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The History Of The Wooden Pallet

17 Sep 2018

If you asked the average person what they know about wooden pallets, they probably wouldn’t have much to say. But like many unsung heroes of the modern world we owe a lot to these unassuming wooden constructions. Not only do wooden pallets allow us to transport goods all round the world, but they also help with storing them safely too. They are the backbone of every factory, workshop, supplier and store on earth, but where does the history of the wooden pallet begin, and what is their significance in the world today?

maximise life expectancy of pallets

Early wooden pallets 1920’s-1930’s

The history of the wooden pallet starts with its predecessor, the ‘Skid’. A skid was a simple wooden surface upon which goods could be piled, or perhaps wheeled along. Skids date back to ancient times with evidence of their existence even as far back as the Egyptians.

Pallets as we would recognise them now were not born until the forklift truck arrived. When the first forklift truck was invented in 1915, skids were slowly adapted to suit this new machine. The first patent for a pallet is from 1925 by a gentleman called Howard T. Hallowell who named it a “Lift Truck Platform”.

Pallet use and development during World War 2

Like many technological advances, the history of the wooden pallet owes much to WWII, when the demand for pallets skyrocketed. It was during this time that the four-way pallet was invented. Pallets were used by the Allied and US military in order to effectively transport weapons and armaments as quickly as possible.

Pallet Patents

As is often the time in war, developments were made quickly and the patents not filed formally until after the war had ended. A surge in all sorts of patents occurred after the war, including many for wooden pallets. One such patent was from 1945 by Robert Braun on the first four-way pallet and another form Norman Cahners in the same year for a disposable pallet.

Pallets in the modern world

Today pallets are a hugely important aspect of modern trade. Without pallets, businesses would not be able to store and transport goods as safely and quickly as they do. Today’s wooden pallets still resemble those early four way and two way designs, making them perfect for use with forklift trucks. These days, however, it’s commonplace to see plastic pallets which are ideal for the transport of certain items, especially food. It’s also common to see pallets which are heat treated for better hygiene.

With a story that starts around 100 years ago, the history of the wooden pallet is a short but significant one. Just look around your house, almost every item of furniture and every food product on your shelf will have been transported, at some point, with the help of these simple wooden devices. This fine construction has certainly withstood the test of the modern world and shows no signs of being replaced any time soon.

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