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Nail Bending and Variation of Metals

This week, I got my hands on an audio interview Dennis Rogers and Pat Povilaitis did a few years ago. Dennis and Pat were speaking with the host about feats of strength, which is a huge interest of mine.

Metal Variation

When they got to nail bending, Dennis and Pat discussed the surprising variation of 60D nails. Dennis pointed to a time when he bought an entire box of 60 penny nails and as he bent them one by one he found it hard to believe how much they were varying – all from the same box, bought at the very same time.

Dennis credited recycling as a major cause in this variation. Since many different types of steel from countless sources were being melted down to produce more, the result is individual nails inside a box that are all over the charts when it comes to their bending strength.

I thought this was a pretty interesting point, and one that I have never thought about before, but if you really think about it, recycling could be and should be considered when discussing variation of steel.

I have a few examples of steel variation that I have experienced over the years.

Nail Bending eBook Controversy

In my Nail Bending eBook, I lay out a huge progression list of different items to bend. This progression list includes nails of various lengths, all the IronMind nails (white, green, yellow, blue, red), graded bolts (cap screws), and Fat Bastard stock.

I based this Progression Model on my experience with how difficult each individual nail, bolt, or steel stock felt when I tried to bend it prior to writing the ebook.

There was one point that several readers have pushed back on, in particular the fact that I put the 70D nail as a more difficult piece than an IronMind red nail. I have had many people contend that placing the 70D as harder than the red was a mistake on my part.

However, the fact is that when I wrote my ebook on how to bend nails, I was murdering red nails and couldn’t even kink the only 70D I ever tried (up until that time). Therefore, I figured all 70D’s would be harder than all reds.

Could recycling be the main cause behind why the 70D I tried seemed so much harder than the 70D’s other benders have tried?

Red Nail Variation

Here’s another example of variation in bending stock.

If you’ve bent a few red nails over the last few years, it’s plain to tell that red nails vary as well. I bent reds cut to 6 inches back in 2006 and then in 2008 had trouble with the full length 7 inchers.

Proving that this just wasn’t me getting weaker with age, Eric Milfeld uses a reliable nail calibration set-up in which he can get a very accurate reading of how much weight it takes to bend a length off steel. He has calibrated many red nails throughout the years and the readings have varied.

Speaking of red nails, here’s when I bent my very first one back in August of 2004. You’ll see I started it with the reverse technique and finished double overhand. The wraps were towels and IM wraps, I believe…

Graded Bolt Variation

Eric Milfeld has even calibrated Grade 5 and Grade 8 bolts for me and gotten different results on separate occasions. All of them came from the same manufacturer, but they were bought about a year apart.

FBBC Stock Variation

Even Fat Bastard stock has varied over the years. Any time there has been a grip contest where Fat Bastard stock has been used there has been the question of where the difficulty of the stock would be on contest day.

But the fault isn’t John Beatty’s, the owner of Fat Bastard Barbell Company. He isn’t melting the steel mixture or drawing it into its round, square, or hex shape for the FBBC bending stock. He, as the distributor is at the mercy of these unknown X-factors just as much as the bender that buys his products – just like the blacksmith who molds the horse shoe or the Ferrier that attaches them to the Clydesdale.

Should You Be Worried?

The fact is steel varies. It’s a truth we have to live with as benders.

Is that something that we should worry about?

Should we lie awake at night wondering whether we’re getting steel that’s going to bend like a coat hanger or fight you back like an asthma attack?

The answer is no.

Instead we have to work to perfect our technique and get as strong as we possibly can so that when it comes time to take the platform and wrap your steel you are ready for whatever is thrown at you.

Hone your technique. Get as strong as possible.

All the best in your training.


P.S.  If you want to find out more about the Nail Bending eBook, you can check it out here ===> How to Bend Nails.

P.P.S. If you have noticed any steel variation in YOUR bending experience, or if you have a question, please post a comment below and I will be glad to respond! Thanks.


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9 Responses to “Nail Bending and Variation of Metals”

  1. Rick Walker Says:

    Another great article Jedd!!


  2. Chris Smith Says:

    Awesome post.

    I myself have noticed a big difference between stock. I have only been bending for about 4 months, and started out with the FBBC beginner’s bag. I worked my way up to the Grade 2 bolts in there and crushed them. Cut them down shorter and I still crush them like tin foil. When I started to run low, I went to the local hardware store to buy some more G2s. Same length and thickness, but I can just barely put a kink in them! Same thing with some 60D timber ties I picked up from Home Depot. A few of the different steel progressions I’ve seen or been given have the timber ties listed as around the same difficulty, sometimes easier, as the 6×1/4 G2 bolt. Yet the nails I have refuse to move!

    To say the least, the variation does take a big psychological toll. Occasionally I will try and hit those bolts or nails that I bought, but couldn’t do. Everytime I try them and they don’t move, it frustrates the hell out of me. Unfortunately, these moments can lead to doubt in yourself. Is something wrong with my technique? Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought I was? What if I am never able to bend these and I’m stuck at the same piece of stock forever? There were days where it took me a good deal of motivation to keep at it, especially since I’m a beginner. Those were the times where I needed to pick up the stock that I KNOW I can do, and crush it do dust, then sit back and look at the conquered piece of steel and say “I did that”.

  3. Jim Smith Says:

    Hey Rick, thanks man!

    Chris, you are seeing the same variation I have seen. There are many types of Grade 2 bolts. Each company that makes them, makes them a little different. So there is another factor of difficulty variation as well, let alone the ones that come from the same manufacturer.

    What I suggest is getting some of the harder ones and putting a pre-kink in them like I talk about in my ebook. Then finish it off naturally.

    As far as your technique, could you video tape yourself and send me the electronic video? I could then post it here and give you some suggestions.



  4. Chris Smith Says:

    Sure Jedd. Will do. As always I appreciate your help.

  5. John Merchant Says:

    Dude, just bend it!

  6. Cameron Bailey Says:

    I have had differences in 60D Lumber Ties i can usualy crush them with in seconds but some i could barely kink.

  7. john f Says:

    Just wondering, but how much force is required to bend a 60 penny nail into a u shape? Thank u for your time

  8. Primal Punch Says:

    I bought a bargain bag of Grade 5 bolts, and there were two different makes in the bag. 1/3 of the bag is made up of JH bolts, which are stiff and an awesome fight, and the rest of the bag is made up of NB bolts, which are about as hard as a reaaly hard piece of 7″ by 1/4″ steel square bar. The same bag, same sized bolts, but a difference of at least 50 pounds between them. Definite differences in steel having to do with carbon content, heat treating, impurities, and a laundry list of other factors. Great article, man.

  9. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Thanks my man. Please feel free to share it around.

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