Pallet Harvesting

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Blog entry by CptWingnut posted 06-27-2011 02:40 PM 10061 reads 13 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So this is my first try at a blog, and I figured I’d start with something that is simple and probably had already been done a number of times before. Regardless, I will probably learn more about blog making than you will about pallets.

Pallet Harvesting
First you have to find a pallet that is worth harvesting, craigslist is a good place to look, but I have had much more luck by finding a company in an industrial complex that receives a fair amount of freight. Target places that have heavier freight as this is where you will find hardwood pallets because of their heavier weight rating. I’ve found, if you actually show up to the business and ask if they have spare pallets, they are much more apt to actually oblige, vice cold calling. Once you establish a relationship with the business, like bringing them a pack of soda or some cookies, as a thank you for the last time they let you take some pallets, you usually can establish a pretty good network of people that are more than happy to keep an eye out for those hardwood pallets you’re looking for.

Now that you have the pallet like the solid oak one pictured above, that weighs about 140 pounds. we can start by dissecting it. our first problem is these nasty things.

They design these pallets like they don’t want people taking them apart… weird.
You can start by testing the ends with a flat bar, enter from the endgrain (as pictured), as this will help prevent splitting.

As you start prying you may notice the amount of force you are placing on the wood is causing it to split rather than prying up the nails at the ends. You could force it and send a nasty split down a perfectly good piece of wood. The other option is to wiggle or hammer your flat bar between the stringer and the lead board. Work you way down each subsequent top deck board creating just enough room to wiggle your flat bar. Once you’ve created a little room between the deck boards and the stringers, bust out the sawzall!

place the blade in the small amount of room you’ve created for your blade to contact, only the nail shafts themselves.

Then proceed to cut the nails off

repeat until both rows of top and bottom deck boards have been released from the stringers.

once they are only attached to the center stringer, it is usually possible to pry the nails off as they aren’t so close to the ends. If not, repeat the sawzall move for the center stringer. Now that you have a a bunch of boards with nails in it.

At this point they are very easy to remove with a hammer and a punch. I personally use a punch in a drill press and pop out the nails from the underside. You can also chop off the ends which also helps for any end splitting that has already occurred. As far as the stringers, if you cannot pull the remaining nails out, they are usually only about a 1/2 inch into the stringers. By removing 3/4 of an inch on tablesaw or bandsaw,you can reclaim a nice hefty chunk of in this case oak.

It can be a fair amount of work, but then again out of one pallet I claimed at least $100+ of dimensioned oak.

So with all of the beautiful wood out there that you can claim from going to the dumps, and make into all sorts of things like those featured here
or here

There is one thing to take into account given the way, and with what pallets are sometimes treated with to prolong their lifespan. Here is some more information that explains this in a more detailed way.

11 comments so far

View ChuckC's profile


844 posts in 3476 days

#1 posted 06-27-2011 03:02 PM

This is interesting. I thought of doing something like this but was concerned about destroying my planer and jointer blades. Have you ever had any issues like that?

View Geedubs's profile


143 posts in 3771 days

#2 posted 06-27-2011 05:01 PM

This was great! I would love to see more blogs and information on ways to reclaim wood. Nice job. Keep up the good work Cpt.

-- Todos los dias aprendemos algo nuevo.

View KellyS's profile


78 posts in 3773 days

#3 posted 06-27-2011 07:00 PM

We have a never ending supply of pallets, crates, skids, etc. where I work at. I’ve been very fortunate to get some pretty decent wood out of here. Most of the projects I’ve done and posted here have been from wood I reclaimed out of our scrap pile. I can tell you this, if you mess up on something out of the scrap pile it sure doesn’t hurt you feelings as bad as messing up on an $80.00 piece of quartersawn white oak. The free wood has provided me with a way to better my skills without having to spend a fortune doing so, Ahh, If I could only duplicate some of my better work on better wood!!! If you plan on doing it, I would recommend some kind of metal detector or sorts, I think you also need to be measuring the moisture content of it too. I’ve been burnt by pieces warping, and I’ve made much use out of one of those Nail Extractor Piranah jawed looking nail pullers. Also, watch out for these little pieces of wire that some of the nail guns use to hold the nails together. You pull the nail out, but the piece of wire is still left in there.

I’d have to say that my pride and joy out of all the wood has been my workbench I built. I started a blog, but I don’t think I ever posted the final pictures. I’m also finishing up on a solid oak table that’s turned out really nice so far. Made out of similar wood that Mr. Wingnut shared with us.

Good post, thanks for sharing!

-- He who dies with the most tools wins!.....Just wait, I'm going to win!..ERR my wife will at least.

View Russ's profile


357 posts in 3618 days

#4 posted 06-27-2011 07:33 PM

I’ve been thinking about doing this and I really appreciate the information share.

-- Russ

View Wayne's profile


196 posts in 3134 days

#5 posted 06-28-2011 05:18 AM

I see some rays in that oak.
I actually came home with a “blue pine” pallet today.
Thanks for showing.

View auggy53's profile


159 posts in 3221 days

#6 posted 06-28-2011 07:16 AM

i go one step further , i go to the mill that cuts the pallet wood . i get 1’‘x 6’‘x 8’ oak boards for 1.00 ea. then i root through there juck pile of off cuts and they load my truck for me for another 10.00 . its sold for firewood

-- rick

View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 3072 days

#7 posted 07-13-2011 06:01 AM

Is there a safe way to use a bit in a plunge router and just take the heads off the nails? That might leave enough shank behind to pull out and the nail hole may be all that shows. I know there are CNC machines that cut metal, do they use something other than carbide bits? I would think a Lexan sheild would protect against the shrapnell.

-- Wilson

View FoxMountainWoods's profile


30 posts in 3129 days

#8 posted 07-26-2011 01:14 PM

I was using some pallets to stack my fire wood and thinking about how to salvage the better pieces of oak – then I stumble on this! Great.

-- Scott Hubley - Nova Scotia, Canada -

View Kenny's profile


7 posts in 3041 days

#9 posted 07-26-2011 01:49 PM

Another thought might be to cut the ends off the deck boards mext to the end rails.
Many of these ends are split anyway. The heavy rails is usually what I am after.
You then only have the center nails holding each board, which are much easier to get out. Kenny

-- Kenny, Ohio

View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 3072 days

#10 posted 07-29-2011 05:30 AM

I’ve gotten a number of pallets from an automotive / residential glass company, when talking with them they said “Please take whatever you want, better yet, take them all… we have a rolloff container coming on monday because we have so many to get rid of.” There is an assortment of sizes and species including some plywood. You may want to check the blog “Another pallet question” some folks there had some good warnings. One last item, I found it much faster and easier to dis-assemble them on the bench than on the not only don’t have to bending over but it’ at a better height.

-- Wilson

View SuffolkBoy's profile


7 posts in 2888 days

#11 posted 05-10-2013 09:52 PM

I use alot of pallets to make rabbit hutches, benches and more, and what can’t be used can be put in the wood burner to heat the workshop. We should all recycle more.

-- Website:

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