How to Straighten Nails




This ible aims to help those of us who use recycled pallets and box springs also use the bent and messed up nails that hold them together. No sense in buying new nails when you can use what was given to you!

Step 1: An Explanation of What I'm Doing.

The basic idea here is to make straight the bent and twisted nails you encounter when removing boards and joints from scrap wood.

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.

Pretty self explanatory here:

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

4. Goggles
5. Gloves (not heavy duty worker gloves, leather garden gloves are good)

Step 3: How to Do This...

First you should find the bend in the nail. Sometimes this is painfully obvious, others its not so much.

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.



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    12 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    You might try heating the nails up,before bending them out, you take them out the fire with needle nose pliers. The gently put them into a vice , and squeeze them straight. Then pull them out of the vice, and drop them into a can of used motor oil.This will harden them as they cool in the oil.

    1 reply

    You know, that's an excellent idea! What method would you recommend for the heating up process? I would think a blowtorch maybe, but I dont think it would get it hot enough in an evenly heated way.

    Next, what would your recommendation be for getting the motor oil off the nails so we dont wind up with a handful of oil when we grab them out of our toolbelt? :)


    9 years ago on Step 3

    This brings me back to the good ol' days of junior high shop class. For any project our teacher would only give us bent nails to use. Straightening nails was a good way to motivate us to methodically hammer wood.


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I keep almost all the nails out things I break up. I normally flatten them on a small anvil or anything hard lying around. Some brads I have tried to straighten have exploded though.

    4 replies

    Do you temper yours? I remember a summer of pulling nails from a discarded wooden walkway and the nails that followed. seemed like even the best ones always bent with a high frequency.


    I find if I try and use them the same day they are straightened they are more likely to bend. If I leave them for a couple of days, it's like the metal relaxes into it's new shape and they are not so prone to bending. I don't understand why that would be the case, perhaps something to do with even relatively cold conditions causing the metal to partially aneal the stresses out or maybe age hardening or some combination of the two.

    I've never had to temper mine, but I assume any method that you would use to temper a knife blade would suffice. The nails I yanked out for this instructable were really good quality I suppose. They all worked very well for the other projects I've used them in.

    The Dark Ninjastalkingcoco

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    Brads exploded? How did that happen! :o) I usually don't use hard surfaces, as sometimes it flattens the head of the nail.

    the worst day of work I've ever done in terms of boringness was an afternoon sitting on a concrete pad in the blazing sunshine straightening used palette nails with a wrench because my employers were too cheap to buy a second hammer, and my co-worker was hammering the straightened nails back into repaired palettes. sooooo monotonous. anyway, good tutorial. a surprising number of people just cast these away.

    3 replies

    I can see how that would be very monotonous! It wasnt so bad for these, I only had like 20 or 30 so it went quick. Speaking of second hammers... the hammer I used in this instructable became bent. The block of wood that I straightened the nails on, has 4in nails w/ ridges on them. The wood itself I've decided is a very tough wood. When I tried to remove those 4in nails the hammer bent. I guess it was a cheap hammer. Glad I had my second hammer! Craftsman FTW!

    thoraxeThe Dark Ninja

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    the hammer you have in the pic is a cheap tube hammer...never buy those unless you intend to destroy them they are a waste of money. either buy a solid metal or wood handled hammer, go to a flea market and buy em

    The Dark Ninjathoraxe

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You're right it was a tube hammer. I got it as part of a kit that I received as a wedding present. I own a couple craftsman hammers and have never had any problems with them.