Working with Wood Pallets and Salvaged Wood

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Everybody loves building stuff with wood pallets. We definitely agree that reclaimed wood is a super rad construction material (sometimes). But have you seriously ever tried to work with pallets? They're obstinate at best. If you're picking up some wood pallets for a project here's some stuff you'll want to know.

First. You WILL get splinters. It's non-negotiable. Even if you handle pallets with gloves, you'll get at least one splinter. Probably more, and they can be... big. So go ahead and get yourself a good pair of tweezers and some rubbing alcohol on standby. You're gonna need it.

Second. You MIGHT get tetanus. Ever look at those nasty nails holding wood pallets together? They're usually jagged, rusty, and sticky-outty. They make rad texture and visual interest in your reclaimed wood project, but they're probably also filled with decades of microbial ick. You should make sure you're up to date on your tetanus shots before you pick up your free salvage wood score.

Third. Dismantling wood pallets isn't too bad if you do it right. Lose the pry bar. It's not gonna work. You're just going to end up with a jacked up shoulder and badly split pallet boards. Instead, get yourself a reciprocating saw with a long metal cutting blade. Use that to slip between the pallet boards (that you want intact!) and the blocks holding the wood pieces together. Cut perpendicularly to the nails fastening them. You'll get usable boards out of this that retain the cool patina from the nail heads and whatnot. The long blade helps get through the nails in the middle of the boards. They can be kinda hard to reach if the pallet isn't fully taken apart. 

Fourth. PRE DRILL! Pallets are made out of some really durable, but really hard and very dry woods. They're tough as all heck, but also usually live hard lives. They got cracks and stuff all through them. If you're gonna fasten anything to them with screws or anything you HAVE to pre-drill holes. Use a drill bit about half or a third the size of the fastener you want and drill a hole before you go about screwing stuff together. You'll save yourself the pain of splitting the best looking pallet board in half. 

So there. Four things. I might throw a video up soon in case you have trouble visualizing the process. 

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Reclaimed Wood Accent Wall

Here's a pallet wall we installed at Colorado Rustics HQ. It's made of a combination of pallet wood and reused fence boards.

Joel Kilby