Skid Row

What's in a skid ... trash or treasure trove? You decide.
What's in a skid ... trash or treasure trove? You decide.

In a manner of speaking, I’ve hit the skids.

Well, hit them, tripped over them, shoved them around the shop and eventually, piled them just outside the door here. My stack of skids come from various places. Sometimes two skids arrive with a tool shipment, but only one goes back. Other times I’ll order a load of lumber, and the only thing left when the lumber is gone is the skid. The pile keeps growing…they don’t seem to go away on their own.

Some woodworkers come up with creative uses for these things and build really nice furniture from them. But I’ve never really explored that option. I think what holds me back is pulling all the darn nails out — there are hundreds in each one. I just keep adding to the stack and hoping it doesn’t fall down on me.

Now, I’m going to let a cat out of the bag here: A lot more skids are on their way to my shop in the next few weeks. We’ve got a big tool review scheduled for the January print issue, and this stack of mine is bound to get even taller real quick.

SKID ROW 2So, here’s the challenge to you: Tell me what you’d do with a dozen or more skids if you had them lying around your shop. It can be funny, downright outrageous or a genuine idea. I really don’t know what to do with these things, besides watch them rot or set them ablaze. And, there’s no warehouse guy out here in rural Ohio to take them away. Even the truck drivers don’t want them back.

If you’ve built some nice stuff from skids, leave a comment and tell us what you’ve made. How do you process the wood effectively? What should we look out for? What kind of wood do you usually find in your skids? Maybe we’re all missing out on a good source of REALLY cheap lumber. Or, maybe it’s just kindling.

There’s your challenge: How would you put an end to skid row? Let the ideas fly.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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  • I use old pallets for many things. Pulling nails and staples is the important thing prior to milling the wood. Nothing like a nail to ruin a carbide saw blade or set of planer knives. Usually smaller projects are good for this type of lumber. I love finding white oak for outside projects like planter boxes and bird houses. When I have culled the chaff from the useable , I end up with great kindling for the fireplace and weekend camping trips

  • Graybeard50

    You could stack them up, set them on fire. When the stack collapses, quench the stack with water to extinguish the fire completely. Then filter your batch of distilled sour mash through the charcoal and into some oak barrels to age for a while.

  • Redhawk

    I don’t bother with the nails. I use my circular saw to cut to cut the usable material out and then the rest hits the firewood pile. I’ve made cutting boards, knife racks, boot jacks, bird houses and loads of tole projects. Pallets (skids) are made from a variety of different type woods. Some are more colorful than others. But the best part is that they are usually free.

  • Patrick Files

    I used to pick up stray pallets too, thinking I could use them for something. However, the ones I picked up were oak, I think, and neither me nor my little skillsaw were tough enough to even cut them up–like you said, there’s no way to pull all the nails out. I had to give up and send them on their way: dropped them onto the pile of pallets outside the loading dock at work. I’m very curious what other folks will come up with on this one.

  • John

    My dad used pallets for many of his woodworking projects and I have somewhat maintained the tradition. While most of the pallets made in the US are either pine or oak, you will find a variety of woods used in pallets coming from overseas. I recently received an order on a pallet that appeared to be constructed mostly of lacewood (or a reasonable facsimile) and have seen mahogany and other woods that I haven’t been able to identify yet.

  • I have used old pallets for years, turned small pieces of pallet Oak into corner planes as gifts for my boys. Made a marker out of other pieces. I use them to support stacks of wood for turning, and even build parts of the add on to my wood shed (for storing more lumber) with the flat planks. I used them for the floor and the roof under the shingles. That took a fair number of pallets which I pick up from a band saw blade shop down the way. I have built compost bins from them and fenced off sections of the garden. I even built a storage shed once with pallet sides and an old canopy from an El Camino for a roof.

  • Lou Hodson

    I have used pallet boards for drawers and boxes for storage. They are the right height and after planeing, are just thick enough for sturdy drawers. You can also use pallet stock for many craft projects. A great use is for practice boards for hand cut dovetails. When you get them right, add a slot for a bottom, and you have a new drawer or storage bin.
    The nails or staples are coated, so removing them is a lot of work and usually isn’t worth the trouble.

  • Chris Barnes

    You might engage in a bit of homebuilding… I’ve heard, after all, that a man’s home is his pallets.

