Are These Pallet safe? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 01:00 AM Thread Starter
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Are These Pallet safe?

I recently started to dabble in using pallets. Half way through tearing what I've collected apart, I stumbled across warnings online about painted pallets; used for pool chemicals and other nasties. Considering I'm looking at making headboards and dining room tables, I'm a bit concerned. I have a few specimens that are suspect. If someone can help me out on whether these are fine or should be tossed, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks,
Mike
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post #2 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 01:19 AM
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I would say it's impossible to know unless you know a specific pallet's history. And I doubt anyone keeps track of pallets-- unless they have some type of serial number.

"When I have your wounded." -- Major Charles L. Kelley, callsign "Dustoff", refusing to recognize that an LZ was too hot, moments before before being killed by a single shot, July 1, 1964.
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post #3 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 01:32 AM
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If you have any pallets with a lot of paint on them it would be very abrasive to your tools to machine them. The pictures shown are alright. As far as substances, if you are really worried about it wear a respirator when working it. Personally I think the chemicals would be at such a low level I wouldn't worry about it. What would worry me more is pallets are usually made from the worst cuts of wood and are not kiln dried. Unless the pallet is more than a year old you might experience a lot of wood movement problems.

Keep in mind if you bought brand new particle board, MDF or OSB cutting it you would be exposing yourself to more chemicals than what would be on the pallets.
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post #4 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 03:47 AM
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You just really never know what has been on an old pallet.
You can likely trust a newer pallet that's only had specific items on them, but some of the older pallets often go through the pallet recycling places and the people who haul them around aren't generally the safest guys on the planet. I did that gig for awhile when I was in the scrap metal game..
If you want some good quality pallets check out some of the machine shops and places that do professional rigging of heavy machinery. You can often pick up some great oak there..

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post #5 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 07:35 AM
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Does anyone ever know they've gotten a contaminated pallet? With the EPA always snooping around chemical plants I can't picture very many leaking containers being loaded on pallets and shipped.
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post #6 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 08:19 AM
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Worked on loading docks at 2 airports.
After seeing what came in on pallets and leaking freight, as well as the Hi-Lo dragging the pallets on slick oil soaked floors (and other stuff), as well as mishandled punctured freight with cat litter like (absorb-all) to dry the floor back out, there is NO WAY I would ever use pallet wood.

But that's me and my first hand experience.
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post #7 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 09:07 AM
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All pallets that were made in the last 10 years are stamped with the countries origin and other information. Do a google search on pallet safety and you can read about how to determine if your pallets are safe to use or not. Its not what has been spilled in the pallet, but how the pallet was treated for bugs...and yes, you need to worry about it. It's critical that you find out that your pallet was made in a country that does not use pesticides. Google will give you everything you need to know. If you cannot find the identifying marks on the pallet, don't use them.
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post #8 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 10:07 AM
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I'm a retired truck driver and spent 30+ years in the business as a local driver for a major trucking ltl carrier. So I handled and saw thousands of pallets. As far as the EPA - they don't snoop around trucking businesses unless someone reports inproper disposal of chemicals. The DOT has direct contact with the trucking companies and make sure that all laws regarding the shipment of chemicals are adhered to (and the laws are many, precise and strict). But no laws exist that govern pallets or their use or re-use.

I don't care what anybody says... my experience tells me I will never use any pallets for any woodworking projects...NEVER!
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Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #9 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 10:47 AM
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if a pallet was made overseas, some part of the US government requires the wood be treated to kill every bug known to mankind.

domestically made may or may not be treated.

as said, you just really never know for sure - except for imported wooden packaging - of any kind. that will have been treated.

decent recap:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISPM_15
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post #10 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 10:48 AM
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Seems that the hobbyist mind is obsessed with getting cheap or free wood. Strange that someone would invest so much time, effort, money on tools and then choose wood that will cause problems all through the project. When finished, what do you have? Something that would be more at home in a college dorm? If you cook a meal, do you look for free food, dumpster dive use outdated or unfresh ingredients? If you do a business like assessment, breaking down your labor time, shop equipment, utilities and material costs, the cost of wood is almost negligible, woodworking is labor intensive.

