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Preparing Your Wooden Pallets For Upcycling

25 Jun 2018

Upcycling wooden pallets can result in a wide variety of excellent new items, from garden furniture to picture frames and planters. Sourcing the perfect pallets, preparing wooden pallets for upcycling and then working on them requires a bit of specialist knowledge, so read on for our quick guide to help you through the process.

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Pallet Styles

Depending on the upcycle project, you may want a specific type of pallet. For those not aware, there are a variety of pallet types, including two-way entry and four-way entry (this relates to the entry points below surface for forklift trucks). Two-way and four-way entry both include closed board top and reversible pallet options. You may also encounter Euro Pallets, which are standardized for European trade, with four-way entry and measuring 1200 x 800 mm.

Find a Safe Pallet

Many pallets are used to transport potentially hazardous materials or chemicals. That’s why it’s really important when preparing wooden pallets for upcycling to check any disused pallets for discolouration, which could be a marker of spills or stains from nasty chemicals. Sometimes you will see some markings on pallets which will usually indicate international shipping and can help you decipher whether they are safe to use. DB means ‘debarked’ and generally means the pallet has not been treated with chemicals and is safe. HT means it has been heat-treated and is also safe. Pallets with the marking MB have been treated with Methyl Bromide and should be avoided at all costs. Pallets without markings are generally safe.

Finding the Perfect Pallet

Some places are better for pallet-finding than others. The best pallets are found on residential construction sites, where they have been used sparingly to carry non-toxic materials such as cement or from landscaping companies that have used them just for turf or soil. Newspaper printers or distributors use high-quality four-way pallets and are a good source of perfect pallets too. Wherever you look for pallets, be sure to ask permission from the site owner, homeowner or manager before taking.

How to Prepare the Pallet for Upcycling

Fully preparing wooden pallets for upcycling is important. The extent to which you need to take the pallet apart will depend on what you are making with it, but generally speaking you will need to pull some parts off and thus remove screws and nails. Nails can be removed via hammer claws or sometimes a pry bar or cat’s paw, all of which will remove nails without leaving too much of a mess. Sometimes you can simply saw the wood into lengths, leaving the nails and screws attached to the stringer.

Cutting, Sanding and Finishing Tips

After preparing wooden pallets for upcycling, it’s time to start working on them. When it comes to sanding, always sand outdoors and use a dust mask to avoid breathing difficulties. When cutting and shaping, avoid cutting close to where nails and screws once were, as the wood may be more susceptible to breaking. When it comes to finishing your pallets, use a natural substance such as beeswax to retain the rustic appeal of the pallets.

Hopefully, these tips for preparing wooden pallets for upcycling will help you in your next creative project.

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