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


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • 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! 😁

    • Harold tilt
      on Apr 16, 2020

      usually have printed on them letters HT which stands for heat treated they are the safe ones the ones with MB are the chemically treated pallets stay away

  • Judy
    on Jun 26, 2020

    what ways can I stand a pallet up without leaning it against and wall or fence. I would like to make a planter.

Join the conversation

3 of 8 comments
  • Fyter
    on Mar 3, 2017

    A joiner and thickness planer may also be a good investment

  • 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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