Do It Yourself: Repair Broken Nails

Tips on preserving and repairing bent nails. Guide to use of tools involved, as well as step by step instructions for conserving and recycling building materials.

So, you’ve got an old coffee can in your garage, filled about halfway with assorted nails, screws, bolts, and tacks. It’s been sitting on a shelf for quite some time, and you guess it’s time to throw it out. You hate to waste all that metal, but suppose it’s unusable?

Wait. Before you toss it into the trash, here are some simple tips for salvaging some of those bent nails.

To begin, you will need a couple of simple tools: a pair of pliers and a hammer should be all we need to get started. As far as the hammer is concerned, small, or ball peen, hammer is preferable. A large hammer may look like it will get the job done more quickly, but may in fact cause more damage to both the nail and your hands. Also, a flat, preferably wooden surface to work upon is a must. In a pinch, a sidewalk or hard surface may be used, but there is always the possibility of damage to the surface.

First, pick out the nails which are most bent. These will give you a good starting point, and you can practice your techniques for the less damaged nails.

Using the pliers, grasp the pointed end of the nail. Lay the nail on the work surface you have chosen, bent side up. Using your hammer, tap the flat, or top, of the nail into the surface slightly. This will work best on a wooden surface. A cement or stone surface will not yield to the metal, making it somewhat difficult to grasp. After your nail is settled into the surface, tap the raised bent section of the nail, while continuing to grasp the pointed end with the pliers. This may take some practice, but starting with the most bent nails will give you plenty of practice for the less damaged ones. If you find that you cannot grip the end of the nail using a pair of pliers, you may want to try using a pair of vice grips. Vice grips will give a stronger hold on the end of the nail.

An easier method for repairing nails which are not badly bent is to simply hammer the nail into a piece of scrap lumber, as far as the nail will go without bending. Using your hammer, tap the nail in the direction opposite the bend until the nail is straight. Pull the nail out of the wood carefully, so that it doesn’t bend again.

Placing your bent nail on your work surface and, using work gloves, simply turning the nail while tapping gently with a small hammer may give you the best results. However, this method requires a great deal of patience, and you may suffer a smashed thumb or two.

Finally, many of the nails that you thought were destined for the trash are now sitting in a separate can, waiting to be put to good use. In addition, this is a simple way to relieve stress. The act of doing something constructive and environmentally positive will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment which far outweighs the value of a can of nails, bent or otherwise.

Written by Kathleen Jeacoma – 2002 Pagewise

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