The methods to straighten a bent airbrush needle are:
- Use household items to roll and ‘massage’ the needle back into shape;
- Use a specially made tool for the job;
- Test to see if replacement is the only option;
However before we dive into the nuts and bolts of fixing the needle and getting it back into proper working order, a word of warning…
WARNING: Don’t Damage Your Expensive Airbrush Nozzle Removing The Needle
Airbrushes are finely and delicately engineered pieces of equipment, the tiny nozzle at the tip of your airbrush is no exception.
And not only is the nozzle a precision part of your airbrush it’s also often reasonably expensive to replace, usually much more so than replacing the needle.
So if and when you bend the tip of your airbrush needle, DO NOT use force to pull or yank it through the nozzle as this can easily damage the nozzle and greatly compound your problems… i.e. it’s basically just burning money to get replacement parts unnecessarily.
Being a delicate as it is, it’s not unheard of for the nozzle to be pushed out of shape itself, or even split, when a bent needle is force through it in either direction.
Try using your fingernail first to straighten the airbrush needle tip as best you can, or perhaps use some tweezers or a small pair of pliers being VERY careful not to be too rough and damage the tip further.
Once you have it reasonably straight pull the needle out of the airbrush.
If it still won’t come out, keep working on the tip until it is straight enough (have some patience here… 😬), and gently pull the needle out.
What If The Bent Airbrush Needle Won’t Come Out?
Now… what if it just won’t come out and you’re afraid of damaging your expensive airbrush nozzle?
…sadly, it’s time to get some side-cutters and cut the very tip off so that you can get it out of the airbrush and put a brand new replacement in.
But… anecdotally that’s not commonly the case, so let’s assume you’ll expertly get the needle out with no problems at all and are ready to work on the tip to get it back into a fully operational position!
So, first things first, let’s look at what tools we’ll need for the job…
Tools Needed To Straighten An Airbrush Needle
Essentially what is needed is two hard surfaces to sit the needle in between (we’ll go over all of the fine points of exactly what to do in just a moment).
Two small pieces of wood is a good choice, being very hard but also with just a little give that may be beneficial in terms of not accidentally damaging the needle further.
Or, one piece of wood and something like flat glass.
I’ve heard of people using two coins to do the job, they are very hard after all, but personally I would never do this myself given that coins aren’t always perfectly flat and may make the task much more challenging, or at worst, damage the needle further.
Whatever you use, make sure it’s disposable given it might get some scratching in it, despite being gentle with the needle.
Ok, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty…
Methods Of Straightening An Airbrush Needle
Method 1: Pull and/or Roll The Needle Tip Between Two Hard Surfaces
STEP 1: here’s the initial process of straightening the airbrush needle, let’s say you have two small pieces of wood:
- Place the needle at an angle down onto the first piece of wood with the bent tip just sticking over the edge;
- Place the corner “gently” down on top of the needle so that it’s trapped between the two pieces of wood;
- Slowly and gently pull the needle out from between the two pieces of wood. You will feel it catch a little as the bent part pulls through the gap, and each time it will straighten the tip a little more.
- Repeat Step 3 as many times as it takes to get the needle as straight as possible. Each time you pull the needle through turn the needle a little to ensure you get it as straight and true as possible.
(NOTE: if your needle tip isn’t super bent you can potentially skip this step and go straight onto the next step below)
STEP 2: How to visually test if the needle tip is properly straight:
- Place the needle down flat on a dark surface, the dark surface will give a good contrast with the silver needle and allow you to more accurately inspect it;
- Slowly roll the needle and observe the needle tip;
- If the tip doesn’t move and stays perfectly in line with the main body of the needle then you have straightened is successfully;
- If you can see the tip is rotating a little off-centre, then it requires more work to straighten it;
STEP 3: How To Fine Tune The Needle Straightening Process:
- Get your piece of wood, or even a sturdy piece of cardboard, and rest the needle on it at an angle – you want the tapered end of the needle to be flush with the surface you’re resting it on;
- Apply gentle pressure to the tip of the needle by placing your finger on the tip and gently pressing down;
- Slowly and gently pull the needle backwards along the surface, while A) keeping gentle finger pressure on the tip, and B) rotating the needle as you move it backwards;
- Do this a few times and repeat Step 2 of checking the needle to see if it’s properly straight or not;
- If it’s not yet straight, repeat the process until you’ve got it perfect 👍
This entire process detailed above works surprisingly well and is very common practise for airbrush users who find themselves with a bent airbrush needle.
