When I am considering working on a project, I have a tendency to wince in pain at material cost ( I am definitely a cheapo depot kind of girl!!). Wood is an excellent medium, and can be really cheap or really expensive depending on your taste, project and budget. I am always trying to find a way to do things cheaper with good results.
In the latest craze of recycle and reuse, the pallet world has gotten nothing short of flat out crazy! So of course, I jumped on board (pun intended)!! The biggest problem I have had with pallets is getting them apart. Now, I have searched high and low for an answer to that problem, but ultimately…it came down to a utility bar and a hammer.(I have had many people give me all kinds of advice on this. If another way suits you, then by all means, use that way. But for me, who wants clear of nails wood, this is the best method.)
These are the tools I use, and I am going to say this only once: PLEASE DO THIS IN/ON A STABLE SPACE CLEAR OF DEBRIS, AND WITH ENOUGH ROOM FOR YOU TO WORK, ALWAYS WEAR SAFTY GLASSES AND GLOVES!!!!!! I have gotten wood in my eye, and a trip to ER will definitely be in your future, so save yourself the time, pain, expense and aggravation and wear the safety gear you need in and on a safe, clean and stable work surface!!!!
I have a bucket for nails, brads, small pieces and anything else that I consider trash (I always keep a bucket around for this, it keeps the nails out of my tires when I am working in the driveway). My very beaten up portable workbench. A large claw hammer, utility bar, pliers, and a long skinny flat head screwdriver. And of course my safety glasses and gloves.
For those who don’t know what a utility bar is, here is a picture of mine. It’s just a small crowbar with nifty niches to pry out nails with.
The next thing you’ll need is a pallet.
I have people ask me all of the time, “where do you get all of those pallets?” or “where can I get pallets for free?” OK, let me just say this: I get mine from a multitude of places! I live in a small town where most (certainly not all) businesses are small and owned by actual people who live here too. I have gone into small businesses and asked if they ever get any and what do they do with them. If they say, “throw them away” I hand them my card (that sounds cooler than my card really is, I printed up “cards” with my name and phone number on them for situations like these) and ask them to call me instead. I have been very surprised at the response. I have a truck with a long bed. So, me picking these up is not a hard thing to do. If you don’t have a truck at your disposal, then you might want to figure out another way to do this. I have approached a slab granite yard, they were very nice and told me they set theirs out by the road with a free sign on them. Which is AWESOME!! Larger companies will not usually give theirs away. I believe they sell them back to a central plant for refurbishing and/or reuse. I have been told by some of these big box hardware stores that it’s a liability for them.
Most pallets are nailed together. Sometimes multiple times, which is a nightmare. I usually cut up the ones that have been reconstructed multiple times. I use a reciprocating saw with a blade that is made to be used for cutting metal. I do not like using the wood from those pallets for furniture, or anything someone would walk on, for obvious reasons. I have heard people say that it adds to the patina, my response is NO, It makes it dangerous, and creates a possibility of injury. Even if used for a plank wall. I use the wood with nail parts still in them for compost bins, and if they aren’t real bad, raised garden beds.
Now, I think the deconstructing of a pallet to be common sense, but I am sure there are those out there who have never done this, so here it is.
Very simply you are going to pry the wood loose at the nail points.
A Word of Caution: if you are not physically able to do this, then don’t!!! Find someone to do this for you. (I have plenty of I hurt myself stories!!! If you can’t there is no shame! I just had a pallet that whooped me, so I had my other half try and it whooped him, the fitness trainer who is 6’2″ and 260lbs!!) This is a labor intensive endeavor, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 minutes per pallet (it is weird, but some pallets are easy, some are hard. It depends on the wood they use, how they are put together and what kind of nails they use), and it should move along at a fairly steady pace.
Now, once you have it apart, you need to remove the nails. I do this by tapping the sharp end of the nail with my hammer over the edge of my work bench, to knock the nail head up and out of the wood. Then I use my hammer, utility bar, or pliers depending on the nail or brad, to pry them out and drop them in the bucket.
Now you have free wood for your next project!!!!
This wood is not finely milled, it is usually rough, dirty, and most of the time not consistent in size or thickness. So, if you are going to build with it, remember that. I like that it is rough, and making stools for the garage, or chairs for outside is a perfect use for this wood. I don’t feel bad when it is out on the patio and it is raining. To protect the time and energy I put into what I build, I usually always paint or use some sort of finish on it. And that is a project by project choice you have to make. (it’s also one of the fun parts!)
Happy projects from my shop to yours!!