Step 1: An Explanation of What I'm Doing.
This works best with nails that are about 2 inches or longer. Any shorter and you might hit your hands or it just becomes cumbersome to work with them.
It is important to practice finesse and not strength. Nails are not as tough as you might think, and just a little bit of convincing will get them straighted up.
Step 2: What You Will Need.
1. A hammer
2. Bent nails
3. Soft wood (pine works great)
Optional gear... (we're being gentle and not smashing stuff, so there should be almost no risk of nails flying around and hitting you in the eye. Nor should we be overly worried about the hammer hitting you hard enough to crush or break bones/fingers. But it's better to be safe than sorry... so
5. Gloves (not heavy duty worker gloves, leather garden gloves are good)
Step 3: How to Do This...
So take the nail on a flat surface (wood) and roll it. As you roll it you will notice a bowing/bend in the nail. Position the nail on the wood so that the most bent part skyward. Take your hammer and gently tap on this bend. You will see the bend start to go away. When the bend touches the wood, roll the nail again to examine for further bends. If you find one, repeat the process until the nail is straight. The reason I chose wood as my surface, is that the head of the nail will sort of dig into the wood and allow the nail shaft to lay flat on the wood. This allows you to quickly identify your progress.
If all has gone well, you should have a perfectly reusable nail!!
I have a video I am going to edit and post later too.
Some things to note however:
1. Some nails are really really tough and will require more convincing to return straight. If you have such a nail, be careful! Your thumbs are valuable. You may ask how thumbs are so valuable. well have you ever tried to play Halo without them? Didnt think so. :)
2. If your nail head is bent so it looks like a taco shell, just throw that one away. Chances are that even if you do get it straight again, any hopes of getting it back out of the wood you nail it in to are not good.
3. If your nail breaks, you're hitting it too hard on a surface that isnt right.
4. Don't try this on tile, decorative bricks, stove tops, counters, bathtubs, etc... you're going to be hitting metal, and that will ruin things. Be careful what you pound away on.