Short Steel Bending

Also known as "nail bending," this is possibly the strangest hobby I have yet undertaken. It is just as it sounds - I bend short pieces of steel (or nails or bolts or whatever), wrapped in cloth, with only my hands. It requires significant hand strength, but there is a great deal of technique involved as well. Turns out there is a right way and many wrong ways to vent your spleen on a hapless piece of bar stock.

I have been interested in this odd form of strength training for about 6 months, and I finally tried it for the first time on Monday. I stumbled across it when I was researching kettlebells - the two seem to be a natural match, since many of the biggest names in kettlebells are also benders. I ordered up a bag of nails from IronMind and when it got here, I got to work.

The bent pieces in these pictures are IronMind Yellow Nails - 1/4" cold rolled steel, cut to 7" in length. These are considered an intermediate bend - there are much tougher nails out there, but for today I am very pleased.

I had bent the level 1 and 2 nails in my bag pretty easily, but my first attempt at a yellow nail on Monday left me red in the face, gasping for air, and slightly dizzy. For all that effort, the nail only bent about 15 degrees. In other words, it kicked my ass. I tried the same one again Tuesday evening, and budged it about 2 degrees more.

After some surfing on the internet for technique pointers and a better way to wrap the cloth pads (yes - YouTube has EVERY damn thing) I was able to grab my partially bent yellow nail and completely kill it. In fact, once I got my technique down, it felt quite a bit easier. To make sure that it wasn't easier because I had pre-bent that nail, I tried it twice more with new straight stock; the results, and the cloth pads I used, are pictured on the right.

"What is this good for?" you ask. Well... it makes your wrists and hands incredibly strong, but in the grand scheme of things, it's probably not the most useful skill to develop. There is, however, something incredibly satisfying about feeling that nail bend. In the first few milliseconds of a bend, it feels like there is no way you could possibly do this. The tissues of your hands and arms and back begin to send all sorts of dire alarms to your central nervous system, warning the brain that this is a good way to injure oneself. If you ignore those warnings for just a bit longer than feels completely sane, then you can actually feel the steel give up. It yields to your will, and once it has moved a few millimeters, you KNOW that you can finish it off.

So, yeah - it's a stupid guy thing.


Teh Dr. said...

I usually just use pliers. ;)

Anonymous said...

consider me a "stupid guy" then...bending the yellow is a goal for 2009. That cold steel WILL bend in my hands ;) I can get one green after another, but the yellow is on my list!

His Sinfulness said...

Teh Dr.,

That takes all the fun out of it...


I'm sure your hunt for the yellow nail will end in victory soon!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty new to bending - REALLY struggled with the Yellow Nail until I ordered Jedd Johnson's eBook "Bending Book"....after reading it and using his detailed instructions, I used the DO method and crushed a Yellow Nail in 4 seconds. I bent 5 more after that, and I had only ever bent 1 before that taking 5 minutes to finally get it. The instruction is invaluable and I KNOW you can NAIL this!!!

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