Cut the pallet nails.

I cut the nails to take one pallet apart

I had a couple of European pallets in the workshop, and looking at the reciprocating saw I couldn’t resist to try cutting the nails to dismantle them. Whenever I needed pallet wood to use in a project I always resorted to my sledge hammer method of breaking down one pallet, but the idea of removing the nails from the pallet, or cutting the nails in some way, I’m sure we all had at one time or another. The cutting blades of a sabre saw are quite long, and since they are wide they are more strong than those used in jigsaws, so I thought it was worth a try to cut the nails of the pallet.

In principle, the theory is simple: with a blade for metal installed in the reciprocating saw, I put the blade between two boards of the pallet or between a board and a block, and I start cutting to take the boards apart. However, I have to use some force because the wooden boards of the pallet press the sabre, making it difficult to advance. But I have to know how to contain the force after cutting the last nail, because at that moment the resistance that presses and contains the advance of the blade is lost, and I can fall forward against the pallet.

The biggest problem is that sometimes the cutting blade reaches very close to cut one of the nails, and instead of cutting it, it hits it, causing the reciprocating saw to bounce backwards. Most times we can cut those nails by moving the saw to cut from another side or position, but if we take apart a lot of pallets and we have to cut too many nails the saw will probably end up being affected by those hits.

Cut nails with reciprocating saw to take apart pallets.

One way to dismantle the pallet but avoid hitting the nails is to adjust the shoe to make sure that the cutting blade does not reach the farthest nails, and then I can cut those nails from another position from which we can reach those nails without any problems. Although when taking apart one pallet with wide boards such as the European pallets, this is not always possible. What we should not do is to remove the shoe of the reciprocating saw in an attempt to increase the useful length of the cutting blade, as we must always keep the shoe against the wood to avoid bouncing. If we take it away, we would end up with the blade clamp hitting and bouncing against the wood.

Pull pieces of nails out from the pallet wood.

The easiest part left to do before we can use this pallet wood, is pulling the rusty nails out from the pallet boards. As they are cut, there are only small pieces left in the pallet boards. With a nail punch, or using another nail, and a hammer I hit them so that they come out on the other side. And I pull the nails out by levering them with the claw hammer or with pliers.

Metal detector to find the nails.

But if you are going to cut or plane the boards and you don’t want to mess up your DIY electric tools you have to make sure there are no nails hidden in the wood. The cutting disc of your circular saw and the blades of your electric planer will thank you. I have a small metal detector for home DIY jobs that I always use when working with pallet wood to make sure that there are no hidden pieces of metal. This way I can remove all the pallet nails and plane the wood without fear.

Boards I get after taking an European pallet apart.

A European pallet consists of 11 boards: 8 of them are long, and the other 3 are shorter. As seen in the video, the short board in the center of the pallet has to be cut to have access to the nails in the center, so in principle we would recover 10 boards of one European pallet. But in this case I found one rotten board and another one already broken, so I only recovered 8 boards that I can reuse. But one of the advantages of this method, compared to the sledgehammer method I mentioned earlier, is that by cutting the nails we ensure that we don’t break any boards when taking the pallet apart, something I couldn’t guarantee when I dismantled one by hitting it with the sledge hammer. This way we can get better wood boards to make our pieces of furniture of pallet wood.

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