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Working with pallet wood

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LoveMonkey

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Good evening.

I have been quite busy recently accumulating pallet wood to have a go at a couple of things for the workshop and garden. I have a couple of questions:

1. I plan on ripping the wood to thickness and gluing it face to face to get the widths of panel I need for each project. In some instances this will leave nail holes in the glued up faces. Is it necessary to fill these where they won't be seen between the joins? I have seen reference to air in gaps of glue ups causing cracks and I'm not sure if this is true.

2. Given that I will be glueing up panels from all different types of wood, will the fact they will expand and contract at different rates cause issues later down the line? Is there anything that can be done about it, or should I try to use the same kind of wood in any given panel?

3. With the first lot of wood I have cut it into smaller pieces, squared up a face and edge and then sent the other side through the thicknesser so I have flat, square sections of wood. I haven't ripped the other edge yet. I'll do that when I need to use it. This has been quite time consuming and I lose quite a lot of wood on some pieces. I have seen videos online where people have just run both sides through a thicknesser without squaring them up and then straightened them out with pressure whilst gluing them together. This would be a lot quicker, but would this lead to trouble down the line by adding tension into the resulting panels?

Thank you
 

That would work

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Pallet wood? I guess that means low grade quick grown pine. This timber will be pretty unstable at best. Without wishing to be obtuse or to sound unhelpful, the answers to most of your questions are: yes/no/probably, arranged in any order. Machining 2nd hand timber is a risk that you should take on only if you are aware of the risks. (In a commercial setting it wouldn't win you any friends) carry on if you must but be careful.
 

MikeG.

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LoveMonkey":1agljlmx said:
1. I plan on ripping the wood to thickness and gluing it face to face to get the widths of panel I need for each project.
I don't understand. Gluing boards face to face increases the thickness, not the width. This won't build up the width to make a panel, which can only be done by gluing edge to edge.


In some instances this will leave nail holes in the glued up faces. Is it necessary to fill these where they won't be seen between the joins? I have seen reference to air in gaps of glue ups causing cracks and I'm not sure if this is true.
Fill afterwards. Certainly don't get involved in filling surfaces which will then be glued.

Given that I will be glueing up panels from all different types of wood, will the fact they will expand and contract at different rates cause issues later down the line? Is there anything that can be done about it, or should I try to use the same kind of wood in any given panel?
No issues here. Just make floating panels in the normal way.

I have seen videos online where people have just run both sides through a thicknesser without squaring them up and then straightened them out with pressure whilst gluing them together. This would be a lot quicker, but would this lead to trouble down the line by adding tension into the resulting panels?.
Yep, don't do that. There is an irony here in that using rubbish wood increases the necessity to do things to high standards. Pallet wood is such rubbish that you have to give yourself a chance at least that the result will be passable by doing everything more than properly. If you use junk wood and then apply junk workmanship standards, the only possible outcome is junk.
 

Mike Jordan

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I am amazed by the number of times I see reference to the use of pallet wood for woodworking. Let me suggest an experiment to prove the point. II
After you have obtained a sample of pallet wood, go to a decent timber merchant and ask for a small sample of unsorted grade redwood, tell him why you want it and I'm sure he will help you. Now make a few cuts and do a little planing of both pieces. The tools will sing through the unsorted and struggle with the pallet material and quickly make the tools unusable. Pallets are made of rubbish and intended to be dragged around the floor.
I believe that the poor quality white wood sold in the DIY sheds puts lots of people off woodworking for life, it would also be a foolish builder who used top quality timber for roof and floor joists, but there are still plenty of clowns who try to make furniture and other items out of old joists and rafters while saying that it's wonderfull old stuff.
Spend a little on quality timber and really enjoy the making!
 

AJB Temple

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Pallet wood is possibly useful for making compost bins. It is also good for making pallets. It is not good for anything else at all. Except perhaps on 5 November.

Time is your most valuable commodity as you get but one life. Don't waste it on junk. Save up and buy some decent wood and then enjoy working with it.
 

Ollie78

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For me it gets cut up for kindling, I have had a woodburner for a few years now and am always scrounging pallets for burning (heat treated only ). Mostly the wood is very poor, the cheapest pine or poplar. I did get a few that were actually oak ! and sometimes some kind of red hardwood turns up too.

My neighbour recently built a large shed and clad the front in reclaimed pallet boards (the rest is feather edge) it actually looks really good, there is variety of colours and once it was varnished it came up great. However the time and effort was disproportionate in my opinion.

I agree with AJB Temple garden stuff only ie compost bin or planter etc.
Its made into pallets because thats what its good for.
 

sunnybob

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To play devils advocate for just a moment..... :roll:
Pallet wood isnt ALWAYS rubbish. :shock:
Whenever something large is shipped from country to country, the local company will use the cheapest local timber for the pallet. If the country happens to be the far east, the cheapest local timber is offcuts of bubinga, mahongany, walnut or any other locally grown hardwoods, because quick grown pine is unheard of in that country.

