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Bending nails - wow...

Guest Avi

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I went to the hardware store, thinking I'd get some nails and try to bend them - probably getting ahead of myself in a big way.

Anyway, I found "20d" and "60d" nails, which I take it are "20 penny" and "60 penny" nails?

If so, Tom, I am amazed you can bend this stuff. I've seen photos, but it's not the same as holding such a big piece of steel in your hand and imagining trying to bend it.

Even to 20d's seemed like they would take superhuman strength.

Does anyone know the difference (or rather ratio) in load required to bend 20 vs 60?


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I dont know about that, but Ive bent two twentys taped together and cant bend a galvanized 60d.  I bent  a 307NB(if i remember right) bolt 6inches by 1/4 inch but not fully.  

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   Please Avi, you're making me blush.  Myself, and quite a few others on the board, can bend the 60-penny nails.  It takes time to develop the strength and toughness to do so, but it's not superhuman.  I'd guess that a 20-penny would only take about 75-pounds to bend, compared to 250-pounds for a medium 60-penny (Caps bending of 2x20-penny illustrates this, the force is still below a 60-penny at 150-pounds).  There is quite a difference between the two, but this number is a guess.  If you really wonder how hard it is to bend the 20-pennies go to my article on nail testing HERE and see if you can make a similar set up.  If you do the test on the 20-penny, please let me know the result and I'll add it to the results so that others will know.

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Guest Danjo

First of all Tom, "YEAH BUDDY!" regarding the bending video!!! I have been bending 12" and 10" by 3/8" zinc bolts that way lately and I know how hard they are. You're doing the phenomenal.

Now Avi, I have only recently been able to bend 60d's, but the progress has been relatively quick for me. I started bending 20d's in November 2000, then 40d's in December (the 20th in fact) I could only bend about 6 per day with a lot of rest in between. By the middle of February I could bend 30 40d's in a row without a rest. I then was able to bend 60d's by March. At first it was so hard when I bent them that I thought something would snap inside of me, but last night ( I now only bend every other day) I bent four in a row in the afternoon, then four more in a row in the evening. No breaks in between. So progress can be very rapid if you are focussed and commited. The results may vary depending on how strong you are to begin with, but the progress will be rapid if you stay with it. Also, there is a magic quality to bending as well. Not "hocus pocus", but there is a trancendant moment that occurs with all hard bends that I have noticed with myself, and I can see in Tom's video, where all of the huffing and puffing stop, and the hypnotic moment takes over and the steel bends. I'm not doing this part justice, but those that have done this sort of thing must understand what I'm trying to say. Keep with it.

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yes, bending is cool, but most of all, be progressive in your training, and prepare to suffer!

Even though I believe my wrists to be the weak link in my hands/forearms, I have been able to bend medium tough 60d nails. However, this has resulted in what I first believed to be soreness, and which in fact was injury. funny thing is it appeared two days after the actual bending. It seems my determination was stronger than my tendons. It took 3 weeks to heal, and I will probably not be bending for a while. So: be careful, and patient, and give your tendons time to recover and strengthen up. Do not forget (as I did) that people lihe Tom Black have been doing this for a pretty long time.

train hard (and smart)


(Edited by the swiss at 2:21 am on April 10, 2001)

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    Thanks Danjo.  Good job bending the 10" zinc spikes.  I've bent/broken those using the more difficult technique of bracing my right hand on my left leg and pushing down (the bar is off to the side, not over the thigh).  Actually, I've bent those 12"x3/8" spikes that way too, they must be about 3 times stronger than those bolts, but the bolts are good to get a "feel" of how to bend the tuff stuff.   The only reason I do the 1/2"x24" stock that way is because they are too long for the other technique.  I wish you guys could see the whole video, we are working on some conversion problems, and may fix next weekend.   There is at least 2 transcendental moments as Danjo describes.  At one point I let out a groan towards the end, it sounded like I was gonna die!  

    One thing really cool about the 24" bar is that it appears completely inflexible when straight.  As you may know, most 3 and 4 foot bars of 1/2 or even 5/8 have some give to them so people will pick them up and think they can bend them.       This is not true with the 24"x1/2" stock.  I even put one across the corner of a table and bounced my bodyweight on it.  The bar did not flex.

    the swiss is right on in his description of injuries.  I've tried to explain this in my logs, but unfortunately most people have to experience this themselves in order to really learn.  Hopefully, the injuries will be minor and you can move on.

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Guest Radiulis

I too have experienced the same exact injuries as described by the swiss. Only as of about a week have i been completely healed, and it has definetly prevented me from bending for a long time. I noticed the injury didn't carry over to my crushing strength but it did impair my sledgehammer lifts and pinch holds. So please use sense when bending and don't get overzealous. I know this applies to all training but I find it quite prevalent while bending tought steel.

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You guys are inspiring me to at least try the 20ds.

My wrists have always been very weak and small, and I just recently started training them. For example:

* I tried tearing a deck of cards, no go (got a decent dent, but no tear).

* My wrists often give in when doing curls with about 80lbs!

* I try to do wrist curls (palms up) with 95lbs, but really can't get more than 1-2 reps.

So I'm going to keep increasing those lifts before I try for a nail bend.

However, I have a question on technique: Tom, I saw your photos, but I'm finding it difficult to tell in which direction the force is applied.

In the big b&w photo of your hands holding the nail, your left hand is furthest from your body.

At that point, do you bend by twisting your palm about the axis of your forearm (such that the nail point approaches you), or do you pull sideways (such that the nail bends to the side)??

And to relate this to workouts: is the nail bend more related to the strength used in levering (ie; wrist from side to side), in wrist curls (ie; wrist up & down), or is it wrist rotation?


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    Sorry I took awhile with your question Avi, this is hard to explain.  First, let me stress that my technique is harder than some techniques (like bracing on the leg and pushing down) but not as hard as others (Palms down, bending down).  I recommend experimenting with different techniques.

    As you say, my left hand is farthest from my body.  I think I usually put the head of the nail in my left hand, but it doesn't matter.  I've changed my angles of approach from when that picture was taken and my left wrist is straighter now.  I don't "twist my palm about the axis of the forearm."  When I bend, I concentrate the force at the center of the nail, using the top of my right index finger as a fulcrum.  That part of my hand is really dense, much more so than on my other hand (although I have practiced with my right hand on top, left on bottom to balance my strength).  Once the initial force is applied I seem to move both hands the same distance in an arc, knuckles going towards each other.  Sometimes my left does not arc as much as my right hand, and I've even experimented with holding my left stable and rotating only my right. This is even harder to do because the bending force is all from the right side.  As the nail is bent and my hands are moving my elbows go from close to my body to forward and up a little.   This can be clearly seen in the first picture in my bend-a-thon.  Soon, the GripPage will have video's of my bending and this may help.

    I think leverage work most complements nail bending, but all grip work is beneficial to nail bending.  I big factor may be what your weaknesses are.  I think my weakness was originally my wrists, so wrist work helped me the most.  

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