Using Pallet wood. Need solutions to my problems!

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Forum topic by Micah Muzny posted 10-27-2014 10:13 PM 1672 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1155 days

10-27-2014 10:13 PM

I have broken up some pallets, I have made a large pry bar “pallet buster” and when I pull the boards off the nails stay in the bottom board and blow out the bottoms on the top boards when the nail head pulls through. This makes big cracks, chips and the large blow out. I then moved on to reciprocating saw and sawed between the boards, cutting the nails in half. In the top board I have the heads and some of the nail, bottom board I have the bottoms of the nails with no heads. How to I get these out without tearing up the boards? If I use them like they are they will tear up my blades on my jointer and planer and saws.

16 replies so far

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 1495 days

#1 posted 10-27-2014 10:20 PM

The nails in pallets are very often ‘screw nails’ they are extremely difficult to pull. In my poor college days I got pretty good at breaking down pallets. I tended to design around short boards and glue ups. Then just saw beside the nails with a circular saw. If long boards I started using a hole saw to core right beside the nails, then accept the feature or re-saw in to narrow boards. The rest I burned. I would end up with a big glob of nails. As far as the other Idea. Even without nails, be prepared for the boards to tear up blades. They have little pebbles, sand, debris, metal shavings, etc. embedded all throughout. As far as pulling nails with min damage.. invest in a large cats paw, a large crow bar, and a box of Wheaties.

-- Who is John Galt?

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Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1155 days

#2 posted 10-27-2014 10:33 PM

I have a cats paw and crow bar and a homemade pallet buster with about a 4-4.5 foot long handle. I built the bottom of it out of railroad spikes welded together. When I was trying to pry up one board it bent my rail road spike and the board didn’t even come up. My welds and the board held but not the 1/2” thick rail road spike. I was stumped so I moved on to something else for the day haha.

View mahdee's profile


3465 posts in 1190 days

#3 posted 10-27-2014 11:43 PM

Best way to utilize your pallet wood is to use a circular saw or chainsaw to cut along the support areas. If you are using it to show the nail holes, use a metal cutting to separate the boards and then use a hole punch or a nail to punch out what is left.


View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2112 days

#4 posted 10-28-2014 12:31 AM

Jinx’s backpunch method has worked the best for me back when I was using reclaimed pallets (before the mill came into my life :)

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

View MT_Stringer's profile


2820 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 10-28-2014 01:51 AM

A nail punch can be used to drive the nails out of the boards.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View hoosier0311's profile


702 posts in 1448 days

#6 posted 10-28-2014 02:12 AM

I have also used the sawzall and cut the boards of the runners then drove the rest of the nail out with a punch. Problem is now the runners are full of nails that are next to impossible to dig out. I have had better luck flipping the pallet upside down and prying the runners loose from the stringers ( slats) about 3/8 of an inch or so. Then reflip and tap the boards back down, this will leave many nail heads proud of the board you are trying to get off. It is rare to get a board off without tearing through or splitting some of the end. Pallets are assembled with air nailers and twisted sinkers while the wood is still wet. This means they are meant to stay together, so it is difficult to get them apart. I can think of no good way to get the nails out of the runners after the heads are cut off. I do a lot with pallets so I have a couple of cheap sacrificial blades for my table saw, so on the chance that I missed a nail I don’t roach an expensive ridge carbide. Also have a set of planer knives that I put in if I am going to mill a bunch of pallet lumber.

-- atta boy Clarence!

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Rick M.

7718 posts in 1802 days

#7 posted 10-28-2014 06:29 AM

Big channel locks are great for pulling headless nails. Just grab and roll it.


View jinkyjock's profile


486 posts in 997 days

#8 posted 10-28-2014 11:06 AM

I flip the pallet over,
cut the support rails at the corner blocks,
give the blocks a few dunts with my lump (6lb) hammer to loosen the nails,
then get to work with my prise-bar and Estwing claw hammer.
Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not…....
but (sadly) you’re always gonna have holes.
Good luck.

View ChadRat6458's profile


77 posts in 777 days

#9 posted 10-28-2014 03:49 PM

I cut the ends off with a circular saw. They are usually cracked. Sawzall the middles and use a nail punch to get out the nails. I burn the runners.

View MT_Stringer's profile


2820 posts in 2653 days

#10 posted 10-28-2014 04:19 PM

I cut the ends off with a circular saw. They are usually cracked. Sawzall the middles and use a nail punch to get out the nails. I burn the runners.

- ChadRat6458

I tried several times to get the nails out of the runners (oak). Just about impossible. Those twisted nails (or ring shank) are there for good. I finally gave up.

I need to find a better source for pallets. They are posted for free almost every day in our local Craigslist.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View bandit571's profile


14082 posts in 2105 days

#11 posted 10-28-2014 05:22 PM

I use a pair of Visegrip pliers AND a claw hammer. The visegrips take the place of the nail’s head. I will also used a block of wood under the claw to get a little more leverage.

Runners are worth saving! Sometimes even better than them slats. I will resaw right down the nail line on the runners. I use a cheap rip blade on the tablesaw.

Between old barn rafters and skid runners, tends to make some decent lumber.

All from resawn 2xs Mainly Oak.

I like the ones with 4×4 type of runners, with the 3/4” slats. Flip it onto the slats, loosen things up with a 10 pound sledge, flip back over and pop the slats off. Visegrips and a hammer to pry out any leftover nails.

Did try to use a “breaking bar” big, log, thick steel rod, slide it under a slat near a runner, and step down on the other end. Worked for a while…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 997 days

#12 posted 10-28-2014 06:24 PM

go to you tube and look up pallet wood or pryer,you’ll see many ways to remove boards,nails etc.

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 1842 days

#13 posted 10-28-2014 07:02 PM

Awesome job^^ I think it’s awesome that people make good use out of what essentially is trash. Now it’s an heirloom. Kinda neat if you ask me.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

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Micah Muzny

185 posts in 1155 days

#14 posted 10-29-2014 04:27 PM

I was thinking about replacing the blade in my table saw with a demolition blade that is made for wood with nails and such and if I hit a nail no worries. Just not sure about planer and jointer blades though :(

View mahdee's profile


3465 posts in 1190 days

#15 posted 10-29-2014 04:34 PM

I have never done this but would try it if I had your dilemma. Stand the pallet on its side with all 3 the rail endings facing up. Use a wedge and split all the rails so the end of the nails get exposed and see if you can hammer them out.. Just a thought.


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