How to Dismantle a Pallet - Router Forums
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post #1 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-18-2015, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
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Default How to Dismantle a Pallet

I picked up a couple of pallets recently for my next project.
Here are a few pictures of the way I took them apart.

You know the old saying "There's no such thing as a free lunch". In this case, this applies to "free lumber".

The options are:
  1. Use a reciprocating saw to cut the nails underneath the slats to free them. Unfortunately, this leaves nails in the runners rendering them useless.
  2. Use a reciprocating saw to cross cut the slats from the runners leaving the nails exposed so they can be pulled. The disadvantage of this method is the slats will be shorter, but the runners may be salvaged if the nails are pulled.
  3. Use a pry bar or whatever means available to pry the slats off of the runners. The disadvantage of this method is the slats are sure to split on the end because the nails won't pull out.

I have included a picture of the tools I used. A hammer, flat pry bar, a big pair of pliers, and a screwdriver. Not shown is the reciprocating saw and a metal detector. The pliers and metal detector came from Harbor Freight. I bought them last year for the sole purpose of pulling nails. With the pliers, I can get a good grip on the nail (with or without the head) and the shape of the pliers will help remove the nail. Sometimes I slip a piece of scrap wood under the pliers to give me a better mechanical advantage when I pry the nail out. Note that it is not uncommon for the nail head to break off when using a regular pry bar. Thus, the pliers with the big grip!

Note: Always use a metal detector if you plan to plane the boards. I found several nail heads embedded in the wood. I used a punch to drive the heads out from the back side of the board. I also made a close inspection of all four sides of each board. I discovered several slivers of metal during the final inspection. UGH!

With these two pallets, I managed to salvage the boards from one of them and remove the nails from the runners. I guess I was just lucky.

No so on the bigger pallet. The boards split way too easily, so I cross cut them along each runner, then removed the nails. That yielded a stack of short boards and three 6 foot long pieces of what appears to be oak of some kind. Definitely hardwood.

Removing the nails from the runners turned out to be fairly easy, but hard at the same time. I set up one of my hand screw clamps and clamped a runner in it. Then it was just a matter of pulling and tugging to get the nails out. The hand screw clamp was much better than any helper would have been. And the best part is I was working at waist level and not down on the floor!

There are a lot of videos on You Tube uploaded by folks that demonstrate different ways of dismantling pallets. Check them out if you are interested in pallet re-purposing.
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Last edited by MT Stringer; 07-18-2015 at 04:01 PM.
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post #2 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-18-2015, 04:27 PM
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Used to be one of my favorite pastimes,until the lumber got so crappy. In the beginning the lumber was all hardwood and a lot of clear boards.

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post #3 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-18-2015, 07:11 PM
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I tried a few pallets but being basically lazy I found it more work then I wanted to do.
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post #4 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-18-2015, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Herb Stoops View Post
Used to be one of my favorite pastimes,until the lumber got so crappy. In the beginning the lumber was all hardwood and a lot of clear boards.

Herb
Just in the last few years I've noticed a big difference in the lack of "Good" wood used in pallets. What was red oak and poplar is now pine. Crates that used 1 x4 pine for a solid bottom or side are using a cheap sheet good. And finally bundled sheet goods used to have a nice quality bottom and or top protective piece often a non-pine plywood.

For me the pallets that used to have the red oak and poplar used the ringed nails... after a few tugs of the pry bar and a couple of swings with the sledge hammer produced nothing, the skill saw took over.
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post #5 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-18-2015, 10:28 PM
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My son and I disassembled a few one time and the easiest way we found was to use a metal blade in the oscillating saw. Then we had to drive the heads out.
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post #6 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-19-2015, 06:56 AM
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The current issue of Woodcraft Magazine refers to an article in a previous edition about salvaging used pallets, and warns about the danger of using pallets where the wood may have been treated with various chemicals, mostly to kill insects that may be present in the wood - when the company I worked for shipped product overseas, any wood (or pre-made boxes or pallets) had to be stamped certifying that the wood had been heat-treated or it could not be used. I believe that heat-treatment is the current process used but various chemical treatments were used in the past - do a Google search on "chemical treatment of wood used for pallets" for more information.

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post #7 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-19-2015, 11:04 AM
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A couple of months ago I was looking at something on Utube and found a video by Woodworking Guild. The easy way to take a pallet apart. You take a 3/8 plug cutter and position it over the nail and drill though the slat, after you have drilled all of the nails lift off the slat. Now use the plug cutter to cut enough plugs to fill the holes. Glue the plugs in the holes. No sweat, no strain.
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post #8 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-19-2015, 12:23 PM
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Never used any pallet lumber for anything but firewood. I just wonder how many dollars worth of usable wood you can get for your trouble. I suppose it depends on the kinds of projects you do, it just always seemed like to much trouble for the return.
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post #9 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-19-2015, 12:37 PM
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There is a very real trend right now for Pallet wood furniture, do a google and click images and it seems to be endless.
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post #10 of 47 (permalink) Old 07-19-2015, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fire65 View Post
Never used any pallet lumber for anything but firewood. I just wonder how many dollars worth of usable wood you can get for your trouble. I suppose it depends on the kinds of projects you do, it just always seemed like to much trouble for the return.
I see adds on Craigslist all the time for free pallets. So far, the ones I have picked up all came from the same spot...by the dumpster out behind the 99 cent store. They are clean, but the wood ain't the best.

I will have some pics up next week of my current project - a coat rack w/ two cubbies for baskets. The two pallets I broke down will have enough wood with some left over.

It will resemble this one. See below.
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Last edited by MT Stringer; 07-19-2015 at 12:47 PM.
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