Another question on pallet wood

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Forum topic by WilsonCreations posted 07-14-2011 05:24 AM 4783 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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105 posts in 3163 days

07-14-2011 05:24 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question router

I see a number of threads on recovering pallet wood, but I didn’t see anyone ask if a metal cutting bit could be used in a plunge router to cut just the head off the nail. That would leave the shank available to be pulled and the board would be 99% intack. I am concerned about shrapnel and the bit breaking but there are CNC units that cut metal, could one of hose bits be used safely?

-- Wilson

17 replies so far

View ChesapeakeBob's profile


368 posts in 4115 days

#1 posted 07-14-2011 02:37 PM

Great question, Wilson. I have access to pallets, and I just started to recover short peieces of oak from them. I have not tackled the process of pulling or cutting nails. For now, and I have only “saved” 4 pieces (just started this week) I am bringing home short peices and running them through the planer.

-- Chesapeake Bob, Southern Maryland

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3618 days

#2 posted 07-14-2011 03:17 PM

Generally speaking cutting bits used for metal do an awful time of cutting wood..

The problem with putting a metal-cutting bit into the router and going at it is metal isn’t usually meant to be cut at that speed. Way too fast. You’ll melt something or set something on fire. But, you may have luck with the same general idea and a hand (power) drill. They can move at more appropriate speeds for this application.

What I’ve done with pallet wood (I love pallet wood!) is to use a little hole saw and cut a circle around the nail-hole and then fill it with dowel. But I also do not mind making sure everybody knows I am using recycled wood in my stuff.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View PurpLev's profile


8554 posts in 4281 days

#3 posted 07-14-2011 03:25 PM

to answer your question – NO

the problem with nails used for pallets is NOT the head but:

1. the wood is usually dried uncontrollably, is not the best wood, has knots, irregularities, is sitting out in the subject to the elements and is just prone to splitting and deforming which also make them bind on the nails shanks
2. the nails have been sitting out in the elements and are rusting and have many weak spots that make them want to break if not taken out carefully (regardless of the head)
3. the nails used for pallets are sometimes (usually for hardwood pallets) hardened twisted nails that are almost impossible to “simply pull out” – keeping the head intact will actually help a great deal when dealing with those.

my solution is not to try to get the nails out of the pallets to disassemble the pallets, but instead to disassemble the pallets by prying the slats off of the runners and then hammering the nails out in reverse half way somewhat releasing their tension and then using the head and a claw hammer/nail pulling tool pull them out from the head. I use the same procedure to take boards apart from bowling alley lanes:

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3555 days

#4 posted 07-14-2011 05:06 PM

Interesting as this is popping up just as I’m getting into using pallets.
I was planning on just cutting the boards free on each end and prying up the middle. Figured I would only lose about 1-1/2” on each end which I would have to cut off anyway.(any comments on this ???)
Appears Liz has a good idea with the dowels.

-- Life is good.

View Bertha's profile


13575 posts in 3325 days

#5 posted 07-14-2011 05:08 PM

I always just recip sawed the planks, then hammered the heads out with a nail set.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3395 days

#6 posted 07-14-2011 05:34 PM

When using pallet wood, be very careful. Some of the wood is full of preservatives – dangerous to your health.
The reason I know this, is that prior to retiring, I was the Shipping & Receiving Manager at a local tool supply
business here in Albuquerque. Most of the pallets I delt with had some kind of preservative infused into the
wood, so as to prevent rot.

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected ! RIP 09/08/2018

View Bill1974's profile


134 posts in 3617 days

#7 posted 07-14-2011 10:35 PM

I see the value in using wood from a pallet but I have first had knowledge that not all pallet wood is safe to use. I have seen wood that came from eastern Europe that was contaminated from Chernobyl. How do i know, well after some complaints from customers about exposed x-ray film that were sealed, it was determined that the wood the pallet was made from was radioactive enough to ruin sealed x-ray film shipped on them.

So who checks their wood with a Geiger counter in addition to a metal detector?

View rsdowdy's profile


105 posts in 3828 days

#8 posted 07-15-2011 12:06 AM

Wow. Bill… that is an eye opener. Never thought about how much chemicals they would use to prevent woodrot for pallet wood, I didn’t think they would use anything at all. And the Chernobyl pallets…. that would make a good Who Done It detective story!!!


