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Block Pallet Repair Tips: Itís a Bit Different than Dismantling, Repairing and Remanufacturing Stringer Pallets
Reclamation 101: Pallet repair expert, Brad Kirkaldy of Noble Machine, offers advice based on best practices he has seen in the field to effectively dismantle block pallets.
By Brad Kirkaldy
Date Posted: 5/1/2011
††††††††††† Taking apart, repairing and remanufacturing block pallets is something that many pallet recyclers in the United States have done very little of in the past 20 years. That may be about ready to change with block pallets gaining popularity and the potential for a white-wood block pallet pool to be developed by the industry.
††††††††††† While there are many similarities between the processes for stringer and block pallets, there are also some key differences. Hereí a review of my thoughts based on hearing feedback about best practices in the field by people who have done it well both in the United States and Europe.
††††††††††† For starters, block pallet dismantling is a two-man process. I would never want to see an operator push the pallet through and pull it back through the saw by himself. That violates the safety standard that is common in the industry to keep the worker a safe distance from the blade.†
††††††††††† The best machines for the job are bandsaws with an extended drop table. These may drop as low as six inches below the blade. The reason I feel these are better is that when you are dismantling† a block pallet, you can hang the blocks from the mat so that the mat rides across the top of the bandsaw blade and the block or stringer boards hang and fall free.
††††††††††† You can recover the decking from the mat first and have your stringer assemblies separated. You can then go back and recover the boards from the stringer assemblies on the secondary pass. When taking apart the stringer assemblies, the block is hanging below the blade and will fall free. This is contrasted with a bandsaw where the table doesnít drop six inches, you would have to dismantle those stringer assemblies with the block above the blade. If the block comes loose at that point, it can travel or spin on the sawblade and bounce off the fence and just become difficult to gather the block in a safe manner. With the block hanging below the blade, it is a much safer operation to recover those stringer assemblies and blocks.
††††††††††† Dismantling a block pallet can take much longer than processing as stringer pallet. It can take as many as three passes to dismantle a block pallet. It can be 30 to 50% longer to recover lumber from a block pallet. If you are recovering the blocks and the connecting boards, you are probably closer to 50% longer on your dismantling time.
††††††††††† Some people choose not to recover those stringer assemblies because they donít want to dedicate the extra labor required. Some of those assemblies will go directly to the scrap pile to be ground up or burned.
††††††††††† Repair of the block pallets is a little bit different process than stringer repair. Depending on the style of pallet, there may be different fasteners involved.† At this point, most recovered wood from block pallets is going back into stringer pallets. But that is changing rapidly as block pallets have become more desirable.
††††††††††† Repairs are done on a table. If you are repairing a europallet, repairs can be done with nail guns.†† Remember that repairs of official EUR europallets can only be done by a licensed repair company, and there are only a few of those in the entire United States. If it is just a general euro-style pallet, anyone can repair them.
††††††††††† Some block pallets can be repaired with nailing systems although the nailing systems with collated nails tend to have trouble renailing used boards because of the nature of the nail to have a tendency to misfire or shoot out the side if it encounters a foreign object in the lumber. This seems to be less of a problem with the older style beam nailers because you are using bulk nails and the strength of the nail. These bulk nailers are better for renailing block pallets. There is a slew of old nailers mothballed out there. I am talking about FMC, Morgan, Doig, and GBN machines that are capable of nailing or renailing block pallets.
††††††††††† If you want to remove one of the perimeter blocks from a pallet, a machine with an extended drop table is ideal. You can remove just about any of the perimeter blocks with a bandsaw by going in the gap between the blocks and the stringer board or the blocks and the mat. You will pass the blade over the block and bring the pallet back out through the same gap. Ideally, you will drop the table down and go into the top of the block and back out and make that perimeter block free. You want to get the pallet at a little bit of an angle to pass the pallet through the blade.
††††††††††† If you are going to take out the center block, you will have to remove one of the center blocks to get access to it. Those repairs are mostly done by the proprietary pallet companies, such as CHEP and PECO, although that is starting to change a bit in the industry. For some companies block pallets are going from a nuisance to a more significant part of their business.
††††††††††† The block pallet is a two-man operation to dismantle because of the close proximity of the deckboards. You want to make sure that the operatorís hands are always twelve inches from the blade. It is generally best for one operator at a time to have his hands on the pallet. If you are going to completely dismantle a block pallet similar to the CHEP style design, the first thing is that the pallet comes through the dismantler upside down with the deck side down so that you can get the most weight off the pallet at one time. Operator A on the front/sharp side of the blade will start the pallet by pushing it into the blade. Once it is about a third of the way in there, operator B at the backside can pull the pallet the rest of the way through. I would prefer that just one operator have his hands on the pallet at any given time.
††††††††††† The operatorís hands should never enter the 12-inch safety area around the blade. That is pretty easy to accomplish given the size of most pallets. The pallet passes through the first time and Operator B flips the pallet back over on the perimeter bar on top of the blade. At that point, they can take apart the connecting boards on the second pass. On the third pass, they can recover the blocks. Ideally, you would drop your table down at that point so that the blocks hang from the blade and gather right against the fence.
††††††††††† You have to be relatively aggressive pushing and pulling the pallet through the machine. The side-to-side motion definitely helps in the dismantling process so that the blade does not hit a whole row of nails at one time. It also acts as a shoe horn effect by allowing the blade to enter a broken or damaged deckboard easier with a little bit of an angle to it. You donít want to force the pallet through there. You want the blade to do the work. And you can help that process by wiggling the pallet side-to-side. Block pallets are mostly machine nailed, and they can be a little bit harder to dismantle as a result. They will likely shorten your blade life.
††††††††††† Block pallets tend to be more tightly nailed. The blade life is not as great as what most recyclers have experienced with stringer pallets because of the heat generated by the saw.
††††††††††† A low-speed bandsaw with high torque is better suited for the cutting of a block pallet. It doesnít generate as much heat in the cut, and it will extend your blade life. The case-hardened steel nails seem to cut easier with the low-speed machines and bi-metal bandsaw blades.† They may cost more, but the blade life is typically about double of the carbon steel blades, which run primarily on the high-speed saws. Bi-metal blades can run on both and tend to deliver the best performance for dismantling block pallets. Also, the gear-reduction saws with the lower 2,200 speeds per minute are better too.
††††††††††† In Europe, some recyclers recover a lot of lumber from block pallets that we wouldnít attempt to reclaim in the United States. They will do that on nailing machines using reclaimed boards. Again, they use bulk nailing systems to accomplish this feat. I was surprised that they run that recycled lumber back through nailing machines to remanufacture pallets. The company that I talked with in Europe uses an older Vanderloo nailer. I had assumed that these remanufactured block pallets were being built on tables, not nailing machines.
††††††††††† Some of the recyclers in the States only do complete recovery of the boards if the parts are needed in another block pallet or are long enough to be used in a stringer pallet. The trend in the States seems to be to recover the deckboards from the mat. Most recyclers throw the dumbbells or the stringers away because they donít want to take the additional three passes to recover two boards. It would take three passes for three deckboards or six passes for six deckboards. The blocks are re-used if they are consistent for repairs. Some blocks are disposed of because they are not consistent in dimensions.
††††††††††† Brad Kirkaldy is an industry veteran and sales representative with Noble Machinery. He can be reached at 800/348-0703 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.