How to Dismantle a Pallet





Introduction: How to Dismantle a Pallet

It was Gerrit Reitvild who first deconstructed a transport crate to reassemble it into furniture that was both affordable and could be easily constructed from the individual pieces. In that sprit this booklet is made to reveal a method to dismantle this wooden beast of burden, the pallet.

Like a donkey it has to be broken-in and for the task you will need

a lump mallet,
a claw hammer,
and a prybar.

You will also need a scrap piece of wood, MDF or ply to use as a cushion to avoided damaging the wood when knocking pieces apart.

Bare in mind that pallets come in various sizes, shapes and conditions, so you may find this manual to be more of a rough guideline then accurate instructions when applying them to your pallet.

Step 1: Steps

1) Begin by turning the pallet upside down and knocking the chocks (wooden supporting blocks) out.

2) The technique here is to distribute your blows with the lump mallet between the three blocks (a, b and c) and gradually knock the sections apart.

3) Once you have done this to all three supporting sections place these pieces underneath the main body of the pallet.

Step 2: Steps

4) Using the claw hammer knock the revealed nails through their holes. Try to get all nails out of the wood otherwise you risk damaging your tools when using the pieces for your next project.

Knocking nails out of wood is a skill. A skill albeit that you most likely will never write on your CV but one that nonetheless require you to be patient and accurate.

If nails bend use the lump mallet like an anvil and knock them against back it into shape with the claw hammer.

If a nail becomes to malleable cut it in half using pliers or a hacksaw and try knocking it out again.

Step 3: Steps

5) Once those nails are out use the prybar to remove as many strips of wood as you can. Depending on the number of strips the pallet has you may decide to remove all even number pieces using the odd strips as leverage, or Vice Versa.

If this is proving difficult you may find it easier to turn the pallet upside down, again resting it on the chocks and hitting along each strip, distributing your blows (a, b, c and d) to loosen them.

Step 4: Steps

6) To get the remaining chocks of their strip of wood, while standing the piece vertically use the lump mallet to knock pieces e and f off. Turn the piece around and repeat to chock g.

Be careful when knocking the chokes of their strips to avoid squashing your fingers. Also take care to avoid kneeling or standing on the nails as they are ribbed and not for your pleasure. They also have shards of metal attached to them from however they were arranged in a nail gun. Try not to run your fingers along them otherwise you will receive metal splinters along with wooden ones if you decide not to wear work gloves.

Step 5: Video



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    36 Discussions

    Brilliant, you make it look so easy. I tried before & seemed to break every other pallet strip trying to pry them from the blocks. Start with the lump hammer next time!

    So glad i found your site gonna try this one cheers ..<><><>

    Oh, how I wish I could "appropriate" such NEW-Looking Pallets! In FL, They seem to be quite used, and the nails are Rusted - INSIDE the wood - Hot summer + High Humidity + as little as 2-weeks outdoors... But I shall go forth, and use the technique as persevere and use this technique.... and I shall TRIUMPH! I must become "Choosier" and pick better (and newer) pallets.

    I SHALL become... A PALLETEER! Thanks so much!

    that is what I needed I was having so much trouble but not now thanks so much this is the best way to take a pallet apart no doubt.

    Thanks for the helpful video and Thanks to those who added helpful comments. I've been trying to figure out how I can make a fence to keep our dogs in the yard without the funds for the wood. Some sweat equity, free pallets and your help has made this a possibility!

    I like the ease of disassembly you show.. now I am going out to try it.

    I had some trouble trying to figure out what a "Lump Mallet" was when reading this... then watched the video. Duh. It's a Sledge-Hammer, in the USA. Thanks for the video!

    I love the whole presentation, but I especially like the video. It's great. In the comments someone mentioned using a car jack. That's a good idea if you have one that fits, but mine doesn't.

    In the hardware stores where I am they sell bar clamps that are adaptable and can be used as spreaders. I was thinking of using a heftier bar clamp as a spreader for the initial step, although I might not have as much control over what comes away from what.

    Chemicals in reclaimed pallets is a real issue.
    Generally speaking pallets are labeled by country of origin and if you see "HT" it means they are heat treated and may be a bit safer.
    The country of origin is critical > if its not local to you then very likely it has been treated with some type of pesticide after its been packaged. So avoid imports.
    Just sayin'

    Nice! After taking hundreds of them apart I find the really tuff ones with the nice wood that you don’t want to spoil comes off easily and with little or no damage by using a car jack. Apply the pressure via the jack close to the block. Here is a picture of what the jack looks like, mine has been modified though to fit better.

    4 replies

    Perhaps you could do an instructable showing how to use a car jack to remove the wood from a pallet. I would really like to see one. I am having a hard time picturing how one might use a jack on a pallet.

    Slide the jack in the middle of the pallet, so that when you wind it open it pushes the boards apart.

    I got the idea years ago because whenever we moved pallets with hydraulic pallet jacks we'd often pump a board out, either intentionally, or by mistake. Either way the boards would just pump out.

    I take a saw and cut the horizontal boards along the outside edges so I don't even have to deal with most of the nails. For clarification, if you're looking at the pallet flat on the ground the way it would be setting waiting for a forklift, look at the edge to your left. The cut will be just inside the 2x4 vertical support, then do the right side. All that's left is separating the middle support from the boards.

    Caution!; Be very careful using pallet material, one should pick and choose the pallets to use for other than what they were made for.
    Why you ask? Preservatives! There are some pallet makers/mfg dip their pallets in a anti-insect and anti-rot solutions and are very poison if handled w/o gloves very long. Do not burn inside as a wood fuel source for the fireplace or stoves, very toxic.

    Many pallet buyers will specify what the dip should be because their customer has an idea where it's destinations are.

    Do not breath the dust if you are running the pallet wood threw the power saws.

    Paint the wood and it should be safe if it receives a solid coating.

    1 reply

    one way to make sure you are not dealing with hazardous material is to look for a stamp that says HT printed on pallet. This means that it was heat treated rather than being chemically treated. Those will have a CT printed.

    I am not 100% sure that there are not pallets out there that are chemically and heat treated but I do know that if they use chemicals they have to stamp the pallets CT.

    The pallets I am most interested in are the ones made of hardwood. They are not as common as softwood pallets though. They must be put together when the wood is still somewhat green the nails are often thin wire power driven nails and are very difficult to take a part without a fair bit of damage. The decking is often cracked but the 2x4 runners are solid any ideas on how to get the wire nails out that simply break off.
    I like the systematic approach and the idea of using a jack is something I will try next time.
    what are the dimensions of the channel iron pry tool very interesting. I like "shop made tools"

    1 reply

    When the heads pop off the wire nails you can lock onto the nail shanks with Vise Grip pliers, I use 10WRs, then get a claw foot crow bar under the nose of the pliers and the nails come right out. I use the straight end of my bar.

    The pallet done in this video is all soft wood. The one in my pictures in my comment further down is all oak, with the break away nail heads.