View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 3163 days

#9 posted 07-15-2011 04:03 AM

Well, it sounded good (too good to be right and no one has done it before) but I’m glad I asked before I went at one with a carbide bit! Though a little fire could have been a good story too :) I’ll try the hole cutter and recip saw methods. Thanks for all the good info. If the “Who done it” gets made into a movie I’ll be sure to go see it ;)

-- Wilson

View auggy53's profile


159 posts in 3312 days

#10 posted 07-15-2011 06:14 AM

i used to use pallots , then i found a sawmill that makes the pallot fresh cut any size you like . i bought 6 1’‘x 6’’ x8’ for 6.00 total . no more messing with pulling nails and staples. but you better have a moister meter, you will need it .

-- rick

View A Slice of Wood Workshop's profile

A Slice of Wood Workshop

1108 posts in 3806 days

#11 posted 07-15-2011 05:31 PM

I use pallet wood. I’m trying to use it more. The place up from the house has all different kinds/sizes of planks. Before I start cutting the pallets apart I decide what I’m building with them. That is how I decide how I’m going to cut them apart. I’ve pulled nails before because I would have been about 1” too short of what I wanted. I find it more rewarding recycling the wood, but there is definetly more work involved.

Good luck with the pallet wood.

-- Follow me on YouTube-

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4760 days

#12 posted 07-15-2011 06:00 PM

Suggestion: I’ve moved from using pallet wood to mostly using packing crate wood. Several local hardware stores that sell lawn equipment let me have all the crate wood I want. I’m finding that crate wood can be a little better swan, is available in longer runs, comes in a more thicknesses and is generally a little less grainy than pallet wood.

-- 温故知新

View eaglewrangler's profile


64 posts in 3169 days

#13 posted 07-15-2011 06:15 PM

The radioactive wood probably came from Belarus, where the wind blew from Chernobyl. I worry more about insects (ash bettle) from China, and after reading the above, the EPA banned chemicals that might have leaked or been used to treat the pallets in China. It is better to know the source of the pallet, the hardy siding from canada comes on pallets in 12 lengths (like a wooden gate) The Timberframe co ship the best cants, 4×4 oak, no nails, some use 6×6 or even 8×8. All these can be found at high end construction sites and mostly they get dumpstered. I could build a rodeo from all the pallets that have been thrown out. I save the cants and have cut them into some tables, but still most rot behind the wood shed, if you use them at the right time, the staining can be very interesting as they weather and mold.

Best to know the source of anything you try to recycle and breath the dust from. Pallets used in food industry may have pesticides from the wearhouse even if the wood is not pressure treated. Anything with paint on it from many countries, as well as older wood pre 1975, can be assumed to have lead, including varnishes and ink. Always figure you eat about 1% of the wood you sand or plane or saw, if it doesn’t look good enough to eat or breath, the landfill is the best place for it.

View jackass's profile


350 posts in 4345 days

#14 posted 07-15-2011 06:17 PM

Hi Guys,
I know a man that recycles used pallets for re-use. He was telling me that here in New Brunswick Canada that the Board of Health is now making sure that all pallets are disinfected before re use. The process is quite extensive, and is putting my friend out of business. He made a nice living out of recycling, and employed up to 8 or so men. This is just a cautionary warning, that you should know what was shipped on the pallets before handeling them. There must be something to it if disinfection is necessary. I don’t know what the process is, but if anyone wants to know, let me know, I’ll call him and get the details.

-- Jack Keefe Shediac NB Canada

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3469 days

#15 posted 07-16-2011 05:24 AM

Just got on this post and Jack has hit the nail square on the head. I know the post originally started as a nail question, but listen to all the warnings here. I love recycling and have lived by it for the past 30 years. A while back, somebody posted a project using pallet wood to build kitchen cabinets and they were beautiful.

But I’m a retired trucker and I know pallets get passed on from one customer to the next. I’ve seen some drenched with chemicals, raw products, animal fats, stone dust and the list can go on and on. The NA governments have been good about requiring shippers to identify containers previously used in shipping haz mat, but these laws only pertain to containers that are placed onto the pallets. Trucking companies are required to report all hazardous spills and all kinds of protocols are in place to deal with these spills. But nothing has been done to regulate the pallets. If chemicals leak, the containers are secured and the spill is cleaned up. But the pallets are thrown into the “used pallet” piles only to be reused.

Although I’m a recycler from way back, I would never sand a used pallet board because I’m also a retired Teamster who spent a lifetime trucking.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

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