Step 6: How to break them down

I experimented with different methods, but I finally settled on this particular method of disassembling the pallets.

This is how I do it:

I start by cutting off the outside stringers (the 2x4's) with a skill saw. Watch out for nails!

Draw a straight line on each side as a guide to cut off the outside stringers.  A chalk line works well.

You'll want to set your depth at a fraction more than the 3/4 inch board.

After you cut along each outside stringer (not the middle!), flip the pallet over and do the same on the other side.

WARNING:  Pallets are usually made of the lumber that got rejected for other uses.  It's hard, often warped, has old broken nails embedded in it, and generally is just a pain to work with.  Be careful. Wear goggles. Repetitive work breeds carelessness.  Trust me, I know.

Some other methods:

--Cut the nails with a sawzall.

--Use a pneumatic chisel

--Use a catspaw to dig the nails out (for certain pallets, this is easy.  For some, it's darn near impossible.)

I use a 24" pry-bar with a wedge on one end and a claw on the other.


Start with the middle 2" x 4" support when prying and then do the outer ones.

With the wedge I pry the board up a little (about a half inch) than stomp the board back down. This will force the nail head (not always on softer wood) to pop up above the board. Then it can be removed. If it doesn't pop up, I pry the board so that the nails come up with the board, making sure to do the middle support beam of the board first.

An advantage to cutting the boards off is that you may save time and get rid of the parts of the board that are holy.
Use a speed square for your saw guide. 
The cut will be Square to the wood plank every time.
Excellent suggestion!

I was just mulling over how best to get square cuts without too much messing about when I just want the pallet to come apart. I doubt I'd have thought of using a speed square, but if I'm not mistaken I've got one buried in the garage somewhere. You just saved me a huge amount of time.