I must give 100% credit for this idea to instructables user darren8306. He is the original inventor of the concept and has a great instructable on a welded version. While I run a shop and have access to an array of welding and machining equipment I know a lot of people don't. When talking with one of my good friends about the tool he asked me to make one for him. I decided that I would come up with an easy to make version of the tool that required no welding and used basic hand tools to create. This way I could make him a pallet pry bar while also helping others out there make their own without a welder.
The only tools used in this process are an angle grinder, drill, hammer, center punch, and square. If you have access to a drill press this makes everything more precise and a lot easier. While there are a lot of tools in my shop that would have made this process easier for me I used only hand tools to prove it could be done. Let's get started!
Step 1: Step 1: Cut Out the Business End
You will need to find some steel. I am using a scrap piece of 1/4" plate. You may be able to get away with using 3/16" plate, but I wouldn't go any thinner. The dimensions of the claw is 4" tall x 5" wide. The upright portion of the L is 1-1/4" wide and the bottom part is 1-3/4" wide. I have added captions to the first image with dimensions.
Mark out your shape using chalk, sharpie, or a scratch awl. Put on those safety glasses and ear muffs, you will need them. Using an angle grinder with a cut off wheel cut out the shape you just marked out. I recommend wearing a dust mask while grinding if you don't want black snot for the day. They key to getting accurate cuts with the cutoff wheel is to maintain a firm steady grip on the grinder. Don't let it jump around on you and you will get cleaner cuts as well as use less cutoff wheels. I completed all of my cutting with only one partially used disc. If you are new to the angle grinder I recommend picking up 4 or 5 discs, you may need the extras till you get the hang of it.
If your piece is still attached in the corner where you couldn't cut all the way through give it a whack with your hammer to knock it loose. Be careful! the piece you just cut is really hot so don't pick it up with your bare hands! You just used friction to burn away an 1/8" wide section of your material. To cool off your piece you could dunk it in water, but this will cause your material to become brittle from rapid cooling. Just be patient, if you want to hurry the process a little, place a heavy metal object on top of it to act as a heat sink.
Once cool enough to touch place the 'L' you just cut on top of the 1/4" material and trace it. Cut out another claw the same way as the first. Try to get these as close to identical as possible, this will make your job easier on the next step.
Step 2: Step 2: Final Grind
Put the two pieces together and clamp in a bench vise. Line them up as close as possible. If you were precise with the cutting wheel your two claws should be very similar. Using the angle grinder with a standard grinding wheel grind down all of the sides. This will ensure that your two pieces are identical. You will want to grind until the grinder has left marks across the surface on both pieces and they appear even. Clamp the claws using a C-clamp then flip them over to grind the bottom. Clamping the claws together before flipping them prevents them from getting misaligned when you loosen the vise. I rounded over the corners using the grinder just to make things a little softer.
Step 3: Step 3: Drilling Holes
Measure and mark the center of one claw. Using the center punch and a hammer create a divot for the drill bit to start in. This will prevent the drill bit from wandering as you are starting the hole. Line everything up and clamp it in the bench vise again. Drill the two holes through both pieces using a 5/16" drill bit. Since your pieces were aligned and clamped together both sides should be identical.
Using one of the claws mark where the holes go on a piece of pipe. I used 1" sch40 steel pipe. This could be slightly bigger pipe or even square tube. The 1" pipe keeps the weight down and is pretty strong which is why I chose it. It is important that these two holes are drilled perpendicular to the pipe otherwise the holes won't line up on your claws. Use the center punch to prevent your drill bit from walking.
Step 4: Step 4: Final Assembly
Assemble everything using grade eight 5/16 x 3" bolts. There will be an extreme amount of shear force on these bolts and it is important we use hardware that can stand up to the challenge. In case you are curious a 5/16" grade 8 bolt has a shear strength of around 7,000 lbs and a tensile strength of around 5,000 lbs (these are rough numbers). Grade 8 bolts are indicated by 6 radial ticks on the head and are usually yellow zinc plated.
The pipe I used was a little over an inch in diameter, but I needed 2" in between my claws to make sure it goes over the stringers on the pallet. The 3/8" nuts slide right onto the 5/16" bolt and makes for a quick easy spacer. Make sure that your nuts are the same height otherwise you may run into some problems with things not lining up. I could have cut and drilled more plate to make a spacer, but I opted to use 3/8" nuts as spacers. Let's be honest, those pallets aren't going to break apart themselves while you are wasting time cutting and drilling spacers.
That's it! This isn't a glamorous tool, but it should be something that every maker using pallets can easily create. Happy building.