Pallets are an amazing way to create crafts and do projects for little or no cost. We use pallet wood for signs and furniture all the time. When we first started this business, I was out in the garage with a hammer and a pry bar trying to get the plank off the braces. It would take me 10-15 minutes per pallet, and I would usually only get about 50% of the wood because the boards would split and break. Then, I would need to spend more time pulling the huge nails out of each board. There must be an easier way! Yup! There is!
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Things you need:
Sawzall – I used to use a old Makita sawzall I borrowed from a friend, and it did the job, but I found it would overheat fairly quickly when I ran into some tougher pallets. I decided to upgrade my sawzall to a Milwaukee corded sawzall, and it is a beast. I prefer the corded version as I feel it can handle a bit more workload. You can buy the one I have here.
9″ nail-embedded wood blade – My absolute favorite blade for taking apart pallets is the Diablo brand one. I have found that I can rip through far more pallets without changing my blade using it. You can buy the ones I use here.
Proper safety gear – See my personal story about using safety gear, My Horrible Experience Working with Pallets, for more information on what to wear and why.
Once you have the right tools, grab your pallet and stand it upright so the planks are horizontal. If the pallet tips while you are disassembling it can bend you blade, so prop it up against something sturdy. Turn on your sawzall, and cut downward between the brace and the plank. Make sure to cut straight down the line to minimize the amount of wood you are cutting into. Ideally, you will really only cut the nails with the blade, but sometimes cutting through some of the wood is inevitable. In a perfect world, you are able to just zip right down through all of the joints. The middle joint can be a little more difficult, but the same principal applies. Cut as little wood as you can.
Be careful once you get to down the last few boards as the braces will start falling out in whatever direction they please. Be very aware of where your body is and where the wood is going. I have caught a few planks to the shins, and that doesn’t feel very good.
And just like that, with a little practice, you can disassemble a pallet for your projects in no time at all. The cool part about doing it this way, other than saving a ton of time and wasted material, is that the nails are cut flush against the back of the boards. You can leave them in the wood, and it gives your rustic project and even cooler look. Check out some of our signs to see how this looks here.
Good luck on your next pallet project! Make sure to stop by our DIY Tutorials page for step by step instructions on how to build some of our favorite projects.