Why breaking a pallet is needed?
One of the drawbacks of working with pallet wood is the effort needed to break the pallet. This is needed to extract the wood for wood working. Pallets come in different shapes and sizes. The pallets come in different forms of strengths in terms of joinery. I have seen some pallets where the decking boards have been joined to the stringers using 4-5 long nails while other with very short nails and a couple of them.
Some pallets have additional blocks that have been used to join the deck boards and these blocks use are made up of chipboard. Nails lodged into the chipboards are quite difficult to remove.
Here are 5 different ways of breaking a pallet to extract the pallet wood
Cut the pallet deck boards between the joins.
This is the cleanest method to extract the pallet wood although there is a lot of wasted wood. This method involves using a tool like a jigsaw or a circular saw and just cut the deck boards between the points they have been joined to a stinger or a block. This will give you shorter lengths of pallet wood but the extracted wood will be clean and without any nail holes or damages
Use a crowbar
Use a crowbar to pry the deck boards from the stringer or the block. In this method, you will have to insert the crowbar in the gap between the deck board and the stringer/block and pry it upwards. This will pull the deck boards along with the nails. This method will cause the deck boards to crack if you are not very careful. But if carefully done, you will be able to extract most of the pallet wood which is a great result. Once done, you will have to hammer the nails out of the deck boards.
Use a brick and mallet
This is quite a strenuous method of dismantling a pallet. This method involves placing the pallet deck board on a brick on one side and hammering the deck board using a mallet. This will push the deck board away from the stringer/block and will force the nails to come out along with the deck board. For this method to work, the gaps between the deck board should be wide enough to allow a brick to get in. Some pallets have very smalls gaps and this method is not very helpful.
Use a pallet wrecker tool
These are available on most online retail stores like ebay and amazon. I prefer this method as its best in terms of extracting maximum pallet wood and easy effort wise. The tool normally has a two prongs that go between the deck board and can be pried upwards which results in the deck board coming out of the stringer/block.
Roughneck ROU64640 Demolition and Lifting Bar
Drop and break method
In this method I place the pallet deck board at an angle on a brick or something heavy. I think drop a heavy item on the pallet. Due to the inclination, the deck boards nails are forced out of the joist/stringer. This releases the deck boards from the joist/stringer.