When a logger drops a tree, it's immediately graded. The very best logs go to a veneer mill, the next quality goes for furniture, the next construction lumber. Pallet wood has been graded as the lowest quality, about equal to firewood. If you go to the pallet factory, buy the wood before it was made into a pallet, treated, shipped wherever, you would still have crappy wood. If you should hit a grain of sand in the wood, it can ruin a cutter. You can end up hurting a lot of your cutters and blades to save a few dollars. I have trouble understanding this mentality. The entire woodworking process goes so much easier, no compromises, no harm to your tools and you have something that looks great, not something you are always making excuses for, if you use quality lumber.
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post #11 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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I'm aware that there's no way to know the history of the pallet. I had read numerous times that painted pallets were heavily used by the pool industry and therefore guaranteed to have a lot of chemical exposure.

I'm after pallets for the distressed wood appearance. Anything that's showing signs of something has been spilled on it is getting tossed. The wood that's getting held onto is going to be sealed in poly on all sides and that should prevent risk of contamination, right?
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post #12 of 22 Old 05-15-2016, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimasteraubie View Post
I'm aware that there's no way to know the history of the pallet. I had read numerous times that painted pallets were heavily used by the pool industry and therefore guaranteed to have a lot of chemical exposure.

I'm after pallets for the distressed wood appearance. Anything that's showing signs of something has been spilled on it is getting tossed. The wood that's getting held onto is going to be sealed in poly on all sides and that should prevent risk of contamination, right?
I'll touch on a few points BUT the one most important is ....I don't care how many times it's been sterilized.....IF it's been back in a uncontrolled enviroment ( sat on the ground, gravel, near unconditioned wood, outside......many variables) it's possibly been re-exposed and the (heat) sterilizing can be voided. ALL heat sterilizing does is garauntee that wood has been conditioned PROVIDED it's not re-exposed to the elements. There are some critters that won't reintroduce to dry wood BUT others WILL!!!
That's why I push sterile enviroments!!! Ask around here and you'll find a few caring shop owners that have made the accidental re-investation of bringing in contaminated/unsterile wood and had to resterilize there whole shop.

There are more regs on pallets now than used to be.

I think the sealing on most wood /chemicals would make safer BUT not to all chemicals.

LOL.... Hammer1, I'm with you there. I'm not saying not to repurpose because I do some BUT IF you do all the steps to be safe/correct MC and sterilizing you'll spend almost IF not more than new and that's why my wood AIN"T CHEAP!!!

I've dealt with a retailer in the past that wanted my wood BUT on consignment.....I keep a tight controll ship here.... I couldn't even consider it, IF I consigned and it didn't sale and I returned it to my stash, I would have to re-enter it through my kiln AND re-sterilize due to their facilities weren't controlled and had to be full of cross contamination of bugs/critters.
My use of the word contamination here is refering mostly to bugs/critters related to wood unwanteds.....not chemicals.

Have a Blessed and Prosperous day in Jesus's Awesome Love, Tim
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post #13 of 22 Old 05-16-2016, 09:41 AM
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Seems that the hobbyist mind is obsessed with getting cheap or free wood. Strange that someone would invest so much time, effort, money on tools and then choose wood that will cause problems all through the project. When finished, what do you have? Something that would be more at home in a college dorm? If you cook a meal, do you look for free food, dumpster dive use outdated or unfresh ingredients? If you do a business like assessment, breaking down your labor time, shop equipment, utilities and material costs, the cost of wood is almost negligible, woodworking is labor intensive.

When a logger drops a tree, it's immediately graded. The very best logs go to a veneer mill, the next quality goes for furniture, the next construction lumber. Pallet wood has been graded as the lowest quality, about equal to firewood. If you go to the pallet factory, buy the wood before it was made into a pallet, treated, shipped wherever, you would still have crappy wood. If you should hit a grain of sand in the wood, it can ruin a cutter. You can end up hurting a lot of your cutters and blades to save a few dollars. I have trouble understanding this mentality. The entire woodworking process goes so much easier, no compromises, no harm to your tools and you have something that looks great, not something you are always making excuses for, if you use quality lumber.
Oh, so very misguided. So are you saying that since the wood is used, free, hasn't been graded as the highest quality furniture lumber that anything produced from it could only be fit for a dorm room? Is that what your really saying? Like you, I have some trouble understanding this mentality.

So, are you saying the table in my attachment is only fit for a dorm room?

