There are many fasteners available in wood crafting. Whether you’re driving in some screws, hammering in some nails, or riveting pieces of furniture together, there is a fastener available for every facet of furniture creation and wood crafting at large. One of the most popular fasteners in furniture production is staples. They are generally used in the mass production of furniture and can be found in couches, beds, tables, ottomans, dining chairs, and many more. However, they can be tough to remove, so let’s have a look at how to remove staples from wood, why you might need to remove them, and the best way to go about it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Would You Need to Remove Staples from Wood?
- 2 Assess Your Staples Before Removal
- 3 Basic Tools to Remove Staples from Wood
- 4 Removing Stubborn Staples
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Why Would You Need to Remove Staples from Wood?
Before we get into how to remove staples from wood, let’s have a look into why you’d want to remove them, to begin with. Staples are used in mass production because they’re cheap and can be implemented quickly. This is great if you’re manufacturing hundreds (if not thousands) of furnishings per day, but not when you’re trying to maintain or repair said furnishings.
Why? Well, staples are generally one-use fasteners. If you don’t know what this means, it simply means that they’re designed to be used once and cannot be removed and used again. They’re also designed to hold furnishings together indefinitely, which means that they can be quite challenging to remove should you need to.
This can lead to some frustration if you’ve found an old piece of furniture you’d like to restore, or if you’d like to update or repair furniture of your own. Why would it be challenging? Well, furniture staples are embedded into the wood with a lot of force, sinking into the wood fibers and clinging to it on two ends. This means there is no room to get underneath the stable and pry it out of your workpiece.
Furthermore, if you remove the staple by force and/or by using the incorrect tools, you could permanently damage your workpiece. This is especially true if your workpiece is made of an engineered wood like MDF (medium-density fiberboard), as ripping the staple out will tear a chunk of your workpiece along with it.
If you’re thinking “I’ll just use the wood filler”, try thinking about how many staples are in your workpiece, and how many spots you’ll need to fill, not to mention how your workpiece would look after the fact. Thankfully, you don’t need to go scorched earth on those pesky staples as there are a few basic tools you can use to safely and effectively remove staples from wood.
Assess Your Staples Before Removal
While you might be eager to get started, it’s really important for you to assess both your staples and your wood before you get started. Why? Different types of staples need to be removed differently, and often require special tools to ensure they’re removed without damaging the surface of your workpiece.
You should also consider where the staples are located on your workpiece. Why? This will determine not only whether the staple can be removed without damaging the surface of your workpiece, but also what tool can be used to remove the staple without obstructing the process. Once you know where all of your staples are, you should consider the wood you’re working with.
Staples are used on all manner of wood surfaces, including solid wood and engineered wood. That being said, removing staples from engineered wood can be a bit riskier than removing them from the solid wood board. Since engineered woods like MDF (medium-density fiberboard) are wood fibers joined with adhesive, you can easily tear a chunk out of your workpiece if they’re pulled out incorrectly.
Lastly, you should determine the depth of the staples in your workpiece and the condition of your wood. Determining the depth of your staples allows you to judge which tool and method is best suited to remove them, and determining the condition of your wood should tell you if the staples can be removed without permanently damaging the surface of your workpiece.
Basic Tools to Remove Staples from Wood
As with any woodworking task, there are tools of varying complexity for the job. While there are full-sized machines dedicated to staple removal, we thought we’d show you some of the basic tools you can use for removing staples from wood. These tend to be relatively inexpensive and will likely save you hours when attempting to remove staples from wood.
Using a Staple Remover
This might seem like the only reasonable option to remove staples from wood, but in reality, it’s not always the best tool for the job. A staple removed is essentially a small set of clawed jaws connected via a hinge. These are a common sight in most workplaces (or at least those that haven’t gone paperless) and do a pretty good job of removing staples from a wooden workpiece.
How do you use a staple remover? Considering that it’s been specifically designed to remove staples you can bet that it’s really easy to use. Identify the staple that you would like to remove and use the jaws to pry underneath the staple and force it upwards. Once the jaws are positioned underneath the staple, ensure that you have a good grip and close the jaws of the staple remover.
This should force the staple upwards, at which point you should be able to pull the staple free with minimal effort. Staple removers are generally reserved for smaller staples and can damage the surface of your workpiece if used incorrectly, and if you’re trying to remove larger staples, you should consider using another tool and/or method.
Use a Cat’s Claw
This tool looks exactly as the name suggests. The cat’s claw is essentially a rod with two curved claws at its end. It is generally used to pull staples out of carpets, but it can also be used to remove staples from wood. This tool is simple, inexpensive, and easy to use. It uses leverage to pry staples from wood without damaging the surface or corners of your workpiece. It is also known as a tack puller or nail lifter since it is used to remove tacks, nails and other small types of simple fasteners used by trades such as upholsterers, shoemakers, and so on.
How do you use the cat’s claw? When using it to remove staples from wood specifically, use a nail or similar object to prop the staple up and then insert the cat claw. Next, apply pressure to the side of the cat claw with the curved end or handle to lever the staple up and away from your workpiece.
If you’ve never used a cat claw before it might take a few tries to get the hang of it. The trick is to get as much of the claw underneath the staple to maximize your leverage once you start pulling on it. While it might seem fairly simple, that’s kind of the point, and with a little bit of practice, you’ll be pulling out dozens of staples in no time!