I know this because the first walnut I had to work with was a broken pallet at my local yard. I've had bubinga and mahogany the same way. :lol:

OK, lecture over. ALMOST ALL of the commercially made pallets in europe and america are as said, rubbish wood. MANY of them are so toxic thats why they have been dumped on street corners because lawful and safe disposal is too expensive.
Pallet wood is trendy, and because of that and utube, every one who has never used it before thinks its the bees knees and dirt cheap. Utube NEVER explains the dangers of chemical treatments of said pallets to anyone in the household.

So, IF the O.P. can be 100% sure the pallets he has are not dangerous, and IF he is prepared to spend three times as many hours making something with palletwood as if he used good wood to start with, and IF he is prepared for his trendy furniture to be considered completely beyond the pale in a years time, then he has a goodly supply of firewood. =D> =D> =D>

(sorry for all the capitals :roll: :lol: 8) )
 

Doug B

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I’m guessing not the answers you were looking for Lovemonkey ? Perhaps if you were more specific about what you are looking to use your pallet wood for might help, it can be a great source of cheap timber for projects you don’t want to spend money on.

I used to have a good source of quite decent length pieces & sizes, mine came from the states & was heat treated to kill off any nasties this resulted in the timber being brittle. The wood rotted quite quickly if used outdoors I don’t know if this was due to the heat treatment or because it was low quality pine, probably both.

I made a picket fence from it when we first moved house & money was tight it was well creasoted but only last 5 odd years, it served its purpose but it’s definitely not the timber for a long term outdoor project.

Where I have found it useful is for shelving, I have a couple of lorry bodies I store gear in, I don’t want lots of money in racking so build “ladders” & fix thin strips across them to make the shelves

FD3A2619-B655-4477-B94D-1EAD1F4295EF.jpeg


I didn’t take a photo of the shelves made up but I’m sure you get the idea.

Pallet wood can be really useful it just depends what you’re using it for.
 

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thetyreman

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for the low cost of unsorted redwood it's simply not worth messing around with pallet wood, also there's dangerous chemicals in a lot of them, I would only use it for a garden planter that kind of thing.
 

worn thumbs

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I have to agree with the majority of the comments regarding the quality of pallet wood.I would also add the caution that they would almost universally have grit particles embedded in them by being dropped on warehouse floors or car parks and this will do your thicknesser knives no good at all.Furthermore,the few pallets I have dismantled in the last few years were held together by barbed shank nails which were very firmly set and led to lots of splitting.

I wouldn't universally condemn pallet wood as I have had one good experience when I found that a supplier of specialist steel sheet was shipping the material to my then employer on pallets faced with 110mm wide sycamore boards.I offered to dispose of a couple of those to save skip capacity..........

Mostly though,this is the best way to work with the stuff:
 

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LoveMonkey

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Thank you for the replies so far.

People seem to be hung up on the fact that it is pallet wood. That's probably my fault for mentioning that in the first place, but if you replace 'pallet wood' with 'wood off cuts' the questions still stand. I have already done a lot of reading and research on the possible dangers of pallet wood. It's not a case of can't afford hardwood, but I don't want to spend a lot on certain items that don't need to be perfect. I wasn't aware of unsorted redwood. I have looked at a local timber merchants prices and it looks like something I could use in the future, but for now I am going to work with what I have. I will try to clarify my questions. See the attached picture for reference (not my work).

1. Imagine that the dark piece bottom centre of the picture had a nail hole through it from glued edge to glued edge. This nail hole won't be seen once glued up. Will leaving it unfilled lead to problems?
The answer is no, according to MikeG. I assume the new information doesn't change that, thanks.

2. Will all of the different types of wood glued up together like this cause any issues vs pieces of the same type of wood?

3. If the boards weren't straight, but faces ran parallel (bowed?), would gluing them up whilst squeezing them straight simultaneously cause issues? Looking at the picture and the dark piece of wood. If, outside of the glue up, this piece curved towards the left or right of the table top, but the thickness was uniform, would squeezing it straight during the glue up be asking for trouble down the line? I have seen this done online like this, but a 10 minute video doesn't give you any idea what this will be like some time down the line. The resulting panel could be squared up when the glue dries, but would it eventually crack and spring apart?

There is, indeed, a lot of pine and other poor quality wood I have found, which goes straight in the bin, but I have come across quite a lot of different kinds of wood, none of which I can identify, but I could post pictures at some point as an example. I'm not planning on making fine furniture out of any of it. This wood, as I mentioned, is for some workshop furniture and garden items. The first thing I will make is a 'table' to put my mitre saw on. After that we have been doing a lot more gardening since lock down, growing our own vegetables, and plan to keep it up. We also want to plant a few more flowers. To this end we need a compost bin. I would also like to put in raised beds around the border and make some outdoor shelves to put plant pots on for the seedlings. I've already made a couple of bug hotels and have been thinking about bird boxes. If they are successful I might make a couple more for the neighbours.

