The Best Way to Take Apart Wood Pallets

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The one thing woodworkers and homeowners never seem to have enough of is wood. Wood for projects or fuel can be expensive--or depending on the source, absolutely free. Pallets are a prime example of free wood. But before you can use it, you must dismantle the pallet. Here are several methods you might consider.

Chain Saw or Circular Saw

  • If you're seeking stove wood or kindling, pallets are a great option. Many are made from oak, which is an excellent fuel source. Using your chain saw or circular saw, cut the slats free from the stringers. The resulting pieces will be 16 to 18 inches long. If kindling is your eventual goal, split the pieces with a hatchet and stack them aside for lighting that next fire. Do not let the chain or blade make contact with the nails in the stringers. You could damage the saw or be injured by a flying fragment of steel. Always wear safety glasses when cutting up a pallet.

    If the slat wood is knot free and straight, don't waste in the stove. Build something with it instead.

Longer Pieces for Projects

  • Pallets are assembled using resin-coated spiral nails that are driven pneumatically. They can be difficult remove. The following method will yield nearly the entire length of the slats and all of the stringers.

    Using a saw, carefully cut a slat loose from the side stringers, leaving it attached only in the center. Begin gently rocking it up and down, using it like a lever to lift the nails out of the stringer. As they begin to lift, tap the slat back down. This exposes the heads of the partially pulled nails. Slowly remove them using a crowbar or claw hammer. The resulting piece will be about 3 feet in length. Repeat the process until all of the slats are removed. The center stringer will be free of nails as well. Next, remove the small bits of slat still attached to the side stringers. This will expose the nail heads allowing you to remove them, too. Once you dismantle a few pallets, reuse the wood and fashion a rustic table or bench. Toolcrib.com lists other projects made with pallet wood.

Reciprocating Saw Method

  • Using a reciprocating saw, you can remove entire slats from a pallet. Using a pry bar or claw hammer, slowly lift the slat from underneath until there is room to slip in the metal cutting blade of a reciprocating saw and cut the nails off. Repeat this at each stringer and you can free up the entire length of a slat. The drawback to this is that the remaining shanks of the nails are buried in the stringers, making them impossible to remove.

Take Your Time

  • Over time, pallet wood may become brittle. To avoid having a slat split or shatter, work slowly and deliberately when prying them up. Pallet wood is rough sawn and full of splinters. So in addition to your safety glasses, protect your hands with work gloves, and your feet with sturdy boots.

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