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post #1 of 26 Old 08-03-2019, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Pallet Wood

Being new to the world of deconstructing wooden pallets, I have questions. I was given several pallets in pretty good shape (not covered in oil or splintered beyond use) so, this afternoon I found myself with some idle time and decided to find out whether or not I indeed had anything useful. Luckily, the pallet was nailed and not stapled, and I took it apart. Now I have several b/f of wood averaging 9/16" thick. My question is this: What do I have and what can I use it for? I know that pallets are generally made from lumber no one else wants. I am posting some pics of my haul, hoping someone out there can give me a clue as to what exactly I have. I cleaned the boards up and skinned them a little. It's definitely not hardwood of any kind that I am familiar with. Its pretty light and fairly soft but it's not pine. Any ideas??
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post #2 of 26 Old 08-03-2019, 10:21 PM
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If you dont put any value to your time, you have some cheap grade unknown lumber that was probably not kiln dried not properly air dried.
But...............if you stare at it long enough, some good idea will pop into your head of what to make out of it and you will be proud.

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post #3 of 26 Old 08-03-2019, 10:31 PM
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I get a bunch of them every year from my wood pellets, I break them down and my daughter makes custom signs and placards from them that she sells. To me their kindling but she does well selling them.
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post #4 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 04:07 AM
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Well the first two pics are definitely pine, nothing wrong with working with pine it's just soft is all.


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post #5 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 10:32 AM
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Pros...Cons...and Special finds within "Pallet Wood."

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Originally Posted by homestd View Post
...Being new to the world of deconstructing wooden pallets, I have questions. I was given several pallets in pretty good shape (not covered in oil or splintered beyond use) so, this afternoon I found myself with some idle time and decided to find out whether or not I indeed had anything useful. Luckily, the pallet was nailed and not stapled, and I took it apart. Now I have several b/f of wood averaging 9/16" thick. ...
Hello Homestd,

From the photos it looks like you have found some pretty nice wood with this pallet stock. It is a real, "hit or miss" when taking the time to break down pallet wood, especially if you are new to woodworking this is a big con.

However, if you take your time and study what you are finding, read books about wood and woodworking, and ask question; you will also learn a great deal about wood which is a BIG PRO!!!

As you learn more, you may find yourself looking more and more at pallet wood for different "small projects" as some sources of pallet wood are made of what many woodworkers would call today "exotics" like Rose Woods, Mahoganies, and the list goes on.

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...My question is this: What do I have and what can I use it for? ...
Pallet wood is typically the "slab fletchs" of a bolt (aka a log section) being milled at a given saw mill which is full of sap and/or resin (aka pitch if a conifer or "pitchy" species of wood. PW can also be made from lesser quality bolts that the Sawyer has deemed not worth their time to recover marketable grade lumber from. These are the real finds when the pallet is from overseas!!! These are entire bolts sawn into "pallet wood" where up to 30% or more can be furniture grade lumber.

As to what to make?...Something small typically or dependent on your skill sets...its up to you and what you know/understand about wood...

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... I know that pallets are generally made from lumber no one else wants. ...
This is not true at all...and is the typical "urban legend" that gets spread around....

My sawyer I used for years outside Gettysburg, PA was a "Pallet-Railroad Tie Sawyer" and the wood he mill was to be made into these two items and nothing else. He made a good living with it, and didn't have to bother with looking for good logs, grading his lumber out, stacking lumber, etc.

All he had to do was..."mill bolts"...into pallet-tie stock.

Then this wood got sent..."wet and green"...into the processing shop to be chopped up and made into pallets or ties before going outside to dry and/or be shipped to warehouses/distributors for use.

The important thing to take from this is...IT'S AIR DRIED WOOD!!!!

Which means if the lumber in the pallet-tie is even remotely worth something in species or grain pattern it is usually very good wood...if not...excellent!!!

This Sawyer in Pennsylvanian (now retired) was my personal source in the area for all my timber frame stock and furniture stock. He would call me when a load of logs where coming in and let me select what I wanted from it. Then mill these Bolts into Cants (aka square stock) that the section could yelled (¢15/BF) or to my specifications for a project (¢35/BF) if I was there on the day of milling to grade and direct the process.

Conservatively I have never seen most "pallet wood" mills not yield lumber that is at least 20% to 30% furniture grade and the only thing critically wrong with it is the short lengths.