The wood was used, obviously not the highest grade lumber you could buy. It had numerous nails in it. It was filthy and beaten from years of use. It's was grey and black in color - had to get out the pocket knife to see what kind of wood it was. It wasn't even close to being straight or flat, some of the edges were rounded off, had some bug damage in the ends. Some of it needed to be resawn is was so bad. It didnt stack very neatly in the back of my truck. After I looked at it for a while, I said, let's take a week and make some dorm room furniture out of this.

So, after some craftsmanship (no screws, bolts, nails) and some effort, we arrive at a quality built piece that I bet more than a few people would be proud to put in their dining room (oh, sorry, I mean dorm room) and while many that would be too good to work with reclaimed material are left scratching their head wondering how it's done. Heck, I didn't even hit a grain of sand and ruin a cutter and I still have a few blades left for the next project.

What do you think of my "frat house" table? Should I be making excuses for it, as you say? If so, I can show you hundreds of other tables from reclaimed material that I've made using quality construction methods and materials and most importantly, immeasurable pride. My business assessment (and subsequent bank account) and hundreds of very satisfied and proud clients assure me I'm on the right track. But then again, maybe my "hobbyist mind" is wondering again.

Some of us arent looking for easy. Maybe some of us like working with reclaimed material, know the value wood and are also mindful of the next 30 acres of nice hardwoods that disappears because somebody wants to make a fancy cigar box.

How's the view from all the way up there?
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post #14 of 22 Old 05-16-2016, 10:28 AM
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to each his own.


the only thing I use pallet wood for is pallets. other free or cheap wood can be found, that does not carry that type of risk.
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post #15 of 22 Old 05-16-2016, 11:32 AM
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Paying money for wood is getting wood for the cheapest treasure there is.

"When I have your wounded." -- Major Charles L. Kelley, callsign "Dustoff", refusing to recognize that an LZ was too hot, moments before before being killed by a single shot, July 1, 1964.
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post #16 of 22 Old 05-17-2016, 08:58 AM
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Nice table Barn owl... BUT pallet wood is NOT SAFE! There is no question about that in my mind. The origin of the pallet is good information to know but what is more important is where has the pallet been since then and that is a question very few folks can answer with certainty.

DOT has many laws regarding the shipment of hazardous material, so many that all employees of the international trucking company I drove for had to go through HazMat training every 2 years. It's the law that a HazMat book needs to be within reach of the driver transporting the material and the book not only classifies the material and assigns an individual UN# for each chemical but instructs handling procedure in the event of a spill. Heck, if a company wishes to ship an empty container that was used for any HazMat, they must state on the bill of lading what was in the empty container. It's called the STC statement (said to contain). There are many laws governing the transportation of HazMats... BUT...

No laws exist governing the pallets of HazMats - not one. I have seen many wet and dangerous pallets tossed into a pile to dry out and then re-used without any STC statements of precautions!

So, go ahead and recycle all the pallets you want and I pray that good luck is on your side... BUT... what about your clients? Are they aware of the risks involved having that beautiful recycled wood in their dinning room? Maybe you should protect yourself and have them sign a waver slip. I know your product leaves your shop finished and sealed... BUT... what if the table gets moved, banged and chipped... and what if a child comes around and chews on the table?????

Everyone to their own and be safe

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #17 of 22 Old 05-18-2016, 12:13 AM
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Nice table Barn owl... BUT pallet wood is NOT SAFE! There is no question about that in my mind. The origin of the pallet is good information to know but what is more important is where has the pallet been since then and that is a question very few folks can answer with certainty.

DOT has many laws regarding the shipment of hazardous material, so many that all employees of the international trucking company I drove for had to go through HazMat training every 2 years. It's the law that a HazMat book needs to be within reach of the driver transporting the material and the book not only classifies the material and assigns an individual UN# for each chemical but instructs handling procedure in the event of a spill. Heck, if a company wishes to ship an empty container that was used for any HazMat, they must state on the bill of lading what was in the empty container. It's called the STC statement (said to contain). There are many laws governing the transportation of HazMats... BUT...

No laws exist governing the pallets of HazMats - not one. I have seen many wet and dangerous pallets tossed into a pile to dry out and then re-used without any STC statements of precautions!

So, go ahead and recycle all the pallets you want and I pray that good luck is on your side... BUT... what about your clients? Are they aware of the risks involved having that beautiful recycled wood in their dinning room? Maybe you should protect yourself and have them sign a waver slip. I know your product leaves your shop finished and sealed... BUT... what if the table gets moved, banged and chipped... and what if a child comes around and chews on the table?????

