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I have broken down a few shipping pallets, in my time. Most recently, I used pallet demolition to test out a Stanley FatMax Fubar they sent me for review. Each time, I am surprised at how much work is involved. Modern shipping pallets are tough and well-made, and do not come apart easily.

If I had to do it very often, I would spring for a purpose-made tool. Several commercial models can be found for sale online using Googlons like “pallet buster” and “deck wrecker,” but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the maker-made Pallet Reclamation Bar from Cargo Cycles of Norwich. As you can see in the video, it’s a heavy tool, and if you’re not in the UK shipping may be prohibitive. If you know your way around a welder, it would not be too difficult to build something similar yourself. The key features seem to be:

  1. A long handle to provide plenty of leverage and allow you to work from a standing position.
  2. One or more forks, each having two tines that can wrap around a stringer and pry on both sides at once against a board nailed on top.
  3. A narrow fork for prying around nominal 2″ stringers, and a wide fork for prying around nominal 4″ stringers.

The Cargo Cycle Pallet Reclamation Bar does not seem to have a dedicated web presence, but its design, development, and construction are detailed in the linked thread, below, at British country living forum Over the Gate, and the video includes e-mail and telephone contact points for interested buyers.

Over the Gate :: reclaim timber from old pallets

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Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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  • Sail Boffin

    I’m a little disappointed in you guys. I needed a similar tool to remove some deck boards from a roof in reasonable shape so I could reuse them. I didn’t have a week to order a tool like that, couldn’t find it locally and didn’t think it was worth the hundred or so bucks it would cost so with a bit of scrap pipe I made these


    • Sail Boffin

      Links got stripped out, here they are again

      http://tinypic.com/r/29cudyq/6
      http://tinypic.com/r/f9k474/6

      • David Boston

        Sail boffin what size pipe is that made out of can you give discriptions??

        • Sail Boffin

          I used whatever steel pipe I had lying round, in this case it was 3/4″. The only thing that’s a little hard to see in the pictures is that I had to drill through the T and street elbows and put bolt through it to keep it from rotating.

    • Sean Ragan

      Thanks for the link! But why are you disappointed? This post is about A) you can buy one of these from an awesome dude who makes them in his garage and B) if you don’t want to do that, here’s a list of the key features and a link showing how he makes them so you can do it yourself.

    • Joe

      How well did your pallet breaker work?

  • goreshade

    The hardest part to me is getting the nails out. I have a pallet with spiral shanked nails that literally tear apart rather than pull out.

    • Joe

      One might as well not even try to remove the nails. I sometimes cut them flush with a sawzall. If I’m making a rustic item like a table or whatever, I leave the nail heads in or you can use a punch and hammer to remove what’s left. They’re definitely a beast and have an iron grip on the wood, especially with oak pallets.

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