Curious how to disassemble a pallet without a saw- this video tutorial will walk you through tips and tricks on how to take apart a pallet without hurting yourself… using NO power tools! Pallet disassembly for free wood can be tricky but these basic tools can make it easy to dismantle a pallet without a saws-all.
Today I’m sharing a Video DIY tutorial- how to disassemble a pallet for free project wood (without killing yourself). I know, I know- it’s not the most fun DIY, but it’s gotta get done to get to the fun part!
I’ve been asked how I disassemble a pallet more than anything else- by friends (if you walk by the side of my house, I’ve got a few waiting for the treatment) or by readers after I shared my Canadian Flag and Giant Party Chalkboard. And while it’s not rocket science… it can be hard work!
In this post, I’m showing the easiest way that I have found to disassemble a pallet without power tools. Why? Not everyone has power tools- the space to store them or the cash to buy them. And let’s be honest- one of the most appealing parts of pallet projects are not the beautiful clean wood… but the FREE WOOD! And if you want to do a cheap/free project, you probably don’t want to be buying fancy power tools.
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So have you ever tried to dismantle one of these beasts? You’ve found the perfect inspiration for a pallet project on Pinterest, so you drive until you see a stack and stuff it in your backseat only to get it home and realize that they are SUCH a pain!
But that’s the price of free. So why are they such a pain?
What Makes Pallets so difficult to disassemble?
Those nails can be rusty, spiral, or ring shank (they have barbs). And since they’re made out of scrap wood- some of the pieces could have old nails that have just been bent over at the back.
And the wood? It’s scrap wood, so it can have bark, hard knots, and most frustrating of all- it’s dry so it cracks so easily!
But it’s worth it!
Why do people like pallets for diy?
Free project wood, guys! Not only do you get the rustic looking wood from the front and back of pallets (what we see in most projects) but we get the supporting pieces which are basically 2 by 4s that are notched out for a lift.
These are awesome if you’re building a piece of furniture for the supporting bits that you won’t see. I do that in this DIY end table.
Now that we know why we have a love/ hate relationship with these guys… I’m going to show you what I do to get those suckers apart. And if you were wondering… this particular pallet was turned into a rustic towel rack (even in my finished bathroom renovation, this thing gets most of the compliments!)
*UPDATE* If you’re doing a large amount of projects, use a saw. If you’re not- or if you’re using pallets because you’re looking for a cost effective project (and a sawsall isn’t in your budget) then use this method. We lived in an apartment with limited storage for five years and only had a power drill, hammer, and pry bar- so this is what was best for me! And as for pallets not being the cleanest type of wood… we know, but it’s free and sometimes that’s the winning consideration. As with any DIY or project- do so with caution, at your own risk, while wearing safety glasses :)*
How long does it take to disassemble a pallet without power tools?
Just so we’re realistic about this- it doesn’t take two minutes for pallet disassembly, it takes about 45 minutes.
I’m sure you realize that, but I thought I’d just make sure. I don’t want anyone coming back upset that it took them more than a few minutes to take apart a pallet without a saw.
Tools used for pallet disassembly without a saw:
The two main types of tools you can use to make disassembling a pallet easier are a hammer and a pry bar. I’m assuming you have a hammer, but if you don’t- my papa always used to say a Plumb Hammer was the best and after using this one and so many others… I’d agree it’s worth the few extra bucks ;)
Okay, so in the video, you’ll see two different types of pry bars. One is a small pry bar (shown above)- I love this thing. This one is great for getting between the pieces of wood. You’ll notice I tap it in with a hammer, then use one hand to hold it in place, and the other to hit it with my palm to rock it loose. It might seem a bit slower than just muscling it- but I won’t be cursing by the end if I do it this way.
The other pry bar is a nail puller or claw bar.. This one gets hammered in right under the nail to pull it up. This is great for looser nails or if you can’t get any leverage with your pry bar. I use the same technique to rock the nail loose. The other plus to tapping it loose instead of just pulling on the pry bar is you’re less likely to have cracks in the wood when you take apart a pallet.
Theresa shared this tip as well- To add leverage pulling out the LONG nails, put a block of wood under the heel of the hammer as it keeps the nail straight. A bent nail gets harder to pull out because of added resistance.
*UPDATE* Since writing this, I’ve gotten my hands on a Mini FatMax Wrecking Bar and it’s my new best friend. If you need to go out and pick a pry bar… this will be your guy to help in pallet disassembly!*
Tips for disassembling a pallet by hand:
Something to keep in mind- I always prep my wood before I use it in a project. That means I sand it and clean it, so don’t worry too much if you get some splinters around your pry marks- you can sand those out.
Other than that, I did want to make a note about safety. This post was written when I was dipping my toe into DIY. Please choose to wear close toed shoes, use safety glasses and work gloves when working with tools, nails and wood like this :)
- Salvaged Pallet
- Pry bar
- Nail puller
- Tap the flat pry bar between two pieces of wood using the hammer. Rock back and forth to create space. Do this at all the points on one of the pieces of wood.
- Switch to the nail puller and tap that under the nail heads you've loosened. Pry the nails out. Stubborn nails may need to be removed by hammering the nail puller more into the board, these marks can be sanded out.
- Repeat for the remaining boards until the pallet is disassembled.
Take care to wear safety glasses and work gloves for this project.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to disassemble a pallet without a saw! If you have some pallets sitting to be used in DIY projects, here’s some tutorials that I’ve shared over the years using pallet wood! You could make so many more projects with pallet wood. Might I suggest DIY Yard Dominos?