10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Before starting to work on your next crafting project with recycled wooden pallets, you need to be sure that you have the essential tools to get the things done and to be sure to complete your project in your weekend. Read our list of the ten must-have tools you'll need to tackle any pallet project :)

Hammer

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Starting a pallet project without a hammer is like cooking a cake without a mold! A hammer will come in handy for almost all your pallet projects and more generally all your woodworking projects. Moreover, a hammer is not the most expensive tool in your pallet crafter kit and is one of the useful ones. There are several types - such as framing, roofing, drywall, ball peen, bricklayers and even sledgehammers. A curved claw hammer is a great all-around handy tool, but you may find you need more types or a different style for your body type. Hammers come in different weights, lengths, and even grip sizes.

Saw / Jigsaw

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets
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A pallet project means working with wood and working with wood means cutting it, and guess what, the best invention we have made to cut wood is a saw! :) You need a handsaw, but if your budget permits it, you can buy a powered saw like a jigsaw (very useful for precise cutting) or a circular saw if you need to cut a significant amount of pallet planks. Table saws make quick work of ripping long lengths of pallet wood to narrower sizes. Scroll saws are great for those advanced tasks and doing decorative cutouts. A reciprocating saw (such as a Sawzall) does quick work of disassembling a lot of pallets and has many blade styles that can cut through metal and wood. To sum up, a saw is essential for all your woodworking projects! There are even pull saws (cuts when you pull towards you instead of with the push away from you) and can be easier to use if you have less upper body strength.

Tape Measure

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

It seems like an obvious household item, but you’d be surprised at how much you struggle to find one when you need it the most. Never lose your tape measure; it is an essential tool! You may find a device that does double-duty. Some rulers also function as a T-square so you can measure AND check for square assembly.

Screws & Nails

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Any pallet project needs screws & nails so must be sure to get prepared and have a variety of nails and wood screws (different sizes and diameters). Some are appropriate for outdoor use (such as stainless steel or deck screws). Some are better for indoor use only, as they don't have the protective coatings or are more prone to rust. If you have to use a lot of longer screws (more than 3"), the different head styles can make a difference, such as a square or Torx style. It gives more surface area for your bit to hold onto and prevents stripping the head of the screw.

Screwdriver

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Whatever the scale of your pallet project, a screwdriver is a handy tool. You can start with an inexpensive, manual one. You'd need a Phillip's, and if you're recycling old hardware, you may need a flat (slotted) screwdriver too. As you start to perform more and more projects, a powered screwdriver will save you time, but more importantly, it will protect your hands and muscles. Powered screwdrivers come in different sizes and weights - so you can find one to fit your personal needs.

Drills

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Not one of the most helpful items you could use for working with pallets, but if you want to make some holes on your pallet planks to achieve the particular project, you need a drill. A drill will also be handy for any other crafting project you could have. Drills are great for creating pilot holes. Sometimes pallet wood is aged, and very dry. It'll split apart as you drive a nail or screw through it. A drill will allow you to make a hole slightly smaller than the hardware you're using, allowing the screw to hold the piece without splitting it apart. You can also use a drill to do decorative touches, such as countersinking (drilling out a funnel-shaped hole that lets the screw head to sit flush or slightly below the wood surface). This can add to a polished look.

A Sander

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

A sander is particularly useful to prepare pallet wood. You can use one to simply remove the very rough edges and splinters, or all the way down to fine finish work. Sanding can be part of your finish or as a preparation step before applying any treatment on it like painting or varnish. Maybe you prefer the raw aspect of the pallet wood, but a sander will come in handy for any crafting project that involves some pieces of wood. There are different types: Random-Orbital sanders, palm sanders, sanding blocks, belt sanders, disc sanders, drum sanders, and more. You can even use sanding attachments on your small rotary tools.

Safety Goggles

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Safety first part one: safety goggles are essential for any woodworking project. Make sure you don’t forget about these – your eyes will certainly thank you! Remember - EVERY STEP of a pallet project could result in eye injury. Find a pair that you feel is comfortable. You won't wear them if they don't fit well. Proper safety goggles come in many styles now and look like "regular" sunglasses, but they're impact resistant. Don't forget to protect yourself from damaging UV rays!

Safety Gloves

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Safety first part two: safety gloves are also essentials when working with wood and even more with pallets. If you want to avoid splinters, which pallet wood is perfect for, don't forget your gloves. Sometimes, your wood piles can also become a haven for bugs and spiders. Some are VERY poisonous. Don't forget - spiders are also fond of the underside of the bins, trash cans, and containers that a lot of us DIY'ers have. Gloves can prevent injury! Follow your manufacturer's guidelines when using gloves and power tools.

Elbow grease

10 Essential Tools for Working with Pallets

Yes, this is the must-have tool :) Take a good breakfast or a healthy lunch before starting any woodworking project as you will need a lot of elbow grease to achieve it ;) Remember - HYDRATE! Getting fatigued can result in an injury.

