Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 3
   January 2013
 
   Working With Reclaimed Woods
 

  Pallet-board frame
  The author's jigsaw-puzzle frame made from recycled pallet boards.
   
  Pallet buster
  A shop-made pallet buster (Photo by Zlatan Vuckovic)
Stock Selection and Retrieval
Recycled wood that you plan to use for a project should be free of paint, bug tracks and major defects. That is not to say, however, that all reclaimed woods with blemishes should be discarded. Wood with objectionable holes, for example, can be fixed using epoxy glue or a plug. Knots and curvy edges can add character and visual interest to your project. Renowned woodworker George Nakashima never saw these features as defects but rather as natural beauty, which he incorporated into his furniture design.

To harvest wood from pallets, you need only basic tools such as a wrecking bar and a claw hammer. If you have a lot of pallets to break apart, buy or make a tool called a pallet buster. When only short pieces between the framing members are salvageable, I sometimes use a circular saw. After prying out the boards, remove all visible nails and other metal bits with a pair of pliers and a nail puller, and clean up any traces of dirt and concrete using a wire brush. Finally, use a metal detector to locate any hidden metal pieces in the salvaged boards.

Since some pallets can be contaminated, I avoid using imported ones, which are often fumigated with toxic pesticides. I also avoid using pallets from chemical plants or unknown sources.
 
  Cutting jig
  Use a cutting jig to trim uneven edges safely
Preparing the Lumber
Most pallet boards have uneven edges. You can use a bandsaw to cut them straight, but I prefer to rip them on a table saw using a straight edge cutting jig. It's easy to make one using a plywood carrier board with clamps to secure the stock on the jig.
 
 
           
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