The first task to perform when you start a new project with repurposed wooden pallets is to dismantle the pallets you have, and it should be done well if you don’t want to break all the planks and search again for other pallets. You will find in this article 8 different methods to properly dismantle your wooden pallets.
The first thing to know is that dismantling a wooden pallet will require a lot of patience, a lot of attention and a lot of elbow grease, yes this is not as simple as it looks. The method listed below will depend on the tools you have in your arsenal and the type of pallets you want to dismantle.
- Method 1: Imagine you have no tools at your disposal, nothing, only some boards leftover...ok we must admit that starting a pallet project without any tools is a pretty big challenge but there is a method to dismantle a pallet with absolutely no tools, you only need two boards. And, by applying this method as shown in the video below, you could achieve the zero reject objective without breaking any pallet slats.
- Method 2: You only have a hammer, and you want to dismantle a pallet. Start by dismantling the base of the pallet by hitting the chocks (or dice). Then, to detach the top planks/section of the pallet hit on the planks behind that maintains the structure of the pallet (there chances that these planks will be unusable as you will break them). That’s it! Watch the video bellow for an illustration of this method. This is by far the simplest way but also the more "destructive" one, and you will lose some planks during the process…but remember that you only have a hammer with you :)
- Method 3: For this one, we suppose that you have a hammer and a brick chisel to dismantle your pallet. First, you will need to cut the nails between the planks with the help of the brick chisel. Insert it between the planks and the rafters (or dice) and then hit it with the hammer. Don’t hit too hard as you will break the planks, start to hit softly and repeat again and again until the nail breaks.
- Method 4: This method is one of our favorite method (tested & approved), it require only a hammer and an old plank (from another pallet for example) that will be used to absorb all the hammer hits and impacts. This method is one of the best to avoid breaking all the planks of the pallets. To start, turn the pallet upside down and knock the chocks (wooden supporting blocks or dice) out. The technique in this method is to distribute your blows with the lump mallet between the three blocks and gradually knock the section apart. Once you have done this to all three supporting sections, place these pieces underneath the main body of the pallet. 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 that require to be patient and accurate. Use the lump mallet to rock the nails into shape if they bend. If a nail becomes to malleable cut it in half using pliers or a hacksaw and try knocking it out again. Once those nails are out, use the prybar to take strips of wood. In this case, as there are seven strips all the remaining number strips are released using the even number strips to pivot the prybar. Turn the remaining section over and again on the blocks, knock the last strips of wood out. Watch the video below for a live example.
- Method 5: For this method, you will need a claw bar (or a pick) and a hammer. This method is used to remove the pallets dice. Using the hammer, tap alternately on the dices to slightly loosen them. To avoid damaging the wood and spread the shock, use a tapping block between the dice and the hammer. Place your hammer between the cross and the dice, and then pry. Reproduce this gesture with the claw bar to finish the removal.
- Method 6: This one is for those who are well equipped and have a hacksaw available. Saw the nails by placing the blade of your hacksaw between the planks and the rafters, or dice, depending on the kind of pallet. If the space to insert the blade is too narrow, pry with a small screwdriver to spread the planks.
- Method 7: This method is the fastest one and is like the previous method. You will need for it a Sawzall (also called a reciprocating saw); it’s an expense but if you have a lot of pallets to dismantle it could save you a lot of time. Use with your Sawzall a couple of 12’’ construction blades that are more robust than the little 5’’ blade delivered with your brand new Sawzall. Then, the method is simple, take your Sawzall and set it on its side and simply slice through the nails on each end of the pallet…repeat this operation for all the planks of your pallet. Watch the video below by Sarah James, it's better than thousand of words (and watch the process, not Sarah :))
- Method 8: You can use a pallet dismantling bar such as the one made and sell by Cargo Cycles, it's a little investment but if you have a lot of pallets to dismantle its worth the investment. It is the most effective and efficient tool for manually stripping the planks from the stringers on used wooden pallets so that the timbers can be reclaimed, recycled or re-used for other purposes. With a little practice, a standard wooden pallet can be stripped in about 2 minutes without damaging any of the timbers.
- Bonus: In the video below, Uncle Knackers use two techniques, the one from Method 3 and the one from Method 7.
What to do with the nails? You have two options depending on the finish you want to make to your project.
- Remove the nails: If nails were sawn, use a nail punch, a hammer and a clamp to remove them. Place the nail punch on the cut portion of the nail, then gently tap with a hammer to make it stand out from the other side. Turn your board and remove the nail with the clamp. If the nails are full, tap on the tip to make them stand out, and then remove them with a clamp. Backfill the holes with wood pulp.
- Keep nails: Cut the tip of the nails that protrudes from your board with a hacksaw or an angle grinder.
The choice of removing or keeping the nails depend on you! Keeping the nails characterizes a little more the aesthetics of the pallet but take care when working with the pallet and don’t forgot that the nails are still in place as you could be hurt or you could break some of your tools.
Hope these methods will help you to dismantle your pallets from the one who are not equipped at all to the one who have a Sawzall at disposal. Do you have another method to share? Share it with our readers through the comments and if you have some videos or tutorials, do not hesitate to send them to us and we will update this article accordingly.
Happy Pallet Crafting! :)