And a non-exhaustive list of tools that could be helpful for your next pallet project:

Prybar, chop saw, wood chisel, clamps, nail punch, hand plane (smallish), Sawzall (to get the pallets em apart), draw knife, bolt cutters, spokeshave, custom-built prybar, pallet tool, and vice grip. Do you use any other tools for your pallet works? Which device are you finding the must-to-have? Share with us in the comments.

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Rob Moss
Rob Moss

Invest in an angle grinder to cut off the nails; then, “punch” them through the wood for easy removal by the heads with a claw hammer. It will take a bit of practice at first so as not to grind into the wood. This is much easier than trying to remove the entire nail with a hammer and you will pick up more length to the boards. Also, screws go into the hard wood easier by piloting the holes and using a little oil or liquid soap on the screws.

CarolJLahr

This all tools are very useful.

Andrea
Andrea

I’d add a wire brush and a paint scraper because some pallets have residue on them that needs removal. A hot air gun can also be useful. And some big heavy duty c-clamps or tie-downs to provide ‘an extra pair of hands’ – and stop work shifting.

In addition to safety mask or goggles – a facemask to prevent inhalation of sanding particles. Your lungs will thank you.

Gugu Khatha
Gugu Khatha

I have a problem well I’m still new to this pallet business and I don’t know which tool to use to secure nails/screws into my pallets for a couch I am making. I have been advised to us a drill to more a hole Ben hammer a nail in, I was also told to use a screwdriver but then it might damage my wood.
What do I do?

Catherine Kammeyer
Catherine Kammeyer

screw’s last longer don’t pull out like nails but also depends on the project ect…but a couch Definitely screws go to your local Lowe’s or Hope Dept let hardware know what your building they will show you your options.

Christopher Garner
Christopher Garner

In my experience, the most important tool for working with pallets is the Reciprocating Power Saw. This works like a hacksaw but has the added advantage of having a motor to do all the work & without the frame to get in the way. Increasingly, twisted nails are being used to hold pallets together & any attempt to dismantle them using leverage is likely to result in splitting the wood.

David
David

WARNING: Never strike a hammer with another hammer. Steel hammers are hardened and will shatter.

I am so sorry you were injured Krystal.

Penny
Penny

My essentials, besides those you listed , are 1.) a Pallet Paw- best investment ever! 2.) an air brad nail gun. 3.) a Dremel Saw and like you said the hammer, miter saw, nails screws, various bits. I love working with them. I want a planer but its not a necessity right now.

Christeenz

My two essential tools for deconstructing a pallet are two pieces of wood. One 4×2 with no knots about 1.2m long, dressed is best because it’s smoother and slightly thinner than rough sawn. The other piece should be slightly longer and thicker, maybe 4×4.

HeatherStiletto

Now how do you use the two boards to split the pallet apart? Perhaps you could make a short vid that we can add to our info. database? Any alternative techniques we can use to help others is GREAT! <3
Thanks – HS.

Kathymccown

I think y’all pretty much covered it with the tools. And I agree with Heather. I have stupidly gotten a real tiny piece of metal one time and a piece of wood another time in my eye, playing shop. And someone mentioned that we don’t know for sure what kind of chemicals have been on those pallets before becoming part of our play lumber yards, and we don’t want some nasty chemical in our eyes. Remember when you think things always happen to “the other guy,” to everyone else in the world, you are that “other guy,” so what are… Read more »

jerry buerge
jerry buerge

The only special tools needed to assure the yield of the highest possible level of quality material from every pallet is to use a punch to remove the base and deck boards. This will allow the nails to remain upright so that they can be driven back more easily. The punches can be made from the stringers, one straight on both faces and the other 45 degree angle on its wide face end.

HeatherStiletto

Hi Jerry Buerge – so like a homemade pallet wrecking bar? We’d love to see a photo of what you’re describing. I think I’ve got it, but I’d love to even see a vid. of you using it. If you want, show us how to make the tool you’re talking about, and how to use it in a video tutorial. We’d post it up for you!!!!

Happy Palleting~ HeatherStiletto

jerry buerge
jerry buerge

if you are interested in the best possible yield of quality material from each batch of pahat on a

jerry buerge
jerry buerge

if you are interested in the best possible yield of quality material from eacha

Kristy
Kristy

Heather, please keep reminding everyone of safety! This weekend I was dismantling a pallet and was not wearing safety goggles. I didn’t have a pry bar, so I used 2 hammers. One to pry and the other to hit. One hit of the hammer head to the other and a piece of metal sheared off and went onto my eye. Lacerating my eyelid and eyeball. I had to have emergency surgery to sew up the eyeball and the piece of metal is still lodged behind my eyeball that will need to be removed once the eyeball heals. That surgery will… Read more »

HeatherStiletto

OMG! Kristy, I’m SOOOO sorry to hear you were injured. I cannot imagine how painful AND terrifying that ordeal must have been, plus knowing you have more surgery coming up. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story with us, and I’m always pushing the safety. INCLUDING something as “silly” as sunblock. My husband has already had a basal cell carcinoma removed off of the top of his ear – right where guys forget to protect where the ear shows around a ball cap… another long-story-short situation. I will again remind everyone, and will work on a couple… Read more »

Meri Chrysti Coury
Meri Chrysti Coury

A pencil and some kind of support ie saw horses come in handy too.

