Planter From Pallets, No Nail Pull Method

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Introduction: Planter From Pallets, No Nail Pull Method

A while back I had decided to build some vegetable planters out of old pallets. I mean, hey, free wood, right? I had originally decided to deconstruct the pallet by yanking out all the nails and reusing the lumber. However, to my annoyance, I discovered the nails were darn near impossible to pull. Every single time you ended up cracking the board you were trying to remove, reducing it to useless splinters.

After a few cracked boards I paused to curse and kick at the pallet, and then sat down and decided to puzzle out a different way of doing it without having to pull out each nail. And here is how it is done:

Step 1: Cut Slats Off the Support Board

First just cut the slats off with a jigsaw. Just cut them off from each side of the support beam. You'll end up with a nice pile of slats.

Step 2:

Once the pallet is all cut up, you end up with a couple of support beams with pices of wood still nailed to it.

Step 3: Trim the Nails

Now, you can pull those nails off, or do it the easy way and run it over the table saw. The blade easily cuts through the nails, and you can trim off any uneveness of the wood while you are at it. Be sure to wear eye protection.

Step 4: Cleaned Boards

In short time you have a pile of nice clean boards.

You need all the support pieces from both pallets. Six in this case. No pallet ever seems to be made the same, so if your pieces are not the same length, trim them down to match. In my case I had a pallet about half a foot longer than the other one.

Step 5: Measure and Trim Boards

Boards all trimmed to live up evenly.

Step 6: Cut End Pieces

You want four long ones and four short ones, or half the size of the long ones. Actual length will vary with pallet, so just scale the smaller pieces down by a half.

Step 7: Add End Slats

Find two slats of roughly the same size, and nail or screw them down on either end of the support wood. You do this first so you do not have a box that is two feet high on one end and then goes up crookedly a half a foot in the other.

Step 8: Add All Slats

Just go right down the line and add the slats to the support wood. I personally used screws along with a squirt of wood glue. The wood glue helps because these cheap pallet boards love to crack, so if it does crack the glue will help old it in places.

Step 9: Add Slats to End Pieces

Fill the slats on both the side and end pieces.

Step 10:

Now just assemble the four peaces together. I just used long screws and some wood glue.

Ta-Da, a sturdy planter.

I do not have a bottom on mine, because I am filling it up with good dirt and letting the roots of the plants just work their way down. You can put a bottom on it easily enough, however.

This way is a lot easier than trying to get those impossible nails out of the pallets.

4 People Made This Project!

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44 Discussions

Hey guys I don't think anybody has mentioned about how the pallets are treated at the factory. The pallets that have the HT or heat-treated are the best to use for growing food. All the others are chemically treated which could be hazardous when you growing vegetables for consumption because the chemicals leach into the soil. Great plans though I am going to try it the last one I made was much more difficult

nice idea! When I pried out my nails from the pallet, I pry the board up a bit, then hammered it down. This leaves you enough room to get the hammer under the nail head.

Thanks for the tutorial! I did the same but used mine for some topsy turvy gardening check it out here:
http://mandamakesblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/topsy-turvy-garden-week-3/

I think it is going to work out nicely!

I thought I'd been told to watch out for nails when using saws like a table saw...guess I was right after reading everyone else's comments

Thank you so much for posting this! The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will be using this design to build 500 raised bed community gardens in Detroit, MI. This guide will save us thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. To monitor our progress check out our projects page. We will post pictures of the process. http://www.miufi.com/#!projects

1 reply

Please make sure the pallets are not treated! You don't want this stuff to leach into your food supply.

Good friend of mine lost three fingers to a table saw kickback. It's a scary machine.

if you need pallets go to any air conditioning installer they will have piles! if you also are lucky enough to be anywhere there are restaurant food supply companies they usually have the mini half size pallets, even better

Ah lads,

There is a tool available(or make your own) for pulling the boards apart, they can then have the nails tapped a bit and pulled out with a conventional crowbar. The tool looks like a two pronged fork with about a 4 foot handle. The tines of the fork are bent so the 2x4s can be straddled perpendicular to the slats and the slats lifted  by prying down on the handle. Maybe northern tool (dot com) has them if you want to look. I love re-purpose-ing stuff!

