...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. ...
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.
...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...
This is not true at all...
... I know that pallets are generally made from lumber no one else wants. ...
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.
...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!!!