one board, you have to
dig a bit. First recourse is a good-quality "cats-paw", made just for
this purpose. Second would be a plug-cutting bit, third a small hole
saw bit, and last a spiral multi-bit in a wall-cutter (roto-zip type).
Sometimes a 1/4" chisel can be very helpful during this process.