1 reply

Hi guys - I'm SO impressed that you Americans are using screws. In the construction trade in Europe we used to make fun of Americans and called nails "American screws". Well done. Really. Pfiddle

3 replies

"American screw", that's funny. But I can't understand the implied bias against nails though. Nails are a time honored fastener. In their proper application they do the job at hand well with out the over kill that the use of screws is becoming here in America. My guess is that cut wire nails can be manufactured with less energy and material input than screws. Perhaps screws are for those who can't hit a nail squarely? ;)

Here in the united states of America, lots of pallets I see have these wire-fed nailgun style twisted (screw like) nails in them. Has Europe started using this incredibly fast and strong method of connecting pallet slats yet? They are nearly impossible to pry out of dry wood.

I've had good results wtih cutting the nails flush with a flexible metal cutting blade in my demolition saw (also called a Sawz-all in some places). For people in the united states, these can be found on sale for $19.99 instead of the usual $40 or $60 USD at Harbor Freight Tools. The motors eventually burn out, but so do the motors on the $160 "professional" brands! For throw away tools once they're worn out, I prefer http://www.harborfreightusa.com very cheap tools from China. But I'd never buy a cheapo table saw! A well built table saw (mine's made in USA) will last for decades with simple maintenance.

How right you are. Yes in Europe (and here in Ireland) we get these "wire-nails" clever but a bugger to undo. I saw off the ends - I think it's too dangerous to cut through 'em - and burn the ends in my stove - good kindeling.When the ash is collected I drop a magnet on a string through on a string and collect the metal for recycling. Some of the "nails" can be reused but only in pre-bored holes and I tend to use them to keep up wire and such. Hammer in a bit and as the "nail" bends trist and use to support cable, plants, bird house etc. I agree about buying cheapo tools. We tend to live in a throw-away society and that's not a good-earth policy. Cheapo tends to be dangerous to operator AND watcher-on as many get hurt by flying debri!! Peter

This looks to be a really nice 'ible. Thanks for the basic idea, but I, too, shall be avoiding cutting nails with a table saw. I'll go for a jigsaw and extra hard, lots of tpi blade. Thanks - now all I have to do is find spare dirt!!

that's totally nuts! just get a dedicated metal cutting blade for your jigsaw and cut them that way. I've tried to pull those nails, too, and believe me they're not meant to come out. I guess that's why they ship those things all over the world with thousands of pounds on them. You have to cut them. And better than the jigsaw idea is a sawzall which can use great metal-cutting blades and lop them off in a jiffy. Just don't use the table saw...even with a carbide blade because those teeth will chip off just the same. that's just plain crazy: OUCH! definitely. nice looking box, however.

be careful where you get pallets. i work at a grocery store and the pallets we get are returned to the supplier. they own them and stealing them is considered theft (hence the word 'stealing'). truth be told it's not that hard to 'borrow' these in the dead of night, but that is between you and your conscience. there are legal ways to get pallets, though. some stores do not send them back. find one of these. asking a manager removes responsibility from yourself. just be careful and respectful of other people's property.

1 reply

Look for scrap yards. They get tons of pallets in with the junk they collect.

Good idea. For the Nay sayers out there... A carbide tipped table saw blade will have very little problem cutting through nails (UNLESS they are hardened nails like concrete nails or spiral flooring nails - then you will have issues!) It is unlikely that the pallet company used hardened nails as they are quite costly. Industry has been using carbide tipped circular saw blade for decades to cut steel - please check out the Milwaukee Dry cut saw – cuts through steel like it was oak! (Yes I know there are many different grades of carbide designed for many different applications – but all carbide is going to be harder than a mild steel nail) The major danger here is a loose nail kicking back at you. The tooth spacing matters little as long as you keep your feed speed under control. Do NOT use a plywood blade. They are typically steel blades (no carbide teeth) and will dull immediately. As long as you feed slowly and do not shock (impact) the carbide (and no loose nail snaps back at you or the blade) there should be no lost teeth and minimal dulling. I have used table saws to cut non traditional materials for years (1 inch aluminum plate was the best!) and you can be very safe if you control the saw and material properly. All that being said, it is still a tad bit dangerous and a face shield and push sticks should always be used. Keep up the good recycling work! Mikey

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Something of note though even in this scenario: pallets are often re-used, and you can never tell what kind of nail might have been used to patch it up. Maybe the majority of nails are mild steel, but you're still chancing finding that screw-nail in your pallet stack. It's just so much easier to pry off the little scraps with a hammer than do this and risk injury I can't see using it. There should be enough people going on about this step though to make it obvious now I think. Anyway! Whatcha gonna plant in that swank box?