    I’ll be here all week, thanks. 🙂

  • gary gorman

    I ‘ve had some unique opertunities using pallets for projects I recently built a work bench using some maple pallets that I collected . ripped the boards on a table saw then ran them through a planer after I removed the nails of course it was not very easy but well worth the effort once that task was complete and I had the frame set in place I used the maple boards as a top for the work bench by butting the boards together and staggering the seams it turned out to be very solid and makes for a great work surface although you may not make the next great piece of american furniture by using pallets it’s a great way to save a few bucks on projects for the garage or shed other projects you could possibly do is birdhouse or a tissue box for kleenex it never fails your bound to sneeze everyonce in a while being in a wood shop and it’s a great way to protect them by building a tissue box

  • Bob H Gibbs

    I have used Pallet wood for many things. I see some people use them for building birdhouses as I have. But have also made small wall shelves and backs of park benches. Some of the wood grain is really unique. I have also made paper towel holders. You could also try little jewelry boxes

  • Eric P

    Using pallet wood can be a great way to obtain a lot of cheap wood for projects, but, as many have noted, the nails can be a real pain. Even if you just cut out the wood from the areas that are nailed to the frame pieces, there can be quite a few nails or other metal bits embedded in the wood. If you are going to do a lot of wood recycling, I would highly recommend getting a decent hand-held metal detector. The wand style ones work pretty well and you can find a good one for less than $100, which is definitely worth it if you save a few expensive saw blades!

  • Mike Joyce

    Like others I have used pallet wood from birdhouses to planters, compost bins and of course toys for the grandkids. What I find most useful is having the FREE wood available for my grandchildren to use as they please that way leaving my good stuff alone. My grandson is currently helping me tear them apart, when he visits, and we’re saving the wood for him to build his “fort” out in the woods come spring.

  • Phil

    I found a beautiful piece of cherry and let my young son make a really handy napkin holder. He also got a blue ribbon when he entered it in our county fair. I don’t pull out the nails, I just cut out the good looking pieces and while they are small many of them are quarter sawn and make really good nicknacks, Jigsaw puzzles, toys for kids, and even toilet paper holders. The rest I use for kindling.

  • Working with wood pallets if one is a masochist is just what the therapist ordered.

    What little wood can be gleaned from a tedious effort is better spent by turning that effort into shopping lumber sellers for scrap pieces, paying a few cents for the wood and converting what would have been wasted energy into a productive end.

    It is really not worthwhile unless you are a masochist or have masochistic tendencies.

  • ralph tafoya

    i use a sawzall to cut the nails between the boards and the stringers. then i use a punch or nail set to drive the nails out of the flat boards.

  • ron

    I like the sourmash idea the best, but my family has used all kinds of “scrap wood” to build many things. You can use them to make decorative toilet paper cabinets for the throne room, or potatoe and onion boxes for the kitchen. Sometimes it’s nice to have a garbage can box to put that wonderful rubbermaid garbage can in. We have also made cooler boxes for summer picknics and an assortment of childrens toys. Minature cabinets and so forth. All from lumber like pallets that were lying around.

  • Splifferman

    Hey guys,
    With my business I retain all my skids I get my products on because they don’t give me monies back for them. I paid for them (built into the cost of products) so I have made very good use out of them. As suggested before I have used them for many compost bins….excellent for that…great breathability and strong secure structures. I have made many sheds out of them. They are very easy to make and the whole shed, minus the doors, patio stones and shingles are free. I am in the process of making a long wood shelter also mentioned above. I have made many benches from them for our neighbourhood skating rink…very easy to do with two skids and some screws. The rest….Ongoing with my business, is used for firewood for the stove and fireplace. I cut them with mostly, a chainsaw, circular saw and also use my reciprocating saw to cut the nails that bind the boards to the skid frame. With all the money I have saved from them, I am planing to buy a timber saw to cut through them easier. There are many uses I am finding that I can make many more things from them (Planter boxes, garden borders). once you rebuild them with the boards nailed side by side, the possibilities are endless for free pallets. Necessity is the mother of all invention….And if I did like the rest of society; to just throw everything away, rather then reuse or recycle…well I would not have had so much fun accomplishing everything that I have found uses for them. Cheers and good luck on the endless possibilities those useless skids stacked up can do.

  • Teri Kent

    My workplace builds large crates to ship commercial a/c equipment and we receive parts in on all sizes of skids and in wooden crates, sometimes up to 6 feet square. I have built a full set of patio furniture and planters; sign for ranch gate; ‘street signs’ for all the trails on our property; shutters for my windows; lamps; picture frames; faux iron straps for ceiling beams with a hand hammered look; christmas presents like wish or prayer boxes, shadow boxes, music boxes, cheese boards, wall or desk calendars with changeable dates squares, flower drying press, photo album, gun cleaning kit box with rope handles, casserole dish holder so you don’t have to wait till it’s cold before you load up the car to Granny’s house, recipe boxes, remote control storage boats, magazine racks for floor or walls, shelves for pegboard rack, cut out kids initials or names and paint or stain them, christmas ornaments or tags for gifts, wooden animal puzzles for toddlers, paper sorter shelves for office area, wooden checkerboard with checkers, game table with storage area hidden under top which houses games such as checkers, chinese checkers backgammon – all of which can be made from wood; horse stalls, horse hay feeders, small cross fencing for landscaped areas, duck house, dog and cat houses, litter box tray, dog and cat food bins, onion and potato bins, bread bin, cutlery dividers, key rack with hooks, child’s growth chart with applied cut out animals (really cute!), gun cabinet, guitar display shelves with christmas lights hidden in surround to light up box – cool!, blanket chest for foot of bed, garbage can holders, wheel barrow, hanging tool storage for garden implements and auto shop tools, auto shop work benches with drawers and dividers for fasteners, converted my guest room into a full custom closet with expensive looking slat shelves, and am now starting a suspended bridge over my pond to where I hope to build a woodworking shop so that my porch will get a reprieve from piles of sawdust everytime a whim comes over me. There are millions of things to make and I know I’m forgetting some I’ve done! I would love new ideas though!

