Reclaiming Wood

All over the internet, blogs are written and photos are posted of the brilliant savings being made by the reuse of lumber from pallets.  If you are new to this concept it is likely that you have not begun to research your next big back yard project.  Luckily you read this article first.  The lumber that is used to make pallets is great for a number of things.  What it's best for is making pallets.  The wood is typically a hardwood like oak, so it is a very sturdy wood.  Oak is a beautiful hardwood that can be finished to make some of the most gorgeous floors and furniture.  The wood found on pallets is the wood that was culled from the cuttings of choice lumber to make such things.  The other thing to be aware of with hardwoods is that when they are allowed to dry they become increasingly harder, therefore it becomes nearly impossible to remove a nail from it without severely damaging the wood.  With all that being said, it is a great resource that can often be picked up for free.   

BE AWARE.  This "free resource" comes with a price.  It will cost you easily ten times the labor required to go to the store and buy lumber.  It will also require that you be a bit more creative when it comes to using this wood.  The process of removing the wood from the pallet will leave you with pieces of uneven lengths and nail holes.  For projects like a chicken coop or a planter box this lumber could be perfect.  Before you start building however make sure that you have an adequate supply of the proper length for the project at hand.

TIPS.  Use a small demo bar and hammer to remove nails.  The nails that are typically used to put a pallet together are from a nail gun and therefore do not have a strong head on them as is needed for hand drive nails.  The head will therefore break off of around 50-75% of the nails as you try to pull them out.  Do not be discouraged, without a head the nail looses most of it's hold.  If the board is being stubborn, grab a nail set and drive the nail deeper all the way through the board.  Doing this lowers the odds that the board will crack while you pry on it. 

Another great tool to have on hand is a circular saw.  At both ends of the pallet the boards will be nailed to runners that separate the top and bottom of the pallet.  The ends of the board are most prone to cracking.  As well as being the part of the pallet that will suffer the most abuse during the life of the pallet, as a pallet.  To save time, cut along the inside of both of the outside runners. For most pallets you will be more than half done here.  Once you have pried the nails out of the center runner you have done it! Congratulate yourself, it's likely that there is a whole stack of pallets left to go and each board will be equally hard earned. 

Enjoy the free wood, however a final tip to keep in mind is that this process is extremely time consuming and hard on the back.  It's a good idea to plan to reclaim the wood at least a day before the day you plan to do the project. This way, there is no reason to stress about the over all amount of time spent on your project.  If you think of the reclaiming as a completely separate project you will more easily be able to walk away with a more productive attitude.