Shane
Shane

If you use a sawsall to cut the boards free, use a magnet to find all the nail heads before you plane it. The magnet will help you find the heads to knock em out, and this will save your blades

Philip Mc
Philip Mc

Hi all! Just wanted to say I think I disagree with the sawzall. It may save time, but if you cut the heads off the nails then they are stuck in there and you can’t tell where! If you try and plane it after that you will ruin your blades.

HeatherStiletto

There are power tools to easily/quickly remove them for under 50 bucks, or you can do it old-school like me and use a punch/hammer. I plane some of my wood; leave some more natural and like the nail heads in them. It’s a personal preference. But you are ABSOLUTELY correct about being careful with nails/staples and planers. I chipped a blade on a piece of staple that I missed. Now I use a really strong rare earth magnet that is in a bar shape. It’s almost the width of the typical pallet deck board, and it lets me know if… Read more »

HeatherStiletto

Hi! Heather the admin. assistant here – we have numerous ideas for building furniture and more from pallets and several aren’t dismantled at all. However, a cubby can be several things – from open structures like boxes that children would store their belongings in for the day to cupboards with doors, etc. It would kind of depend on what you wanted. I have and IDEA of what you may be talking about, but without any examples, I’m not sure which way to direct you yet. If you want, you can snap a photo of the frames you picked up and… Read more »

Bev
Bev

Maybe we can have a tutorial on building a cubby without having to dismantle the pallets. As a single mum of two… and with back problems and no one to help me, I thought I’d make a cubby out of pallets and these frames i bought.

Eldon
Eldon

I have to say hands down it’s the sawsall for me. My son and I did our first project without one and it took us half the day just getting enough whole slates to make candle holders! You wanna save time, energy, and wood, invest in one.

HeatherStiletto

Oh heck yeah, Eldon! A Sawzall makes quick work of dismantling pallets. Unless you make the mistake (like I did once) of buying really cheap blades. Plus, once we killed our original, Harbor Freight Tools reciproocating saw, I replaced it with a Milwaukee – a REAL Sawzall. Much better. Sometimes a cheaper tool is fine; sometimes it’s worth the extra $ for a better tool. :-D

Happy Pallet Crafting!

Bryan St.Onge
Bryan St.Onge

So so true! I destroyed the $30 Harbor Freight sawzall in about 40 pallets’ time. Harbor Freight tools are great for a novice to get started or very periodic wood worker, but their quality is awful. My $100 bevel/slide miter saw started falling apart 30 pallets deep.

Tina
Tina

a duckbill deck wrecker! it pulls the nails so much easier, especially if you have problems working on your hands and knees.

HeatherStiletto

OMG I love the name of that tool – Try saying “duckbill deck wrecker” ten times fast! Now I’ve gotta go out and see one. You’ve peaked my interest in a new, handy tool, Tina! :-D Thanks!

Gavin
Gavin

Sorry, but that was bit of a pointless post. What would be more helpful is tools and techniques for dismantling pallets as this is the most frustrating and time consuming part of any pallet project. I am finding that the nails are so long and heavy duty that I am splitting more planks than I am saving.

HeatherStiletto

Hi Gavin! We ABSOLUTELY have a post to help you dismantle pallets and I’ve provided you the information below! :-D But, let me share why we generated this post: We are proud to have a variety of skill levels from our crafters. Some are professionals and have very expensive tools/equipment; others are researching how to make their first project. We have had a lot of new crafters asking us which tools are absolutely necessary to do a simple build. There are some who haven’t even built a pallet craft because they don’t have any tools . . . YET! We… Read more »

MrBooker
MrBooker

I watched a video of a guy using a Milwaukee Sawzall to dismantle a pallet in less than 2 minutes. I bought a SKILL sawzall for $50 and it DOES work..

Karell

If you want to learn how to dismantle pallets, check out my profile there is a link to my YouTube channel. In there you will find my playlist for dismantling pallets. I make those videos myself, and am very open to feedback.

HeatherStiletto

Karell’s right – he makes great vids! Thanks – Heather the Admin. Assistant.

HeatherStiletto

<3 this article. My must-haves that aren't on this list: 1. a simple, boring little punch. I use it to tap the nails out when I want a more finished look. I just prop the board up onto another piece of wood to keep it off my work surface. A few simple taps and the nail head falls out. 2. HEARING PROTECTION – even with hammering, I use it. You can get budget-friendly ones that are under 20 dollars, all the way up to fancy, electronic noise-cancelling ones. Some have radios or MP3 players built in too. 3. Sun Block.… Read more »

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