How to Denail a Cut Pallet

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Introduction: How to Denail a Cut Pallet

About: Don't believe everything you read online.

If u followed my 'Ible on "How to Disassemble a Pallet", u may still want to get the nails out. I know that some of you rejected that disassembly method out of hand because of the desire for nail-free wood. Have no fear. Nail-Free Slats are EASY! Nail-free 2x4s are a pain but doable.

Step 1: Denailing Slats


  1. Turn the slat upside down so the heads of the nails face the dirt. Some nails will simply fall out w this change in orientation.
  2. Grab a blunt, waste nail & a claw hammer.
  3. Place the blunt tip of your nail at the cut end of the nail in the board. Tap firmly but gently.
  4. Once the board nail is out ~1/2 way, go to the next nail.
  5. After all nails in that line are out half way, flip board over.
  6. Using the claw portion or another clawed tool, pull the nails all the way out.
  7. Repeat for the next row of nails.

EAZY PEAZY!

Step 2: Denailing 2x4s: Begin

These are bit trickier. I usually just use them w the nails in them, so that's not an issue. However, certain tools (like a Router) have negative issues when dealing w nails so before I use those tools I have to denail it.

Step #1
I have 2 methods for removing the nails from the 2x4s depending on what I'm going to do next.

Method #1
If I'm going to router the center out anyway, I usually use a circular saw to cut a line 3/4"-1" deep down the middle of the 2x4 removing the wood from one side of the nail. Get as close to the nail as possible without cutting the nail. This is great since I can do multiple nails simultaneously & get the boys to help w the next 2 steps.

Method #2
If you're only trying to take out 1 nail or keep the wood as unmarked as possible, use your drill & a 1/8" bit to drill a hole next to the nail to be removed. Again, the idea is to remove the wood next to the nail.

Step 3: Denailing 2x4s: Finish

Step #2
Using a hammer & an old nail, nail the nail into the board opposite the hole u just drilled or the saw cut. The nail is holding to the wood. You're giving it force to the SIDE to let go of the wood & fall into an area so u can grab it w less resistance to pulling out.

Step #3
Using old, dull, pointy wire cutting pliers, grab the nail in the jaws, squeeze, & level up. U may need to grab again, put a small block under to get leverage, grab lower, squeeze tighter, etc. Basically, if u can get your pliers around it & the nail is move from its original hole, it should come out.

Step 4: Conclusion

Like I said, a pain but doable. Most people merely need to denail the slats. I like the look of the old, rusty nails in my rustic projects, so I tend to work around them. But, sometimes even I need to. So I hope this helps.

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    7 Comments

    @BeachsideHank
    While that sounds like it would work, it also sounds like it would result in lots of broken boards. If u follow the "How to Dissassemble a Pallet" 'Ible that I already posted, you'll see the method for 100% preservation of all boards.

    1 reply

    Nhampto9, some planks did indeed not respond well to the method, but the vast
    majority did. I was introduced to it by a fellow whose father, being
    of modest income, would salvage materials using this method as it was
    very fast, inexpensive, and yielded a quality outcome. Like you, I
    was skeptical at first, but having actually used the technique over
    time, I'm converted. This does not diminish your method, it merely
    supplements it as an alternative to a most green endeavor that many, like ourselves, embrace.

    @Mugsy Knuckles
    When I first started & tried to pull the nails out, I had numerous broken nails or popped heads. Exposed to the weather, the heads rust quickly. Thus cutting & extracting was the only method of guaranteed separation & removal. Thus exposing the nail heads themselves is nearly impossible as is whacking them far enough w a hammer to break the glue. W such strong adhesion, the wood is more likely to splinter than let go of the nail.

    Those spiral nails are such a pain because they are coated in a temperature activated adhesive. When the friction from the air nailer heats it up, it glues itself to the wood. Thing is, it sorta only works once, so any method of taking them apart that leaves the nail heads exposed allows you to whack them once with a hammer and then the glue breaks and you can pull them out like any other nail.

    I once worked shipping and receiving at a university, and during my
    lunch hour I'd sort through pallets and take good looking prospects
    for knockdown and salvage. My technique was simple: chock the pallet
    up with a scrap 2x4 on one edge, and using a 4x4 cutoff like a
    pile-driver slam it down on the slat part next to the rail. The
    sudden shock of this would in most instances reverse drive the
    screwnails all the way out. What few that remained were easy to
    remove by levering out with vise grips or Channelock pliers.

    Very nice. I generally just work around the nails in the 2x4s myself as well, but the technique with the side hole for getting those out looks pretty handy, if you REALLY want to get them out. I'd never considered doing it like that. Thanks!