Author Topic: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?  (Read 4485 times)

shelivesthedream

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Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« on: July 23, 2015, 02:26:48 AM »
My husband and I want to build a large custom plant trough for our balcony later this summer. There is currently a pallet bonanza locally and although I had looked at buying wood I now wonder if we (by which I mean I) could make it out of pallets. The construction of the trough will not be a problem for me but I am wondering if taking the pallets apart into planks will be. The aesthetic is going to be rustic and I'm going to paint it so I'm not hung up on getting every nail out, but will I actually be able to heave them apart myself? At the moment I only have a hammer end to do this. Any tips on tools and techniques? Or, indeed, pallet selection for easier dismantling?

deborah

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2015, 04:32:55 AM »
Pallets are pretty rough, so you might have difficulty with splinters and with painting them.

MrsD

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2015, 04:57:25 AM »
We dismantled some using a saws all and a metal saw blade to cut the nails that attach the slats to the supports. The first couple of nails near the ends are easy, but the middle of the boards are hard because the wood bends back and makes it tricky to shove a saw blade between them. We then used a wire brush lightly and some clear finish to make it a little shiny. The wood is really rough so it might destroy your paint brush!

I'm a red panda

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2015, 06:57:35 AM »
Dismantling- not too bad.
All the damn sanding- absolutely sucks.  Pinterest seems to always forget to tell you just how bad that part is going to be.

realityinabox

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2015, 07:14:25 AM »
I bought a car load full last summer (Honda Fit with seats folded down) for like $20.  I tried to dismantle them with a crowbar and various other prying techniques, but the ones I got had nails with spiral grooves in them, which made them nearly impossible to pull out. The wood would split and break away before the nails budged. I ended up cutting the slates with a jig saw and leaving the nails in.  It was a ton of work for mediocre quality wood.  If I ever did it again, I'd make sure the nails were easier to pull out before taking them home.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2015, 07:25:42 AM »
If you can design your planter box to only need 14-16 inch slats (positioned vertically?), you can take a skill saw and cut out the clear wood pretty easily.  Use an old blade, though, in case you hit a rogue nail.  What I would worry about is the longevity of the wood, espcially if it is in contact with damp soil in a planter box.  Pallets are made from anything and everything depending on what is local and cheap in the area of manufacture, and your pallets could have come from anywhere.  Some will last forever and some will rot in a season.  I've even had single pallets where half the boards rotted away almost completely while the others were still solid as new.   

Jack

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2015, 07:47:51 AM »
I've even had single pallets where half the boards rotted away almost completely while the others were still solid as new.

That might have been on purpose: maybe some pallet manufacturer was really trying to optimize and thus used stronger, more expensive wood on the top of the pallet (where stuff sits on it) and cheaper wood on the bottom (which is only loaded in tension).

Anyway, OP: If you only have a hammer now, I think it's worth it to get a pry bar (unless So Close's skil saw advice works for you). Remember, longer is better.

adamj

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2015, 08:44:51 AM »
A Wonder Bar and a hammer should do it without too much trouble. A decent plane will be a lot faster than sanding. Everyone should pick up an old Stanley No.5 at a garage sale. Just make sure you get all the nails or you will spend all day getting the nasty chip out of the iron.

therethere

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2015, 08:50:52 AM »
If you are planning on using it for vegetables make sure the pallet is heat treated and not chemically treated. There should be a stamp somewhere on it with HT.

waffle

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2015, 08:58:12 AM »
As mentioned above pallets vary widely. You have your soft wood pallets, hard wood pallets, pallets with hardwood runners but softwood slats, pallets with 4 runners vs. 3 runners, 4 way pallets (forklift can pickup the pallet from all 4 sides), and 2 way pallets. So it will vary a lot how easy it is to take them apart.

If you don't want a super rough look then I'd recommend planing the wood rather than sanding, but that could also take a while if you don't have a power planer

paddedhat

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2015, 09:37:41 AM »
Pallets are a lot easier to tear apart if you make the right tool to do the job. Take a 2x4 stud and 24-30" long piece of 2x4. Nail the short piece across the stud, about 6-8" from one end, like you are making a cross. Now you insert the cross end between the slats. Center the cross bar over two of the rails and use the tool as a giant lever to pop the slat loose.
As for the power planing comment, it can work great. I once saw a finished basement where all the wainscot was beautiful hardwood with a clear finish. It was all pallet slats and didn't cost a dime. That said, if you pull nails from a slat and they leave any residual rust, or you have any ground in dirt in the wood fibers it can, and will destroy a set of planer blades.

Noahjoe

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2015, 09:48:13 AM »
Many pallets are treated with fungicides and other such undesirable things you wouldn't want to eat. It's a bonanza, but I'd still pony up for cedar/some kind of untreated wood if I planned on growing anything I was going to eat.

Griff

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2015, 10:34:10 AM »
I've dismantled two pallets. The first I did with a crowbar and hammer, it took 1 hour with lots of sweating and swearing. I knew there must be a better way so I hunted around and found this video by Jay Bates:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WxdiZ-CsY8
You'll need a reciprocating saw, I went out and bought one just for this, well worth the money. The second pallet took about 15 easy mins. It's the only way I'll dismantle pallets in the future.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2015, 02:19:56 PM »
OK, so prying nails out seems to be a fool's errand. I like the idea of just sawing out the usable wood and doing it vertically. A reciprocating saw and a small balcony do not seem like friends. Unfortunately the weather has just turned so presumably no more pallets for a few weeks...

I know pallet wood isn't that great, but we may or may not take this planter with us when we move in two years, so free and rickety works just fine for us. I have one planter already made of a whole painted pallet and we have totally embraced the missing chips, rough surface and nail holes. It didn't take too long to sand as I was only trying to get off the actual splinters, not to make it smooth, though it destroyed my sandpaper!

wienerdog

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2015, 11:24:27 AM »
Somebody posted this site on here in one of the garden threads.  I have used the site multiple times since for different items.

http://oldworldgardenfarms.com/2012/09/18/building-with-pallets-how-to-disassemble-a-pallet-with-ease-for-great-wood/


Spork

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2015, 08:18:38 PM »
I know you said you didn't care about nail removal, but... if we're talking sanding/planing... you will want to get the nails out.

If you have a compressor, something like this will change your life:  http://www.amazon.com/Air-locker-professional-Nailer-Remover/dp/B003X2QM3G/ref=sr_1_1

(Take this from someone that removed every blasted nail from about 1500 sqft of recycled flooring.  If you're doing a lot of it, this is WORTH THE MONEY.)

shelivesthedream

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2015, 06:17:43 AM »
By sanding, I mean a quick run over by hand with coarse sandpaper. This is not meant to be a professional-looking or indeed long-lasting project. However, mentioned the reciprocating saw to DH and his eyes lit up...!

Chris22

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Re: Honestly, how easy is it to dismantle a pallet?
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2015, 01:37:21 PM »
I took a half-pallet apart in my yard yesterday in about 15 minutes using a $9 2' prybar and a sawzall (to cut the longer frame pieces down to size).  Half of the wood splintered and the nails were nasty and rusty.  The wood went into my firepit to be burned at some point, nails will just fall out into the ash.  I wouldn't want to make anything I gave a shit about out of a pallet, and I wouldn't build ANYTHING with a pallet on purpose (ie, I'd only do it if I had a pallet laying around I needed/wanted to get rid of).