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...I am posting some pics of my haul, hoping someone out there can give me a clue as to what exactly I have. I cleaned the boards up and skinned them a little. It's definitely not hardwood of any kind that I am familiar with. Its pretty light and fairly soft but it's not pine. Any ideas?? ...
It is virtually impossible to tell what comes out of a pallet from just a photo...This wood could have come from anywhere in the world. It could be China, Brazil, or somewhere here in North America.

It looks very much like "18 year Pine" from China (sorry I have forgotten the species name) which is a conifer that can be rather "hard wood" like in nature depending on the log it comes from, the grain pattern and how dry it has become.

I do recognize several "blond" tropical hardwoods that look just like this too that are fast growing and plentiful both in Asia and South/Central America that can yield wood very similar to what I see in the photo. Again, knowing where the pallet came from (aka what was on it) is a clue to what species it might be....Photos for pallet wood again is a real hit and miss with knowing speciation without orgin information...

Your skill sets are the only limit on what you can make with what looks like some very nice wood to work with. Good Luck!!!

j
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post #6 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 12:25 PM
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There is no shortage of pallet wood around here. It is mostly "SPF" which means that you don't know if it is spruce, pine, or fir. It doesn't matter - they are all similar softwoods.

I won't touch pallet wood. Even if it looks clear and clean, you do not know where it has been and what has been spilled on it. Probably nothing of concern, but you never know. Why ask for trouble? Especially the kind of trouble that may not appear for 40 years, when you no longer remember that pallet wood?

If you must start with free wood, I wonder whether nearby construction sites might have cutoffs to pick through? Is there a woodworking club near you? Contact them, tell them that you are a new woodworker just starting out, and you wonder whether any members have useable scrap or cutoffs to get you started. If someone came to me with that request, they would have more wood than they could carry. ... and they would be doing ME a favor. :-)
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post #7 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 12:36 PM
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my first set of kitchen cabinets was made from reclaimed crates for air handling equipment
everything was shipped in knotty white pine 1x12 crates, i spent a couple hours after work deconstructing them
that was back in 1982, they still look good when i go back to visit the person i sold my house to
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post #8 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 01:16 PM
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I think .. I have same wood.. is it possible ? It is wild oak..
I love work with pallet wood.. you can doing everything with it...without food (wooden spoon fork plates etc..) I am lucky.. I can always find free wooden pallets than supermarkets.. but I see there are alot of plastic pallets last 2years in here :( :(:( I hate plastic pallets...

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post #9 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 02:48 PM
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I've read a lot of threads over the years concerning pallet wood and I have to say I just don't get it. If I'm going to spend many many hours (and I do) building something, I want it to be made from the best wood I can afford. Why invest tons of time making something from crap wood just because it's free. And that's not getting into all the other stuff about the unknown history of the wood and potential contamination.
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post #10 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 03:03 PM
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I like to create and build things more than anything else. I don't want to spend my time gathering, disassembling cleaning and running metal detectors over it. The only time I used pallet wood was in my shop. I used them for, well....., pallets. I had a small forklift and so i needed pallets. I was in a commercial location and there were tons of pallets to choose from and so I did.

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post #11 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 03:15 PM
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I want it to be made from the best wood I can afford.
For many people starting out that is all they can afford, before they go fully down the rabbit hole they'd like to experiment to see if this is something they can expect to work out for them in the future. Depends on the person



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post #12 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 03:20 PM
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post #13 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 03:44 PM
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..I like to create and build things more than anything else. I don't want to spend my time gathering, disassembling cleaning and running metal detectors over it....
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I've read a lot of threads over the years concerning pallet wood and I have to say I just don't get it. If I'm going to spend many many hours (and I do) building something, I want it to be made from the best wood I can afford...
As to my comments on this topic, I don't disagree that pallets...can be...fraught with challenges and even hazards!

These are neither difficult nor hard to avoid with common sense and some knowledge of them and wood.

As for "many hours" that may be the case for some (like the fellow in the video?) yet I commend them for their ingenuity in developing methods for repurposing these. For me, its a chain saw and/or battery saw or nothing unless a really nice pallet made of a tropical hardwood. Then I will (if the grain is worth it) take the time to extract hardware.

As too chemicals...well that too is common since and not taking those pallets (plenty of enough out there how to avoid that.)

