Working with recycled timber #2: Shop management of recycled timber

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Blog entry by robscastle posted 07-02-2013 10:37 PM 1722 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The basics Part 2 of Working with recycled timber series Part 3: When you are onto something really good »

Ok so you have got your recycled timber home.

Depending on your circumstances the storage or immediate use is up to the individual.
Handling and Storage

Remember its recycled wood discarded from a supplier so there will be possibly exposed nails and screws which could injure you, so use protective gloves if required and watch when stepping on the pile for puncture risks.

I forgot to mention earlier there is also a trend to use plastic pallets these days although not really of secondary use they can make a suitable base to store your timber on.

Normal timber storage requirements are needed much the same as your other stocks of timber.
This is a consideration needed to be done before hauling it home, and then when it is home as well as you don’t want the wife getting annoyed whith your new found “treasure”

Examination and breaking down

A couple of possibilities are available depending upon what you intend for the timber.
Store it “as is” or break down and store

Storing as is.

Stack and or cover as normal timber,

Breaking down.

Have a good look at the timber and work out the best way to dismantle it.
There is a high possibility you may only recover 50% of the wood.
For example if a section its full of nails it may be worthwhile sacrificing the complete section with the nail heads in and save the attached sections, but sometimes the nails final position upon removal will make this decision for you!

If its a pallet or butt jointed timber with nails.

Suspend one half high enough for all the nails to withdraw when separated, place a piece of scrap timber on the other half and hit with a sledge hammer or similar this will separate the pieces.
repeat the process until everything is in individual sections.

If it has Nail plates.

Nail plates are fairly easy to remove if you know how so,

Armed with an old screwdriver or chisel find the terminating end of the timber and prise up the nail plate.

Then with a big pair of pliers roll the nail plate out over itself do this as its the easiest way to remove them and it does not to bruise the timber any more that necessary.

T Nuts

T nuts are easy to remove just select a screw of suitable size and wiggle them out by hand, you may want to keep them for later reuse.


Nails can be removed by a series of methods.
One and the most simplest method is tapping back from the point end until the head is exposed the using a claw hammer and scrap remove the nails.

Nail clusters

Sometimes there are a cluster of nails you cannot get to easily.

You can also use a metal working vice and clamp the nails and with a piece of scrap tap the timber to remove a cluster of nails, once the heads are exposed simply invert the timber and clamp the heads and lever the wood to remove them all at once.

Big Bolts, Screws, washers and coach type bolts.

These are some of the types of fasteners that you can remove and reuse.
Bolts just undo them with a suitable size tool, if the have nuts at each and turn you can grind them off or clamp with vice grips on the shank.

Screws, they come in all shapes and sizes recessed hex Robertson head, plain and cross recessed.
Again select a suitable tool and remove, also a possible consideration for reuse.

Grasp with a pair of bull nose pliers and pull straight up, in most cases they come straight out, if not lever the center up with a screwdriver or similar and try again.

Stubborn objects and head breaking off.

These pose a real problem for later, especially if they are forgotten because the are hard to see so get a black texta or similar and mark the area clearly so the area with the remainder can be identified later.
Screws not moving ? Try screwing them in first then try to back them out.

If they snap off above the timber on the way out chuck them up and battery drill them out, or clamp vice grips on them.

OK all finished?

Well I did warn you there was some extra work involved when working with recycled timber and this is the easy part over, well almost over.

Clean up time


recycle bin or reuse, don’t leave nails screws and the likes just lying about for the mower to find or motorcycle to be suddenly fitted with an ice spike tyre. let alone somebody stepping on one.

A word of caution, do not burn any scraps in your SCS unless you can positively identify what it is, as preservative treatments, and or glue may/will produce toxic gas on combustion.
best to go into the Scrap bin for reuse, or general waste bin for disposal

-- Regards Rob

3 comments so far

View sixstring's profile


296 posts in 2265 days

#1 posted 07-02-2013 10:48 PM

I pick up church pews when I can and always break them down first. I even keep the hardware that’s worth saving… screws, bracket/supports, washers.

Used lumber I will inspect for nails/screws and take out any that are obvious. Then it goes into my “better check this with a metal detector pile” until I get around to it, but at least I know not to use material from this pile. Afterwards, it goes into either my church pew pile (backs, seats, supports, and a box of bits and what i call knuckles (funky joined pieces that were easier to just cut out… I’d like to find a project for these since I dont have the heart to chuck it.)

The more I think about it, the more I realized that working with reclaimed stuff is a lot of work and not the most efficient use of time… But on the other hand, the material is saved from the dump. In time, we will all be working with reclaimed material so I figure it’s good to get an early start, especially while the pickings are good.

-- JC Garcia, Concord, CA : "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission..."

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2712 days

#2 posted 07-03-2013 12:40 AM

My tip for recycling used lumber: a set of horseshoe pulloffs is a better nail/staple puller than a claw hammer or nail bar by far! Diamond brand pulloffs are the most economical and are what I use.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1879 days

#3 posted 07-03-2013 01:20 AM

To get nails out old barn timbers I chiseled out around the heads enough to clamp onto them with vise grips. Most of the heads were rusted off. I also bought a metal detector from amazon that was $30, but priceless actually.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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