Instructables

How to easily remove nails from pallets?

I would like to use wood from pallets to maybe make furniture and a fence but it's a pain to get the nails out before destroying the wood. Does anyone have some clever ideas to get the nails out the easy way? Or other uses for pallet wood? Thanks.

I only have experience with UK pallets which are generally made of soft pinewood.

The essential starting tool is a crowbar which can pull the nails out once the heads are showing or be used to pry in between the middle block and the plank.

If  the wood is too fragile for the crowbar I have found that it is better sometimes to drive the nails in all the way through the planks into the middle blocks using a drift or a punch, which just leaves the planks.

Similarly, I sometimes cut one end of the plank free and then using that end as a lever pull the plank away from the pallet which rips the plank through the nail heads, leaving the nails sticking up in the middle blocks.

If you get the point where blocks are only attached to a plank on one side ( i.e. you have removed the opposing plank) then stand on the plank and with the block facing upwards and smash the block off with a hammer; the nails are then easily removed.

If the wood is good enough the plank will stand up to this although some planks will always have to be sacrificed.

I don't know if that makes any sense? It's quite hard to describe.

Happy Harvesting.


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cscalise2 years ago
I would be very cautious about using wood pallets for DIY projects. Wood pallets are treated with some pretty dangerous chemicals, like pesticides, fungicides, even formaldehyde. They are known to cause serious fires and they're really bad for the environment. When it comes to pallets, your best bet is to just get rid of them.

Source: Pallet Truth
"PalletTruth" is clearly an advertising page put up by the plastic pallet makers, in the same disingenuous way as "Swift boat veterans for truth" and many, many other weirdly American groups.

But enough politics.

Just burn the pallets in a modern wood- or multi-fuel stove.

Take a sledgehammer to the lighter ones if you want kindling fast. Use a circular saw on the more solid euro types, or, recently, my Ryobi battery powered sawz-all. Then get fit stamping and smashing the bits you can, and those you can't, toss into a pile by your radial arm saw.
I use a RAGE III radial arm saw to chop them up, as it doesn't care about the nails if you clip one (you could rip through all the nails, but it'll blunt the blade faster & take longer to cut, obviously!)

We turned about 10 misc pallets into firewood on a day last weekend. Much faster if you have two people, one sorts the kindling and breaks longer light wood and piles that, and sends thicker, longer bits for the saw operated by the second man.

As for removing the nails, there is little point. Fire isn't called "the great destroyer" for nothing. After the wood is burnt, all that is left is a little ash and a handful of nails. Just keep burning until you need to clear the grate. Yes, that's a bit tricky due to nails getting jammed, but it's far better than trying to pull all the nails beforehand!

Break and cut your own wood. That way it will keep you warm twice!
FFS, you know how to piss on someones bonfire dont you. The bloke was only asking how to strip a pallet, and you go and tell he'll get the lungi if he touches them. Let the bloke have his fun building things. I bet you work in an office dont ya! PRUDE.
jlander822 years ago
The quickest and simplest way I found only requires that you have a hacksaw. The blade is thin so can usually fit between the boards with ease. Also the nails are often rusty so they cut pretty quickly.

The center beam nails can be a little tricky to reach with a saw blade at times, but at this point, when they're the only two left, one can work in a wedge of some sort (I use the small end of a wonderbar) to help get it loose.
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here is a video on how to remove nails from wood pallets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtPmUZ-k3aI
jthompson-63 years ago
If you can get the head of the nail just above the surface you can try this tool which uses a drill to remove the nails.

http://shop.cordlessdrillnailpuller.com/

However I wedge the wood up enough to slid in a thin cutting wheel on an angle grinder. Possibly you could use one of those oscillating tools with a thin blade.

There are also small core drills available that will cut the wood around the nail, but this leaves @ 1/4" hole.
nailjack4 years ago
This is something I have been working on... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqgB42OEYc
framistan4 years ago
If you use a hand held ANGLE GRINDER, it would grind off the heads of the nails. Then it would be much easier to separate the boards by prying with the PRYBAR. It would also greatly minimize damage to the boards.
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caarntedd4 years ago
Do a graphical search (above) for "how do you get pallets apart?" and read the answers to the top match. It was posted about 3 months ago, and was 'best answered' with a slide hammer.
snotty4 years ago

The best method I've seen for harvesting wood from pallets is to cut the nails and leave them in.

Try this:
-Make a wedge out of wood. It should be a fairly acute angle of about 20 degrees.
-Hammer the wedge between the pallets flat boards and the frame. This will gently pry the board up about 1/8th of an inch.
-Now stick a reciprocating saw in the crack you just opened up.
-Saw through the nails.
-Make something amazing.
orksecurity4 years ago
Easiest suggestion: Sacrifice the portion of wood that have nails in them -- cut off and discard.

The easiest bulk nail-pulling tool I know of is a claw-style device which combines a slide hammer (to drive its jaws into the wood on either side of the nail, a moving jaw (which grips the nail as you rock the tool onto its lever), and a long handle (to give you leverage to pull the nail out). I have no idea what it's called, I'm afraid; we just referred to it as the "outener". It's effective, but it further damages the wood around the nail hole, so it might not be suitable for your application.

Otherwise, I think the techniques you already know are probably as good as anything. It gets faster with practice. But no more pleasant.

That's the trade-off of reusing pallets. You get free wood, and sometimes surprisingly good wood, but you have to work for it and it may be somewhat chewed up.
Yeah, that's essentially the one I've used. Not a tool you use when you want to be nice to the wood, but ...
aeray4 years ago
Burn the pallets, and then pick the nails out of the ashes. For kelseymh, the term is "spiral shank nails" (in the US). A "cats paw" may be helpful (I prefer the Japanese style), but beware: in Spanish they are known as "patas del diablo", or "devil's hooves".
Re-design aeray4 years ago
He wants to use the wood so burning is out.
aeray Re-design4 years ago
I was being sarcastically pessimistic :)
Re-design aeray4 years ago
Oh, sorry, it went right over my head.
kelseymh aeray4 years ago
Thanks! It's great to learn something new :-)
kelseymh4 years ago
There isn't an easy way to remove those bloody nails from pallets. They are "corkscrew" nails (I know there's a technical name, but I don't know it). You might possibly try grabbing the head in vise grips, and pulling and twisting at the same time; you will probably need a motorized device (perhaps a variable-speed drill) to do this successfully. Alternatively, you could use a reciprocating saw to slice the nails in the gaps between boards, then just pull the fragments out for cleanliness.
+1 Those spiral nails are a royal pain to pull out of harder woods. I believe that pallets frequently have cement coated spiral nails, too. It would be easier to grow a tree and mill new lumber than getting those suckers out.
. Yep. Between the funky nails and the hard-as-a-rock wood, there is no easy way to dismantle pallets. They are built to stay together whilst getting banged about by a forktruck.
cement coated ring spiral nails with those nasty barbs...Near impossible to remove with divine intervention :S
lemonie4 years ago

"Claw hammer", and consider knocking them on the pointy-end also.

L


frollard4 years ago
Perhaps a hydraulic body repair kit? They aren't too expensive and can apply tonnes of force in cramped locations to pry from the inside.
acidbass4 years ago
crowbar and a nail removing hammer that always seems to work for me