Wooden Pallet : how to make the right choice?

A wooden pallet is made from boards and rafters made from sawn wood. The sawn wood comes directly from a sawmill. Pallets are mainly made from softwood species. In some cases, "hard" wood panels, which means wood from trees classified as hardwood, such as poplar, beech or oak, may be used. This is particularly the case for standard pallets, where the boards providing the riveted connection with the metal or plastic dowels are preferred in oak. Depending on the size, a wooden pallet can contain up to 30 wooden elements and 200 nails. 

How are wooden pallets produced?

The manufacturing of wooden pallets depends on the industrial tool, the production line. However, we can always describe the principles according to 3 stages, which are found whatever the equipment used.

  • The tray: the construction of the tray consists in the nailing of the boards with the sleepers. The nailing is generally automated, the nailing machines remain fixed, the boards and the sleepers are conveyed. This step can be synchronized with the rest of the pallet production or desynchronized. When it is desynchronized, the stacks of bins are then temporarily stored and taken back for the final assembly line. 
  • Block assembly: The wood block or wood composite block is assembled with the top, using the same principle as the top assembly. 
  • Installation of the Skids: This is the last step in the construction of a wooden pallet. The skids (the panels in contact with the ground) are nailed to the uprights themselves, which are secured to the panel. 
  • Marking: The wooden pallets can be marked according to the instructions requested by the standard or by the customer.


Two methods of marking are mainly used:

  • Fire marking: Fire marking of wooden pallets consists of heating a marking plate and applying it to the wood for 15 to 30 seconds. The wood is then burned and marked with the desired inscription. 
  • Inkjet marking: Similar to the markings you may find on packaging, especially expiration dates, when the pallet passes the inkjet guns, the pallet is progressively marked. Generally, the ink used is approved for food compatibility.

The 31X47 inches size is the most used size in Europe, except in England where the 40X47 size is predominant. Depending on your application, you can choose between 4 models with different load capacities. With the exception of the Europe Pallet model which is a standard for boxes and cartons. The current models are : 

  • 31X47 very lightweight
  • 31X47
  • Half-Heavy 31X47
  • Europe standard pallet EPAL - UIC (heavy duty)
  • 40X47 - norme UK : The 40X47 wood pallet size is widely used in the industry for larger and heavier packages.

Wood pallets have recently emerged as a preferred building material. Lightweight and thin enough to be used as veneer material, pallet panels are easy to use and flexible in design. But when pallets are hard to come by or when their provenance is uncertain, the easy, inexpensive equation begins to fall apart. Learn how to avoid common pitfalls and allocate the best pallets to complete your projects.


Where to find the wooden pallet ?

  • Businesses: talking to someone in charge of a business (manager or owner) is the first step to securing pallets.
  • Nurseries and garden supply stores
  • Local hardware and home improvement stores rather than nationwide franchises
  • Construction sites
  • Specialized companies
  • Pallet recyclers: To combat pallet clutter, your local municipal solid waste authority can develop a list of commercial recyclers that accept pallets. 

Fake wooden pallet:

When something becomes popular, there are always imitators, pallet wood being no exception. By purchasing fake pallet wood, you avoid the hassle of determining if it's legal to take a pallet.

Wooden pallet to avoid: 

  • Pallets carrying food: An IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) "wheat stalk" icon means that the pallet was carrying food: may contain very dangerous bacteria according to the National Consumers League.
  • Chemically treated pallets: with the wheat stalk icon on these food pallets can be the designation "HT" or "MB". HT means the pallet has been heat treated. "MB" indicates that the pallet has been treated with methyl bromide, a neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen.
  • Petroleum-stained pallets: petroleum and other petroleum products seep into the cells of the wood and are virtually impossible to remove, even with a high pressure cleaner. Paint cannot effectively encapsulate petroleum-stained wood either.

Second-hand pallets:

Wooden pallets are used in many DIY woodworking projects, as they are usually free and can be used in many different projects to create something unique. Check out these free pallet plans to see all the possibilities. But how do you get free wooden pallets? There are many businesses and some people who have them because they don't use them. Below are some tips and things to keep in mind when looking for free wooden pallets.

The smaller, the better: Large companies can order a lot of supplies and most or all shipments can be delivered on wooden pallets. However, large companies have already taken steps to get rid of their unneeded pallets. A third-party company can come in to collect and dispose of the waste. The alternative is to look for small companies. Due to either a lack of budget, time or other resources to do so, they throw their pallets in the dumpster. They may even place them next to the dumpsters for collection services to pick up. Any company with inventory will most likely use pallets. Making an agreement with the workers/managers of a construction site can be another great place to look for free pallets. 

Note: Keep in mind that pallets placed against a wall or even next to trash cans may not be free, it is important to ask as a safety measure. 

Become your own pick-up service: If a small business needs to get rid of their pallets and you need to, ask to become the "pick-up service" they need. If you know of local places that are constantly disposing of pallets, just ask them if you can take the load off their hands. If the company receiving the pallets won't hand them over, you can try working directly with the distribution center that ships the pallets. They may have tons of pallets that don't work with their machines, are slightly broken or are not up to the standard they need to use them. Just ask them if they can set them aside for you to pick up. Also look for pallet recycling companies.

Use the Internet: There are a number of companies that specialize in packaging and pallets, such as Raja or Packdiscount.

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