Good wood from pallets? Really?

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Forum topic by MichaelT77 posted 08-30-2012 01:51 AM 20147 views 0 times favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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123 posts in 2534 days

08-30-2012 01:51 AM

I posted this in a member’s blog, but perhaps this is a better location.

Do you really get decent wood from pallets? It’s not like they’re made of cherry or birdseye maple, right?

There has been an ad on my local Craigslist for a while. A local company has a pile of pallets behind the building that are free for the taking.

After reading the comments in an LJ blog, I’m wondering what I might find. It might be worth the effort.

-- Michael T, Pittsburgh, PA

41 replies so far

View Gary's profile


9398 posts in 3855 days

#1 posted 08-30-2012 02:08 AM

If those things came from overseas, there is no telling what type of wood you’ll find

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3185 days

#2 posted 08-30-2012 02:10 AM

A number of months ago I answered/suggested pallet wood not be used – UNLESS – it is known without a doubt, that the wood has not been infused with insect repellent, or some kind of anti-rot presertive. The pallet builders, and the users, want the pallets to last a long time before they become trash. True, some companies have stacks of them, because they do not belong to them and want to get rid of the pile. How do I know? I was a shipping/recieving manager at a local retail/wholesale distributor for all kinds of hand/power tools, woodworking machines, compressors, etc. Everything came in on pallets infused with something. True, some of them were not, but which ones ? Difficult to tell. From that experience, I will NOT use pallet wood for anything, Somebody else wants to, go ahead. BUT, be forwarned.

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

View WDHLT15's profile


1816 posts in 2898 days

#3 posted 08-30-2012 02:11 AM

It will be a Dog’s Breakfast as they say in Australia. Some of everything. Some will be good, some will be junk. You roll your dice. Pallets are made from the lowest grade hardwood logs in the business. However, some of those low grade hardwood logs have a lot of interesting character. I saw logs and dry lumber. For me, I would not do it as it is a lot of work, and there are a lot of nasty nails, but I guess if you had a small project, it would be fine to break down a few pallets.

I have decided after many years of woodworking, that given the time and investment that one places in making a project or piece of furniture, why use low quality wood? That does not make sense to me. That is not to say that there is not some good wood in pallets if you want to spend the time to dig it out.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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23211 posts in 3105 days

#4 posted 08-30-2012 02:37 AM

One of two such tables, both used to be old Oak pallets. legs were turned from the 2x runners. Yes I pulled a bunch of nails, but, saved a bunch of cash. Figure the amount saved in the legs. Quarter sawn white oak in 6/4 stock. Tops were glue ups of more of the runners. Nail holes? Nope. I resawed the runners right down the middle. yields 2 boards just under 3/4” thick, by about 3” wide. Aprons were more of the same. The slats of those pallets? Well these tables were made during the winter, and at the time they were made, I heated the shop with a wood burner.

Another source of “Free” lumber? Maybe an old barn in your area has fallen down, or needs to be taken down? Or, in my case, an old garage/carriage house fell down. I found a joist of Black Cherry, loads of white oak rafters, beams of Sycamore…..

There was even enough to build a few things with it…

Or, IF there was an old school house that was demolished? Maybe the flooring was usable?

Of course, if one just doesn’t have the time to process some old boards, and has enough cash to blow on NEW wood, by all means, spend the cash. I’m cheap, er, frugal, as in BROKE, so, IF I see a source of Pallet wood, Crate wood, Barn wood, etc… i will grab it. Been doing it from about the 80s…..

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

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8298 posts in 3798 days

#5 posted 08-30-2012 02:41 AM

Pallets can be made from some pretty wood, but it’s often from parts of the tree that aren’t overly suitable for furniture grade lumber….more twist, warp, wane, cupping, cracking, bowing, etc….

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3258 days

#6 posted 08-30-2012 02:55 AM

Varies a lot. Place local to me gets in giant sheets of metal resulting in a large number of hardwood pallets. Runners have been white and red oak, cherry, maple and hickory. I prefer to take a circular saw and slice all the cross pieces out which usually nets me a bunch of 31-34” boards that are always over an inch and most are a minimum of 6” wide, I’ve gotten up to a foot wide. I then use a large crow bar to pull off the remainder of the slats from the runners which almost always pulls all the nails out at the same time. I burn these in the summer or trash them in the winter. With the runners pay attention to the grain, if it looks close to the center of the tree and it’s oak then just thrown it out, always seems to crack all the way through. Maple and hickory have all produced good pieces for turning or short legs. I’ve had a very poor return rate on the oak runners so now I just pick based on the slats. Check out my rocking dino project, the rockers and base were all pallet wood, the three I’m making this year will be cherry pallet wood.

-- A posse ad esse

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3583 days

#7 posted 08-30-2012 03:16 AM

I have used pallet wood in the past. I’ve also figured out a way to break them down without as much work involved. However, I’ve brought home my last pallet. From the hit and miss quality coupled with the unknown chemical content, I can find other FREE wood without those problems.

