Must-have Tools to Work With Pallets

Pallets are awesome. They are cheap, even free, and have an aesthetic that works with any decor from super-modern to shabby chic, to country farmhouse. The idea of reusing this abundantly available source of lumber, and keeping them out of the landfills is also appealing.
The down side to pallets is that they are ridiculously difficult to tear apart or reuse if you don’t have the right kind of tools. So here are the must have tools to work with pallets, if you want to play with pallets without hurting yourself or others.
Step number one when working with pallets is tearing them apart. Tool number one do to this with is a pallet buster. I had a friend make this one; it weighs a good 40 pounds and has a five foot handle. You need the weight and leverage to take a pallet apart. If I had it to do again, I’d make the tines 4.5 inches instead of 3, and put them a bit closer together. But this definitely makes the job easier.
You can also buy a pallet buster for around $65.00, but its not quite as sturdy as Ole Red.
The handiest saw to have when working with pallets is a Reciprocating Saw. Not only can you cut between the boards, but with a metal cutting blade, you can also cut all the nails flush with the lumber.
I use an orbital sander on most projects, including pallets. I generally use an 80 grit, which will get rid of splinters, but will keep the rustic quality of the pallet.
The other saw you almost have to have is a Skil saw, or circular saw. A jig saw is handy for smaller cuts, and a table saw is nice, but not strictly necessary.
The last must-have tool to work with pallets is a drill. Pallets are often heat or pressure-treated and are very, very hard. So, alas, pre drilling is pretty much a given when building with pallets.
These power tools, along with their associated blades, bits, and accessories are the minimum must have tools to work with pallets. Now, go forth and build something!

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Cori Warner

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • Frank
    on Dec 26, 2016

    I'd like to know what time of pallets I can use to make what I call a key box. I make them 12 inches in length and 6 inches wide and same depth. Also what are the best screws. I'm a disabled veteran so though I currently make them only for family I would like to sell them also. Any other simple ideas? Txs. Frank

    • Tony Burtman
      on Dec 12, 2017

      I use a drill to set the holes then a narrow wood screw and a good wood glue. Because pallet wood splits so easily is the reason for a narrow wood screw I found it's best not to use to many screws as well that's where the wood glue comes in. I also use a air powered Brad nail gun 18 guage nails
  • Carolcoleramos
    on Mar 21, 2017

    my pallets have crack lines on each end where the nail is in them. Some of the cracks run. Do I use a reciprocating saw to just cut away the bad parts?

    • Bonnie P Rand
      on May 6, 2019

      What are the rest of the dimensions for your pallet buster? How wide are the fingers? & how wide would you prefer them to be placed? What type of pipe was used for the handle?Also could you post another pic from the side & back? My hubby has welding experience & I plan to get him to build me one!!

      Thx for your time


  • K_a7863698
    on Sep 6, 2018

    I’ve read a few comments about some pallets being chemically treated. How would I know, or is there a distinctive chemical smell?

    TIA! 😁

    • Cindy
      27 minutes ago

      Look online for a chart that tells you all the various kinds and what they're treated with.

Join the conversation

4 of 10 comments
  • Norm Duffy
    on Mar 30, 2018

    Chances are,having some difficulty at present as I have blood clot in left leg and am not permitted to drive, but will be seeing MD soonest!

  • Lovesunique
    on Jul 30, 2018

    I have to say tearing the boards off of a pallet is the worst ever. I was using a cat's paw! Even being careful I was breaking boards. Ol' Red looks like it would do the same unless the wide metal protects the board when you lift up. I used pallet boards to insert into another pallet to make a floor for my shed. Turned out great; no more falling through openings. Thanks for listing all the tools needed.

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