Use Diagonal Pliers
Diagonal pliers are some of the most useful tools to have when removing staples from wood. These are pretty easy to find too. Diagonal pliers are also known as side cutters, as they are typically used to cut electrical wires, zip ties, and locking wires. As you’ve probably guessed, this makes them the ideal tool for removing staples.
How do you use diagonal pliers to remove staples? There are two ways you can go about this. The first is to use the edge of the pliers to pry underneath the staple and force it upwards. The second option you have is to once again use the edge of the pliers to pry underneath the edge of the staple and cut the staple. You can then pry the two pieces of staple out of the wood.
If you’re going to be using this method you should know that you cannot remove a cut staple using diagonal pliers. This is because the jaws of the pliers are edged, so you’ll have to use a needle-nosed pliers or similar tool to pry out the two parts of the staple. Which method do we recommend? In the interest of simplicity, prying the staple out poses the least risk to your workpiece.
Use Needle-Nosed Pliers
Needle nose pliers are arguably the best way to remove staples from wood. These pliers are characterized by their long, tapering jaws and are generally used to tighten, loosen, pry, and hold fasteners. The shape of these pliers has made them the best way to remove staples from wood whether they’re small or large, and they’re pretty easy to use too!
How do you use needle nose pliers? It’s all very straightforward. Since the jaws of the pliers are super thin, you can slide them right underneath the staple. Once you have the jaws underneath the staple, slowly use the pliers to pull the staple away from the wood, being careful not to damage the surface of the wood throughout the process.
The second way that you can use your needle-nosed pliers to remove small staples from wood is to slide one jaw underneath the staple and grip it with the other. Instead of using leverage, wiggle the staple loose using the pliers until it is free of the wood. Be careful and work slowly as the staple could be thrown into your face if your grip isn’t tight enough. That being said, ensure you wear eye protection!
Removing Stubborn Staples
There will be times when conventional methods simply won’t cut it. If you’ve encountered a particularly difficult staple, there are some other options to explore before you rip them out. Here are a few things you can try to ensure that your staples are removed without damaging the surface of your workpiece.
Use Standard Pliers
As you’ve probably pieced together by now the basic principle of removing staples from wood is to lever them away from the board’s surface and then pry them outward using pliers or a claw. Since there are many everyday items that can be used for both of these actions, if you don’t have access to any of the aforementioned tools, regular pliers should do just fine.
How do you use this tool to remove staples from wood? Just as you would with any of the other tools, you can use a nail or similar object to pry the staple upward so that it’s easier to grip. Next, take your standard pliers and grip the staple where you have raised it and slowly wiggle it back and forth while pulling until it is removed from the surface of your workpiece.
Again, if you’re working with smaller staples, you should wear some eye protection and gloves as they have a nasty habit of flying upward due to the amount of force needed to remove them. This method should be effective as long as you’re able to get a good grip on the staple, just don’t attempt to remove the staple without raising it first or you could end up damaging your workpiece.
Use a Knife, Screwdriver, or Hammer
If you don’t have a special tool to remove staples from wood, there are other options. Most people have a knife and/or screwdriver in their homes so this is a good method to keep in mind should you find yourself facing a particularly stubborn staple. If you’re going to be using a knife, we recommend a short, stocky one like a butter knife to avoid the knife’s edge breaking off and injuring you and/or the people around you.
This method is pretty easy if your knife or screwdriver is then enough to pry underneath the edge of the wood board. How do you go about it? All that you need to do is slide the knife or screwdriver underneath the staple and wiggle it slowly until the staple lifts away from the surface of the wood board. This method works well with boxes that have been stapled too.
Even though we’ve mentioned this previously, you should be extra careful and wear the appropriate personal protective gear when using this method in particular. Why? Since you aren’t gripping the staple with a pliers, it’s even more likely that once the staple is free it could go flying around your workspace, or into your eye.
If you’re still having trouble removing the staples from your workpiece, you could use a hammer to increase your leverage on the staple. This method risks damaging your workpiece but should help remove really stubborn staples. Place your screwdriver at the base of the staple and gently tap the hand of the screwdriver until the staple is raised, then lever the staple upwards by gently and slowly lifting the screwdriver. If your staple is quite large, you could try to insert one of the claws of your hammer underneath it and pull as if you were pulling out a nail.
Now that you know why you might need to remove a staple, some of the tools you can use to do so, and some less conventional methods to try if you find yourself in a pinch, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always wear the appropriate personal protective gear and ensure that you work slowly when removing staples from wood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Wood Staple Remover?
To put it simply, a wood staple remover is very much the same as a conventional staple remover. It is a set of claws resembling small pliers that allow you to remove staples from wood without damaging the surface of the board.
Why Are Staples Used in Wooden Workpieces?
Staples are used on wooden workpieces for very much the same reason the nails and screws are. The staples function as a fastener, either to attach an object to a wooden surface or to join two wooden surfaces together.
Can You Use Staples Instead of Nails?
Yes! Staples can be used instead of nails in most instances. Staples generally allow for a smoother finished look and are a bit easier to conceal compared to other fasteners like wood and nails. That being said, there are some wood species/types that are not conducive to the use of staples.
I have been into woodworking since 2005 and woodturning since 2011. Because of my love for wood and woodworking, I started woodhappen.com to teach other enthusiasts about how to finish and seal wood, the best woodworking tools, the different types of wood, and everything else related to woodworking! Read more about me here.