Denailing Lumber




My dad is an old carpenter.  He taught me how to take the nails out of lumber so that he could reuse the lumber for other projects.  This is another way to be GREEN,  Save the planet and all, and even save you some money in the long run. 

Tools Needed:  Claw hammer, safety glasses, wrecking bar, punch and vice grips

Step 1: Easy Beginning Instructions

1.  Lay the board on the grass with the nails sticking up through the boards.
2.  Use hammer to pound the nails back through the board.
3.  Turn board over and use the claw end of the hammer to remove the nail.
4.  Put all removed nails into a bucket for disposal later.

5.  Important:  Try not to let your sister get in on all the glory.  (Please see the picture and you'll understand what I'm talking about)......

Step 2: For Harder to Remove Nails

1.  Use claw "end" of hammer to move the nail in four directions...North, South, East and West, in order to loosen it.

IMPORTANT:  Do not let the claw break off the nail head!  If it does break, and sometimes they will, go to the last Step of these instructions.

2.  Bend the nail over slightly, so you can connect the wrecking bar (claw-end) under the nail.
3.  Use the hammer to forcefully hit the other end of the wrecking bar to lift the nail out of the wood.

CAUTION:  Nails will sometimes fly out really fast and hit you in the eye or forehead.

NOTE:  You can wear a glove on the hand that's holding the wrecking bar to lessen the jolts of hammering.

ALSO:  Watch where you swing the hammer to avoid hitting body parts when you miss.

Step 3: More Difficult Removals

1.  If you broke the nail head off, try bending the nail over, then clamping on to it with a vise grips and use the hammer to tap on the vise grips to remove the nail.

2.  And if the darn nail breaks off, or gets embedded, use the claw end of the hammer to remove some of the surrounding wood and repeat the step above.

3.  If you still can't get a hold of the nail that way, get a Punch and drive the nail through the board with the hammer and punch until you can get a hold of it on the opposite side of the lumber.

VERY IMPORTANT:  You must remove all the nails in your lumber if you are going to be using a saw on it later!!!!

You need a lot of strength and endurance to accomplish this kind of job.  Keep hammering and you will have that load of lumber denailed before sundown!



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    10 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 3

    Most everyone has access to an air compressor now days. Get a NailKicker, and be done removing nails by lunch.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable. I Love my nail jack, great for everything, even getting brads!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good job! Taking out a lag bolt or screw is extremely hard if you don't try to screw it out. If you don't have a wrecking bar, use a block of wood under the claw hammer to give it more leverage. Get a cat's paw tool - smaller version of a wrecking bar end with pointed tips to dig into the wood to get around a stubborn nail. Wrecking bars scare me because the other end can dig into you if you slip.

    4 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    sidenote: try to avoid using those wonderbars for this kind of thing. they're great for what they are, but i had to spend a couple hours taking the nails out of some trusses and that flat bar is not nearly comfortable enough in your hands to use it constantly for that long.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    that actually looks amazingly useful for being, what looks like, such a light tool. (and finally fatmax makes something i like... i hate their tape measures.) anyhow, it's nice to have a wonderbar around for drywall. as long as it's a real "wonderbar" and not just a flat pry-bar.


    +1 on the cat's paw. They can be a lifesaver when you are pulling brads or nails without heads. It even works on those ring-shank nails. Also, get a few blocks, maybe a 1", 2", and a 3" to put under the hammer if the nail is partly out. That moves the fulcrum upwards. Sometimes you can clamp a vise-grip onto the nail, and then get under that to pry upwards with the crowbar. This is a great job to hire out to responsible kids. Often the labor cost is too high to make this worthwhile otherwise, hence the free salvaged lumber. It would be neat to go over the board quickly with a metal detector to see if the wood was safe to throw in the thickness planer.