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Pallets are probably the most readily available source of inexpensive, and often free, wood, and if you are reading this right now you have probably pinned at least one or two (or 20) "DIY pallet projects."
I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to things I can do with pallets and scraps! Whether you have taken on the famous shipping material or are still thinking about it, here are a few words of advice from someone who tends to learn best the hard way.
1. Not all pallets want to be taken apart.
Some are stubborn. Think "toddler in a 'me do it' moment" stubborn. You can crowbar, hammer, and stomp (guilty) to your heart's content, but they will not budge without a blade and 18 volts.
The good news? Once you do get the wood apart, you will have solid boards that are just begging to be made into something beautiful.
For these pallets, I suggest using either a reciprocating saw to cut through the nails holding the boards together, or a cordless circular saw to just zip right through the boards. A few weeks ago, I posted this picture to Instagram showing a very simple method of cutting pallet wood when you don't need long boards.
2. Pallets will try to wound you.
Splinters, smashed fingers, nails in the foot ... pallets can be cruel sometimes. I got a firsthand reminder of this a couple weeks ago. I was in the zone cutting pallets for some signs, when I stepped on THREE nails at once. Ouch. Let's just say it took some effort to pry my foot up.
I was lucky—the nails went into the outside of my foot, and not the instep. (Nice image, I know. Cringing yet?) I had to get a tetanus shot, which hurt almost as bad and for as long as the actual injury). I hobbled around for a couple weeks. It was an effective reminder to slow down, pay attention, and be careful.
So wear gloves, wear boots (or at least not Croc flip flops), and work smart.
3. All pallets are not created equal.
Some are nasty. Some are rotten. Some have questionable histories. I love free lumber, but make a point to learn about your pallet's past and take that into consideration before digging in—especially if you are planning to bring it into your home.
Most of my pallets come from local hardware or feed stores, so I know exactly what they are used for. If I don't know the specific history of a pallet, I don't bring it in my home and I don't use it for resale projects.
Of course, this post is in no way meant to discourage the use of pallets! I work with pallet wood on an almost daily basis. It's just about being smart. DIY is no fun when your reward is a long needle and a week with a dead arm.
For many more posts on working with pallet and scrap wood, check out my blog, Lovely Weeds!