Try wood flooring that has been ripped up from a flooring installation. No chemicals, and fewer(and easier to pull) fasteners. And lots nicer wood too. I frequent the dumpster at a local flooring installation company and come home with a variety of great hardwoods. Brazillian cherry, hickory, oak(although I’m not to fond of oak anymore), beech, and many others. Even got some bubinga one day.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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4056 posts in 3711 days

#8 posted 08-30-2012 03:26 AM

I just got wood from tha pallets at my job and this time I got some curly maple and cherry I always get oak and other types of hard wood if u look at some of my projects there made from pallet wood if it’s free it’s for me.Go get that wood it’s worth it theres a Company next to mine here in Boston an they do the same with the pallets too just give em away if I had a truck I would be there all the time.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 3058 days

#9 posted 08-30-2012 03:42 AM

I wouldn’t bother with any pallets that are less then 30 or so years old. The wood they use is inferior. I worked at a semi shop for a few years and occasionally repaired pallets…they are all junk wood and are not worth your time. Pallets for the food industry are always maintained better then the others, but are still probably not worth your time.

Now old pallets on the other hand can be well worth you time. My dad came across some old walnut pallets some 30 or 40 years ago. The wood sat in a shed until my wandering eyes found it. He let me use it, but all the pieces were 3’ or under and 3-6” wide, but 5/4. I came up with this table
Turned out to be well worth my time.

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Emma Walker

560 posts in 2533 days

#10 posted 08-30-2012 04:17 AM

I love pallet wood! I have an endless source for getting pallets from a grainery that would just burn them. My uncle made me a 4’ long pry fork that goes between the rails and under the boards and pops them up pretty easy. I plane most of them but some are pretty twisted. I’ve thought about cutting the top off of a 55 gallon drum, filling it with water for soaking the boards in for a few days and then stick stacking them to dry. There is some really beautiful hard pallet wood.

I need one of those hand held metal detectors though.

-- I'm a twisted 2x4 in a pile of straight lumber.

View oldnovice's profile


7488 posts in 3790 days

#11 posted 08-30-2012 04:50 AM

When I lived in Illinois there was a local pallet maker that would sell cut offs ... by the dump truck full for free! If you wanted this wood, typically oak, a dump truck backed into your driveway and dump away five foot high an 8 foot diameter pile in your driveway … no words exchanged except “where do you want it”.

I picked out all of the useable pieces, more than I would need for a long time, and then along with my neighbor we had enough fire wood for two winters .. in Northern Illinois!

I made a LOT of projects, typically small like plaques, breadboards, knock-knacks, and the like; that was 22 years ago and I still have one or two small pieces. Very good wood at a decent price!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View arun's profile


4 posts in 2051 days

#12 posted 12-10-2013 06:15 AM

Yeah ! Pallet wood might be very helpful for reusing or recycling to decorate our home and gardens. Some wooden pallets may be less stronger and it may be made with light wood for shipping goods. So be aware while you taking Pallets from those industries.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2777 days

#13 posted 12-10-2013 06:40 AM

Yes you can, sometimes you can find culled lumbers that had a warp or milled too thin for re-sale as better grades of wood. Sometimes mahogany and so on, jut not what they would sell to me as a grade lumber, or 1, or 2 lumber.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View b2rtch's profile


4880 posts in 3471 days

#14 posted 12-10-2013 10:37 AM

My main source for wood is pallets and crates from work.
My minivan is again full of 6×4x1 that I loaded yesterday not yet unloaded. ( no nail in them)
I keep the best part to make what every I want to make and I feed everything else in my wood stove.
I have a lot of wood coming from Japan, a cedar like wood , tender but extremely pretty.
I did not buy a piece of wood in several years.
A friend of mine, a carpenter gives me a lot of wood also, he gave me 6×12 beams, old but never used (no nail) and he frequently brings me scrap wood for my stove.

-- Bert

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 2937 days

#15 posted 12-10-2013 01:54 PM

It really depends on where you live, what the industries are, etc.
I worked for a mechanical contractor, and the pallets that brought in the American made HVAC units were great. Big, long pieces of oak, usually somewhat green, but there was no expectation of return so the pallet was not insect treated.
There are two pallet manufacturers close to me, and one uses #2 or #3 white oak to do specialty pallets. Sometimes they throw in #1 if they run low, so they produce some really nice pallets. None of these are insect treated.
All pallets from overseas have to be insect treated by federal law, so look for a pallet that carried locally made things, like food. (Grocery stores sometimes have pallets in the back)
There is also a pallet rebuilding facility not too far from me. They take the wood that they don’t think can be reused and put it in bins for the public to take. I’ve found some nice small pieces in that bin, but usually am not fast enough. I have better luck to go where my city dumps all their wood they pick up.
Currently the only pallet wood I have is large, weathered white oak 4X4 pieces that came off HVAC pallets, about 5’ long apiece.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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