This tutorial shows you how to take apart a pallet using a simple tool you can make yourself. It’ll save time, effort, and cost you nothing! Updated July 2022.
A recent reclaimed wood haul
Welcome to my front driveway!
And if the neighbours don’t fire me NOW… I’d gift them with some old wood. 🙂
Don’t mind the plastic blue kiddie pool… it’s there for a splash of colour for the photos. Egads…
I liked what I saw! So, I brought the wood home. ALL OF IT.
Just don’t ask how much my strong, wood luggin’ son appreciates a junker mom right about now.
“I’m paying you less if you complain…”
I justify this as ‘stock’. You can’t just BUY this. You have to FIND it. It’s like a free, outdoor Costco.
But there was one thing that made taking apart this fence a whole lot easier… all thanks to a recent garage sale and a kind farmer who showed me his own trick for taking apart a pallet!
However, after making this DIY tool, it took apart these fence panels in a flash as well!
Because his method worked so well, I wanted to share it with you so you can make one too!
Tools such as hammers, crowbar, a jigsaw and fancy pallet dismantling tools can work too. However I felt this idea so slick and cheap, I think it’s better!
So here’s the instructions on how to take apart a pallet or fence with a tool you can make yourself… in just a few minutes!
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How to take apart a pallet with a simple tool you can make yourself!
The secret tool
When I was visiting a garage sale at a local farm, the very generous farmer offered me a stack of pallets for free. I mean, free wood is great! However when I stalled and explained how difficult it was for me to dismantle pallets, he claimed he had a fix for that.
The farmer handed me this box of wooden wedges, and proceeded to show me how he took apart pallets with them.
One by one, each board flew off using his technique.
My mouth dried out as my jaw hung open. It was that easy.
Those simple wooden wedges one can make themselves out of scrap wood are worth gold!
Supplies you’ll need:
My son used a pry bar and rubber mallet. But my way was better…
Insert the wedge into place
1. Tap a wood wedge in between a plank and support board with a hammer, as shown above.
Tap the wedge
3. Tap the wood wedge with the hammer until the pieces of wood pull apart.
The wedge provides a surface to pound, so you don’t tear the (rotten?) wood planks.
Because of the wedge shape, it eases the nailed boards apart.
These fence planks were flying off with little effort!
How to make nail removing wood wedges
The wood wedges gifted to me were all hand made. The farmer told me he cut them by hand, so I’m assuming that means by free cutting a large board with possibly a circular saw or jig saw.
If I ever need more wedges, I would use a miter saw.
- place a 2×6 into the miter saw
- position the angle desired
- make 1 cut
- flip over the board
- make another cut
And you’ll have yourself a wedge. Keep going and you’ll end up with an entire box of them.
Now with boards dismantled, let’s clean them up so they’re safe to store and build with next to avoid injury or splinters.
Tips on removing nails
4. Flip the board over, then hammer down on the tips of the old nails.
Some pallet nails are twisted which can make them more difficult to hammer out. In those cases, I’ve used a grinder to just saw the sharp tips off, then pound what’s left back into the wood.
Remove nails before storage
Nails left in boards are a true safety hazard, so please remove nails from boards as soon as you can. Especially before storing them for the long term.
I make myself take care of this by not putting the boards into storage until this step is complete.
Nails are easier to remove when wood is wet
But here’s another lucky fluke! As you can imagine, removing nails out of this amount of boards can take awhile, so one day I was removing them while they were wet from the rain, and wouldn’t you know, the nails slipped out easily! The next day once the wood dried, it was much more difficult to work with.
So.. if you leave your wood out in the rain, even better!
You are most welcome, dear neighbours…
Pressure wash the boards
6. Lightly pressure wash each side of each plank, then allow to dry before storing.
These reclaimed wood fence planks aren’t pressure washed yet, but they will be.
I will be going over them with a light touch, so the white paint stays intact as much as possible.
You could also scrub them down with a stiff brush and soapy water, or diluted bleach to remove the mildew. But it’s a LOT more work. I prefer to pressure wash on a low pressure setting. A smaller electric pressure washer does the trick beautifully.
Learn the full steps on how I clean, prep and store reclaimed wood after a good haul HERE
Stack outdoors to dry
7. Stack pressure washed boards upright on concrete to dry.
This fence wood was quite a haul. But I’m so glad I learned how to take apart a pallet and fence planks with no fancy tools because this technique is a total WIN!
How to take apart a pallet with a jigsaw
Don’t have the means to make wood wedges or struggle with removing the nails? It is fairly labour intensive. So here’s some different methods on pallet deconstruction.
If you only need shorter pallet slat boards, consider cutting the pallet slats straight off the pallet with power tools, such as a jigsaw, sawzall tool / reciprocating saw, hacksaw or small circular saw.
The whole point is to remove the boards without splitting the pallet planks by using a saw blade of some kind.
- wear protective work gloves and safety goggles
- lay the pallet on a flat surface
- using a jigsaw, cut along both sides of the support boards or pallet blocks, missing all the nailed sections
I’ve built tons of DIY projects using small pallet strips of wood. So every little bit of pallet boards you can save is always worthwhile. You can get a fair bit of smaller planks out of an entire pallet!
There are other ways to take pallets apart using power tools or hand tools. I’ve always wanted to try a pallet buster type of tool to see if it truly was easier, but of course, there’s more cost doing it that way as well.
But the best tool of all?
I find the wood wedges and if need be, a jigsaw are really all I need to dismantle pallets in record time. And offers some convenience over not having to stock fancier, more expensive tools.
Test different wooden pallets
And the type of pallets you tackle also makes a difference. I’ve found aged pallets a little easier to work with rather than a newer, good pallet. Collect both and test the wood wedge method out.
Just be watchful for chemicals. Learn how to choose safe pallets at:
And don’t trash the larger cut sections! Here’s how I used one of those long, skinny pallet sections, using it for a hammer organizer in my workshop!
And just for fun, here’s another last fence haul I brought home.
These wood wedges are certainly coming in mighty handy lately…
How do you take pallets or fences apart? Think you’ll give this idea a go?
Other helpful pallet wood tips
Pallet projects to make:
And loads more reclaimed wood projects HERE