  • Charlie

    I use them to make kids cars and trucks as well as small shelfs boxes and key chains and puzzles. I use a skill saw to cut the good wood out and then start building

  • Ted

    I’ve built book shelves, coffee tables, bird houses, and a fence from pallets. I get the wood from a large furniture retailer. The shelves and bird houses are the most popular.

  • Carma

    I have made both a portable chicken tractor & a duck house out of skid wood. I have also used them as the foundation for an 8’Wx6’Dx8’T addition to my chicken coop. I’ve seen many plans using them for dog houses, various types of duck houses (my ducks are Pekin’s & Runner’s), chicken coops, etc. I also found plans for building a small garden shed completely out of skids. The other way we’ve used them is for insulating the inside of our large chicken coop – used insulation, then covered with the skid wood (skids tore down & cleaned). It looks rustic, beautiful & functional!!

  • Robert Damron

    A plan i liked, and had to build, was a factory cart coffee table. While trying to think of where i could salvage some “Rustic” wood, i tripped over a few big bulky skids, and the ideas were then rolling. I left a few nails for the rustic look and just hand sanded most of it. a few other salvaged boards and some wheels bought at a antique store and now my mother has a place to prop her feet.


    I use a chainsaw to cut the good wood around the nails
    then use the rest for fire wood for boyscout campouts

  • I’m glad i found ur blog.Not everyone can provide information with proper flow. Good post.
    I am going to save the URL and will definitely visit again. Keep it up.

  • we have used them to build club houses coops dog house tool shed and even a fence all for free!!!!

  • Bill Marsh

    I took some skids apart and built a bench for my Lady friend for her back deck.I stained it with red oak stain. She loves it and sits on it every morning if its not

  • A couple of years ago, saw an ad in the local “Craig’s List”- a person wanted to get rid of 2 Bamboo skids. I risked a speeding ticket getting over to pick them up! Once back at my shop, I cut between the stringers leaving the staples ( about 10 million), and getting a lot of nice boards, short, but of good quality. I then cut very carefully between the staples in the stringers and came up with a bunch of small blocks.
    The short boards became 2 cremation urns $350+ each; 2 bowls $35+ each; the blocks were glued together and became 2 sets of long-stemmed wine glasses (the glass parts from Craft Supplies USA) $42.95 per set. Plus, a few small pieces I saved aside for inlay work. Not bad for recycling and less than 30 miles round trip from my shop!! I also salvage Oak and some Fir pallets and skids. I stress ALWAYS BE CAREFUL! Use a metal detector and safety glasses!

  • Carl van Katwijk

    Have folks that are always on the lookout for solid hardwood skids. I have used them to make everything imaginable. My father heats his house with them. He will cut them up and if they have any exotic woods in them he saves them for me. The best was when I lived in Southern California. I belonged to the Orange County Woodworkers Association. Several members worked at the Long Beach docks. They would every month or so bring to the club meeting pallets/donnage that came in from overseas. Those who were willing to clean it up were often rewarded handsomely. I have had purple heart, mahogany, teak, cocobolo, iron woods, rosewood and many more rare woods. Many of these countries have wood that they consider to be everyday stuff that we think of exotic. There was not much I miss about living there, but I do miss the club and the wood we would get.
    I had a friend that went to India send back art work for import. I had him build the crates that he shipped stuff back home out of rose wood so we could take them apart and make beautiful jewelry boxes out of it. I have friends that worked in countries and when they moved back from Costa Rica, Honduras, Ghana and China that did the same thing so we could get the wood out that they will not allow to be exported. Even today, I have a friend that snowbirds in Baja, Mexico. If he brings in raw wood he has to pay duty on them. Instead he builds his trailer sides out of planks of birch, ash, black walnut and sycamore that we collect the trees, mill the lumber and solar kiln dry it when he is up here in Washington. That way he has material to work with down there.
    One man’s pallet is another man’s wood source.

  • Jerry O

    I fastened a set of large surplus pneumatic casters and a 2 X 4 tongue to a pallet and ended up with a heavy duty yard trailer to pull behind a riding mower.

  • Monte

    I have recovered walnut, cherry, maple, oak, … some of it spalted and others with some of the most incredable grain. The last batch (walnut) became a large number of pens, another became a planked currly cherry table top. There has a lot of fire wood and kendling.

  • I have seen some amazing looking furniture with pallets. I saw a swing bed the other day. It had two large pallets attached together with a twin mattress on it, and made into a swinging bed under a tree. It was cool.