All in all, if you don't have a good source for wood, this is a place to start and a very effective one with just a little planning and common sense...and not that much time at all to acquire some really nice wood for smaller projects and/or laminated modern work...
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post #14 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Jay C. White Cloud. I thought the boards might be conifer, but the speckled grain had me fooled. Some of it even has a slight burl in the light. I thought it kind of had a sycamore grain but was way too soft (I like sycamore). I have several more to go and time to break them down. Years ago I was a form carpenter and we had to wreck out our forms (plywood and 2x4) so we could re-use them, hence I'm no stranger to pulling nails and almost everything I build is from used lumber. Thanks again for an informative and thoughtful response.
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post #15 of 26 Old 08-04-2019, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to all who have posted...I appreciate your opinions. For starters I have been working with wood in one way or another for most of my 70 years. I'm not interested in pallets per say but when you have to survive with no income other than Social Security, even a new $30 saw blade is an expenditure to be weighed against food, gas, etc. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do what I do and to have a shop where the only detriment is money and my imagination. I got a good old table saw, a couple of band saws, planer, sander, 3 routers w/ plenty of cutters and room to work. I have completely rebuilt all of my equipment and most of you would call it junk but I rarely run into a problem that I can't solve with said junk. By the way...I disemboweled another pallet this afternoon...solid red oak w/ 3-1/2"x 15/16" boards...they should clean up nicely and go with the hickory logs given to me by a friend.
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post #16 of 26 Old 08-05-2019, 01:46 PM
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What sunnybob said. A retired truck driver stated he had seen all kinds of stuff spilled on pallets. I avoid them...free or not. There is a business about two miles away that puts out slats and runners. People fill cars and trucks with the stuff. I would even be afraid to burn it. JMHO.
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post #17 of 26 Old 08-05-2019, 06:33 PM
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I am old enough to have worked in a warehouse where we used skids, pallets were still a thing of the future. The runners were about 3" wide and 7" high, the tops were 1" or more in thickness and up to 12" wide. Basically all the raw material needed to build coffee or end tables, usually had the choice of oak or mahogany.

Most of my tools were acquired by building and selling what I built through word of mouth so when I decided to go full time I had a shop full of equipment.

So I guess I can't knock free wood and I do understand why people are using it today. Hopefully any suspicious pallets are left on site as there are usually lots of good ones to bring home.
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post #18 of 26 Old 08-05-2019, 10:56 PM
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FWIW, I avoid standard shipping pallets, especially those that have any discoloration at all, who knows what left that stain. Otherwise, I don't like having to tear them apart without tearing them up, etc.

I have though used plenty of wood gained via "shipping structure leftovers". (How's that for a new term? :) ) Rather than regular pallets, I look for opportunities to use wood that is obviously fresh/new but that was used to protect an item in shipping. Custom made crates, protective boxes, etc. Often they are not put together with those dastardly spiral nails and the wood is often thicker.

I scored a bonanza a little over a year ago and was able to get A LOT of pretty good quality pine that was rough textured, but mostly 4/4 thick. So after edge gluing it and then planing it down I had a ton of 3/4" pine board, all about 9' long and 5-1/2" wide. My wife is a teacher and it started with me making two bookcases from this "found" wood...it ended over a year later after I finally ran out of the free wood...but I had made about 12 bookcases for her school, mostly 4' - 6' width and 40" tall with three shelves each. I also made about 10 bulletin board frames from this wood. So great production with very little cost.

Look for mechanical contractors in your area...they receive various pieces of equipment that often have the weird sized, custom crates, etc. I suspect most of them would be glad to funnel the "good stuff" to someone locally as opposed to filling the landfill.
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post #19 of 26 Old 08-06-2019, 06:57 PM
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Looks like it could be basswood or cottonwood.
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post #20 of 26 Old 08-06-2019, 07:33 PM
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What you have to understand about pallet wood is the wood is used green. Depending on how old the pallets are you might have difficulty with wood movement issues as it dries. You might purchase a moisture content meter to determine how dry the wood is. Also a lot of people worry about what chemicals might be on the wood since you don't know the history of the pallet.

As far as what kind of wood it is, it looks like sande to me. If that is what it is the wood works so bad the lumber companies are practically giving it away to get rid of it. I bought some in 2017 and the lumber company had to transfer the wood from their Houston store to Dallas and when I got it the wood looked great and it was less than a dollar a board foot. It was my new favorite wood until I started building cabinets out of it. You couldn't hardly machine it and then it tended to go fuzzy when sanded. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to be able to make the cabinets.
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