How do I unbend a towel rack?
March 7, 2013 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a cylindrical towel rack that is bent. I need to unbend it. How can I do this without damaging it further?

My son was hanging on his towel rack (because we can't have nice things*) and not only pulled it off the wall, but bent it. Our weekend project is to fix it together. This will involve re-mounting it on the wall and also unbending the rack part.

The rack is a metal cylinder, basically a chrome pipe. It's about two feet long and is now bent about two inches along it's length. It appears to be a clean bend, maintaining its roundness, not a kink.

I need to unbend it but I don't want to damage it further in my attempt. The best I can think of is to clamp it down and just try to bend it by hand. Since I assume the metal is already weakened I'm afraid if I do this I will just bend it in half like a soda straw.

I also don't want to damage the chrome so hitting it with a hammer or heating it with a torch is probably a bad idea.

Ideas? Assume I have a large collection of normal tools but no special pipe-bending tools. I'd rather not go and buy or rent anything.

It's a pretty nice towel rack from Restoration Hardware or one of those places so I don't want to just replace it if I can fix it.

*I already gave him the big speech about what could have happened had he fallen back and hit his head on the toilet. I have become my mom and I hate myself for it.
posted by bondcliff to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you find a wooden dowel rod or some other cylinder that fits closely inside your towel rack? Maybe forcing it through, even with some tapping from a hammer or mallet, would mostly straighten things out without damaging the exterior.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not a real handyman, but my first idea is to get a wooden dowel that would fit inside almost perfectly and try to push it through the length of the cylindrical chrome pipe presumably straightening it as it is sent through.

Or what Pater Aletheias said.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:10 AM on March 7, 2013

Best answer: Fill the pipe with sand, and bend the towel rack back straight. The sand will insure that the pipe won't kink or collapse in the process of rebending.
posted by suedehead at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Filling it with sand is absolutely the way to go. You then want to bend it very slowly and gently while turning it. You can roll it back and forth on a smooth flat surface to make sure you've gotten the bend out completely.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:20 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, sand. Block both ends as the sand must be packed.
posted by anadem at 7:35 AM on March 7, 2013

Response by poster: Seeing as there is a foot of snow on the ground, would any fine powder do? Potting soil? Flour? Sugar?
posted by bondcliff at 7:38 AM on March 7, 2013

You can buy sand really cheap at a hardware store, if you can get out to one at all.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2013

Anything powdery like flour or potting soil will pack down further rather than provide the resistance necessary to retain the internal volume. Sugar crystals will easily crush under force.
posted by ardgedee at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2013

Home depot sell a 30" replacement chrome towel bar for cheap (4 bucks). I realize the diameter might be wrong, but it's worth looking into replacement rather than repair.
posted by yoink at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a follow-up project, might I suggest a pull-up bar somewhere on your property?
posted by disconnect at 10:30 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't bother with the sand in this case, though it's good when you're trying to introduce a curve rather than remove one. Sand will scratch the chrome, so it's best to not have it around if you don't need it.

I'd whittle a couple pieces of scrap wood down to size and tap them into the ends of the tube to keep them from deforming under pressure, and support the ends of the tube on two blocks of wood. Alternately , drill holes sideways through the wood blocks the same size as the OD of the tube, and then cut off the top of each block, right through the middle of each hole, to form little cradles for the tube to sit in. Orient the arch upward, and press down in moderate little jabs of pressure, adjusting the angle of force as necessary. You don't want to be committing a lot of weight to this, because the arch will want to slip in your hand, rotating around so that the thing you're leaning on drops suddenly, potentially throwing you off balance so you end up bending it the wrong way. Apply pressure in small, quick doses, almost like you're throwing gentle punches. As suggested above, periodically attempt to roll it across a table to check for straightness.
posted by jon1270 at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2013

Response by poster: Home depot sell a 30" replacement chrome towel bar for cheap

Yeah, part of this is a learning exercise for The Boy. Both "since you broke it, you're going to help repair it" and also an opportunity to learn that we can fix some things rather than replacing. If replacing is the only option, then of course he'll learn the lesson that time has value and sometimes it's not worth repairing something.

You can buy sand really cheap at a hardware store

Even though it's only $3.00, I really don't want to go buy a 50lb bag of sand. There has to be some other household powder that will work. I've got a few cartons of leftover grout I'm not using, maybe that will work. If the snow wasn't there I could grab a bucket of sand from the neighbor's sandbox.
posted by bondcliff at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Things that are used to bend pipe other than sand:



Ice (i.e. fill the pipe with water and freeze it)

Ice kind of seems like a slam dunk.
posted by pullayup at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2013

You should go to a gardening store, explain the situation, and I'm sure they'll let you take a cup of sand.

Or: go to a nearby playground, dig (underneath the snow) to the sand, get some wet sand. Spread the wet sand out on a baking sheet and bake for an hour at a medium-ish temperature to dry it out. Ta-da!
posted by suedehead at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2013

Response by poster: Re-bent and re-mounted.

Filled it with leftover grout powder, with a whittled-down cork plugging both ends, rolled and un-bent along a workbench. A couple new toggle bolts to re-mount the holders on the drywall and it's fixed. The Boy learned some stuff, I learned the sand trick, and the towels will happily dry.

And yes, I'll be moving the un-used pullup bar from my closet door to his.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by bondcliff at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2013

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