Everyone to their own and be safe
I don't work with pallets - just not my thing. I'm an oak barnwood guy myself. Some pallets are safe, others aren't. It's the job of the person using them to determine which is which.
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post #18 of 22 Old 05-18-2016, 01:29 AM
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A lot of good points to consider! In the past, I have uses pallets for a handful of projects. I wouldn't ever use them for something like a kitchen table or anything I'd eat off regularly. Buuuut I really wouldn't be too terribly concerned with pallet wood causing you any harm once it is cut, planed, sanded and finished. Use some critical thinking to source your pallets can help too. Getting pallets from a mile high stack behind a big department store is a lot different than a small private business. Think about the products they sell and where they come from. A feed store in middle america isn't likely to be ordering much from over seas. So if you find a lightly used pallet made of poplar in Tennessee, and its stamped HT, you're probably in the clear. Learn to identify common woods like red oak, yellow pine, poplar, hemlock...etc

With my luck I'll get a pallet that had asbestos brake pads on..... my 2 cents.
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post #19 of 22 Old 05-18-2016, 06:10 AM
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Barn Owl.
Nice table, and as you say that is not pallet wood. A whole different game than barn wood.
Pallets to me are, as many have said, an inferior tainted and hard on equipment type of wood.
I also don't get the reluctance to use quality woods. The cost of wood in comparison to the sales price of the end product is usually (in my case) less than 10% of that end price. In other words it's a non starter to use wood that will cost you more in labor, tear up your tools and in the end,, you still have cheap and inconsistent wood, with multiple (and many times) unknown species.
Now barn wood is another story. They are not all oak. It depends on which trees were common to the region the barn was built. That's what the early barns were made of. Whatever was close by and on their property. Here it could be hemlock or chestnut, and even a mix of the other woods in this region. Ground touching wood was generally locust since virgin locust wood just didn't rot. My 1909 farmhouse is still sitting on locust posts.

But back to pallet wood.
When working the loading docks at the airports, EVERYTHING was poured on the pallets, generally by accident. A hi-lowould puncture a 55 gallon from and the pallet would be soaked.Jet fuel would even end up on them. The greasy floors were another issues as the pallets were dragged on it. Also we had a pallet of aids infected lab rats. A hi-lo punctured the containers and infected rats ran everywhere.

As Bernie said. Anything and everything can be on those pallets and nobody inspects trucking docks. NEVER Ever saw an inspector in the years I worked in both locations( ORD and YIP).
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post #20 of 22 Old 05-19-2016, 02:12 AM
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Oh, so very misguided. So are you saying that since the wood is used, free, hasn't been graded as the highest quality furniture lumber that anything produced from it could only be fit for a dorm room? Is that what your really saying? Like you, I have some trouble understanding this mentality.

So, are you saying the table in my attachment is only fit for a dorm room?

The wood was used, obviously not the highest grade lumber you could buy. It had numerous nails in it. It was filthy and beaten from years of use. It's was grey and black in color - had to get out the pocket knife to see what kind of wood it was. It wasn't even close to being straight or flat, some of the edges were rounded off, had some bug damage in the ends. Some of it needed to be resawn is was so bad. It didnt stack very neatly in the back of my truck. After I looked at it for a while, I said, let's take a week and make some dorm room furniture out of this.

So, after some craftsmanship (no screws, bolts, nails) and some effort, we arrive at a quality built piece that I bet more than a few people would be proud to put in their dining room (oh, sorry, I mean dorm room) and while many that would be too good to work with reclaimed material are left scratching their head wondering how it's done. Heck, I didn't even hit a grain of sand and ruin a cutter and I still have a few blades left for the next project.

What do you think of my "frat house" table? Should I be making excuses for it, as you say? If so, I can show you hundreds of other tables from reclaimed material that I've made using quality construction methods and materials and most importantly, immeasurable pride. My business assessment (and subsequent bank account) and hundreds of very satisfied and proud clients assure me I'm on the right track. But then again, maybe my "hobbyist mind" is wondering again.

Some of us arent looking for easy. Maybe some of us like working with reclaimed material, know the value wood and are also mindful of the next 30 acres of nice hardwoods that disappears because somebody wants to make a fancy cigar box.

How's the view from all the way up there?
Damn!! Shots fired!!
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