We’ve recently had some building work done and so I had a load of pallets available to try and do something with. As a general rule I don’t like reclaiming wood as it’s invariably full of junk (sand, nails, knots, etc) but there was so much of it I couldn’t just leave it. In the video above I document how I went about trying to make a usable plank out of bits of cleaned up pallet wood.
Before this video I cleaned up the long faces of the pallet wood sections on the planner thicknesser. I used old knives so I didn’t have to worry too much about damaging them on the sand and grit that you always find in pallet wood. I recovered the slats by simply cutting through them with a sabre saw, this is much faster than trying to pry the nails out but it results in shorter lengths of timber.
I cleaned up one edge of each board using a couple of hand planes; one with a rough old blade in to get the surface off and then a good low angle number six to give a nice face. I glued boards together in a brick pattern with clamping to make a larger board. At this point in my head this was still going to be a usable piece.
After letting the board glue up I took it out of the clamps and realised it wasn’t thick enough to really use for anything and even if it was the glue joints weren’t strong enough. The lack of any strength from end grain to end grain glue joints was clearly affecting the board. For that reason I glued another layer on top to produce a board roughly 20mm thick.
I tried planing the finished board a little to improve the look but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to look very good regardless of what I did to it. Rather than waste any more time on this project I decided to see how strong it was.
I laid the board down on the workshop floor raised up on two scrap bits of timber. The clear span is about 1.3 meters and I weighed around 80kg at the time of filming. I have to admit I didn’t think it would take my weight but although it bent quite considerably it held me even when I bounced on it.
What I really learnt from doing this project is that I don’t like pallet wood. In fact I don’t like reclaiming wood full stop. The end result always seems to leave me disappointed and the effort that goes into reclaiming the wood makes me question why I’m doing woodwork at all. I think from now on it’s going to be virgin timber all the way for me.