Mike G, re your point on question 1, I hope the below picture helps to clarify. What I mean is if I want a 25mm thick top for my mitre saw table I will rip 25mm strips of pallet wood, plus a bit for sanding and planing, and glue them up side by side, as in the picture.

Doug B, I have come across some brittle wood, which I just put straight in the scrap pile, but there are some really solid pieces, much harder and heavier than pine. I can't identify the wood, but I quite like the look of some of it, so might put pictures up on here somewhere in the event I could buy some more when I do want to make something nice. If the things I make for the garden last five years I will be happy with that since I will have spent nothing more than glue, machine wear and tear and a bit of fuel to collect the wood. By that time we will know if we are still gardening and want to spend some money on the garden, or if we have given up and let it go.

Thanks again
 

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MikeG.

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LoveMonkey":6tzy8rb6 said:
........ If the boards weren't straight, but faces ran parallel (bowed?), would gluing them up whilst squeezing them straight simultaneously cause issues?.........
Yes. I answered that previously. Don't do it.

-

One of the sources of confusion is that you said " panels". Panels are a very particular thing in woodworking, and what you are proposing, as we now see from the photos, aren't panels.

I don't mean to be too brutal, but you are fixating on a problem with regards to a nail hole and a glue line which is trivial beyond words compared to the general issue of working with sheer rubbish timber of unknown moisture content. A hundred and one other things are going to go wrong before your nail hole does, and my answer remains as before: fill it afterwards, and forget about the danger to your glue joint because it's imaginary.
 

LoveMonkey

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Thanks Mike. Just wanted to make sure with the new information that your answers were still relevant.

Is there a term for the 'not panels' that would produced like this?

Thanks
 

Ttrees

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Hello
I suggest you get yourself a metal detector wand straight away.

Are you after that look of different timbers, or is it a matter of what you can make with what you've got?

I work with reclaimed hardwoods only, and go to the trouble of plugging timbers.
Its a lot of work to do well mostly by hand.
I wouldn't dream of doing so with pine or spruce though.

If you decide to do so, whatever you decide to make, It better be worth it!
It wouldn't make much sense to make garden planters or picnic benches from the stuff with all the time that you'd invest to plugging timber.
Small nail holes I'd not be concerned with and can be concealed within the glue joint hopefully.

As said the metal detector will be very handy to have at this stage.
Get yourself some planes, you need a rough one that you won't mind getting abused before passing
your panel plane over the stuff.
Some timbers might need a quick scrape first with an old saw.
Plane up the heaviest of the stuff you have, just one planed surface so you can identify these timbers.
Group them together and see what you're got.
It would give you a better clue if the timbers are of a similar moisture content or not,
and depending if you have a good cash of timbers already, planing a face and sorting it all might go
a way to drying out some stuff that may be damp from lying in a skip.
You should be getting an idea of identifying these timbers by then also.
I wouldn't mix dissimilar timbers anyway, but even for species with similar properties it still might be riskier laminating in such a manner, racing stripes or edge laminations might be more suitable.

Tom
 

thetyreman

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there's nothing wrong with pine! don't let the pallet fanboys tell you that, it's actually very strong for its weight, get some redwood pine, it costs almost nothing and compare it to pallet wood side by side with a handplane, that's what I would recommend.
 

sunnybob

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Theres a man down the road who uses pallets. 3 next to 3, with one on end at each end.2 on end behind them. A cover thrown over it and its his day bed.
2 on their own in front and its their coffee table.
It serves a purpose. But neither of us would have it at our house.
 

LoveMonkey

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Thanks for the responses.

Ttrees, it's not that I'm particularly drawn to the different timbers look, but I don't think I will have enough of any one particular timber to make the things I want to make.

I have a metal detector, a Little Wizard 2, but I'm not that impressed with it. It seems to need constant reconfiguration and very rarely detects anything I can't already see. I'm after something that will detect the small slithers left behind that attached the nails together in a cartridge. It doesn't need to be pinpoint accurate since I know they will be in the nail holes, but I would like to be able to check if I have missed any. Do you have any recommendations?

I've got a few different timbers from what I have planed so far. I'm going to try and identify them, but I'm starting from scratch, so I will probably post some pictures up here to start with.

TheTyreMan, I've got nothing against pine and have quite a bit in my garage already, either from old furniture or from these pallets. The stuff I'm binning is very poor quality, which I can't see being useful for making anything that isn't very temporary.

Thanks
 
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