The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Free wood

high quality pallet from wood stoveThe guy at the wood stove store mentioned how they have a problem with these high quality pallets stacking up behind their store.

I'm thinking of planning the next big city trip with a visit to this alley. He just wants to get rid of them and says the local pallet guys aren't interested because of the irregular shapes. They seem to be of a higher grade than normal pallets which should make good firewood if no other uses come to mind.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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My father told me to always take what is free. It will come in hand for something in the future!
Comment by Sheila Fri Jan 7 20:56:04 2011
Free stuff does seem to come in handy...
Comment by anna Sat Jan 8 09:19:02 2011

Be careful how you use those! Many pallets are treated with a variety of nasty chemicals, and may be unsafe for use as cooking wood, or planter boxes. If you can verify that the wood is clean, then a great find!

More info at Wikipedia

City Roots, Country Life

Comment by Joseph Sun Jan 9 12:56:05 2011
That's an excellent point. One of our readers mentioned that over on facebook, too, and I'm glad you both did since we hadn't considered that option. Looks like we need to do a bit more research before getting excited about free pallets.
Comment by anna Sun Jan 9 13:31:47 2011
I went out and took a look at the pallet after reading up on the symbols. It sounds like there are two symbols --- "HT" means heat treated and "MB" means treated with methyl bromide. The smudged symbol on our pallet looked like "OB" to me, but that doesn't seem to be an option, so I think we're going to have to assume it's treated.
Comment by anna Sun Jan 9 13:49:50 2011

Pallets meant for shipping internationally have to be treated according to ISPM 15 (heating or methylbromide). This is done to prevent the spreading of diseases or insects to other areas, which is a good thing, IMO.

Pallets made for multiple use (e.g. in a pallet-pool) but not international shipping can be treated with many kinds of preservatives, some of which can be dangerous when burning the wood. Labeling of these is not standardized, to the best of my knowledge. Some of these treatments can change the color of the wood. But I don't know if all do.

Often wood preservatives are compounds containing copper and in the past arsenic or other metals. Look at the flame color when burning this wood. A preservative copper compound might yield blue/green flames.

Heat-treated wood is generally safe.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jan 9 15:08:45 2011

They should still be useful for making stuff. Check out this page of amazing sheds, woodsheds, animal shelters, chicken coops etc made out of pallets:

Get your creative juices flowing!

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Sun Jan 9 18:27:04 2011

Roland --- good info! Once I understood the reason for treating pallets going across national boundaries, it made a lot of sense to me too. I like the idea of doing a flame test to guess what it was treated with.

Darren --- I love that site! Actually, what I'd most like to use pallets for is making another wood shed --- it would have built in air flow....

Comment by anna Sun Jan 9 19:00:17 2011

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