I hate throwing out perfectly good lumber, and rarely do. But for me, pallet lumber doesn’t fall into the “good” category.
A lot of people make a lot of things out of pallet lumber, and more power to them. I can’t remember what magazine I saw it in, but a couple of years ago one of them ran a photo of a massive workbench made entirely with the stuff, and it was beautiful. If you’ve got the time to make it work for you, that’s great.
But I don’t like repurposing pallet lumber for a number of reasons. For one, it’s filled with nail holes. Typically the longest piece you can get without nail holes is about a foot. Sure, that’s enough for some small projects, but only some.
And then there’s the issue of condition. Pallets, by their very nature, are designed to be abused. Gashes, breakage and splitting occur normally in their use, and that doesn’t include the splitting that just nailing the things together often causes. The effort it takes to glean useable material just doesn’t seem worth it.
And then there’s the wood itself. It has to be strong enough to carry the loads dumped on top of it, but beyond that there’s not much that can be said for it – and “attractive” surely isn’t among the things you’d ever say. Yeah, I know that pallets that originate overseas sometimes have some exotic hardwood species in their construction, but most of the ones you run across just don’t have much in the way of desirable wood.
But when I get a pallet that’s part of a shipment I do put it to good use, although not always in a woodworking sense. I’ve had a couple that I tossed into my shed a year ago and finally got rid of them last weekend – broken down and cut into manageable lengths, they’ll make great firewood for my next Civil War reenactment or living history event.