This won’t be a finished article for a while. I’ve not taken the time to photograph (much) or video my process (or headache) of breaking down various pallets. The truth is most of my pallets come from a variety of sources and the techniques for breaking down pallets is different for each one. And I’ll say it here, there is really no one, perfect, universal way to break down pallets.
If it helps, I’ll post a few pointers or facts I’m learning as I go along.
NAILS! The main thing you have to deal with when breaking down pallets is sharp, jagged metal objects called NAILS …and staples.
Sometimes pallets come apart easily and other times seemingly not at all. I have found pallets put together with staples, nuts and bolts (pallets for Tech Equip), screws, spiral nails, glued nails, big nails, small nails, tons of nails – and sometimes a combination of all the above. I keep coming across nails or nail holes with shreds of copper wire in them. It puzzled me for a long time, until I realized it was probably just the wire used to tie nails together for a nail gun.
These days I tend to use the circular saw method. Particularly if the wood looks old and dry or the nails are already splitting the wood on the ends. However, just when I think I can get away with gently banging out a board, it’ll split on me. That’s okay. I built a fire pit JUST for those. Whenever I need to banging out a board I use my homemade, trusty mallet. It absorbs a lot of impact and it has a nice large head to spread out the blows.
I also switch out to a basic hammer and a small, flat pry-bar when the going gets tough.
When I do use a circular saw I know I’ll be sacrificing length. It’s worth it when I remember all the boards I’ve lost from splitting. Better a shorter board than none at all.
Be wary of staples! They might appear small, but I’ve pulled out what I thought were small staples that were inches long. I use a long, thin screwdriver I sharpened on the grinder to pull those out. Take the time. You don’t want to hit one of these with a circular saw.
BE SAFE! I’ve finally taken heed and started wearing gloves and EYE AND EAR PROTECTION. Real men are smart and healthy men!
I’ve posted a couple of how-to videos below that helped me. Good luck and be sure to ask me if you have any questions!
Reciprocating Saw and Circular Saw
Pallet Buster / Pryer (I don’t have one yet, but a buddy is working on one for me)