However, there is actually a tool developed to help make this process a lot easier…
Method 2: Purpose-Built Needle Straightening Tool
There’s a purpose designed and built tool called a SharpenAir which is specifically for straightening bent airbrush needles.
It works extremely well although retails for around USD $50+, so you’ll have to weigh up the option of buying this tool which might only get a little use (maybe only a single use), and buying replacement needles which you’ll likely get quite a few of for your $50 (unless they’re especially small high end airbrush needles which cost a lot).
SharpenAir Airbrush Needle Sharpener
Rather than give you a wall-o-text explaining how it works, check out the very short video below to see it in action…
How To Polish The Straightened Airbrush Needle
So your needle is now straight, or at least as straight as it’s going to get using the techniques available to us.
During the process of being damaged and straightened an airbrush needle can have microscopic damage and abrasion and a dulled tip, and may benefit from being polished to get it sufficiently smooth and ‘pointy’ for best airbrushing results.
It’s worth giving your airbrush a test spray prior to this step as you may find that the quality of the spray pattern and paintwork is totally fine, making this step somewhat pointless.
IMPORTANT: airbrush needles tips are made with a specific taper on them, so playing around with polishing and possibly altering this taper could lead to unintended results and less than satisfactory airbrushing results – so do this with caution. I WOULD RECOMMEND AVOIDING THIS STEP UNLESS YOU REALLY FEEL IT’S WARRANTED.
Now… if you really need to polish the tip of your needle here are the most common methods of polishing an airbrush needle:
- Drag it over fine grit sandpaper: start with 1000 to 2000 grit sandpaper and gently drag the needle backwards along the sandpaper while continuously rolling it. Do your best to keep the taper consistent as changing the taper significantly will alter how the paint flows out of the airbrush nozzle (this is relevant for all methods). Continue this process gently until you have a reasonable point to the tip of your needle. It does not necessarily have to be extremely sharp/pointy, as some high-end needles will actually be pointy yet minutely rounded on the end to give best spray results for that particular airbrush.
- Drill and fine grit sandpaper: This seems like overkill but is relatively common and people do get good results, however I’m not personally comfortable doing it due to the possible lack of finesse of control and ease of bending the middle of needle. You take the needle and secure it in a power drill. The get 1000 to 2000 grit wet and dry sandpaper and put it flat on your work bench with a little water on it. Place the tip of the needle on the wet sandpaper at an angle and start the drill while applying very gentle pressure to the end of the needle with your finger. Move the needle in backwards motions as it spins. Test for a decent point and smoothness of the tip of the needle constantly so that you don’t overdo the polishing. You can also put some fine polishing compound on the sandpaper and repeat the process to get a better and quicker polish, just make sure the sandpaper remains wet for best results.
- Buff with a Dremel or similar tool: Install a buffing tip on your Dremel or similar rotary tool. Start the Dremel and gently rest the tip of the needle on the buffing tip spins in a direction that polishes from the back of the needle towards the front. Note that this may not give you a very sharp tip but will certainly make the needle smoother.
Is A Straightened Airbrush Needle As Good As A New Needle?
A straightened airbrush needle will never be quite as good as a brand new needle, however you may not realistically be able to tell much of a difference between the final paintwork either way.
As mentioned, airbrushes and their components are designed with precision, and this includes the tip of the airbrush needle.
It may not have a straight taper to a point, but rather an almost imperceptible gradual compound taper that goes to a finely rounded tip that almost feels like a true sharp point.
This is not done randomly, and the taper is designed to work perfectly in concert with the airbrush nozzle and associated components to give the perfect spray pattern and quality.
So having damaged or worn the tip in any way will take away from this specially designed taper and shape, and as such it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll get the exact same perfect results as an undamaged needle.
Having said this, is close enough good enough…?
In most cases yes.
If you’ve taken your time and been patient in getting the tip straightened (and perhaps polished) then you’ll still likely get excellent results, possibly to the degree that you can’t realistically tell the difference between spray quality compared to before the needle was bent.
And the final method…
Method 3: Testing A Straightened Airbrush Needle To See If It Works Or Needs Replacing
This is not a method of fixing a bent needle as such, but rather a test to make sure your efforts are good enough to continue using the same needle.
You’ve removed the bent needle from your airbrush, or perhaps it was already removed…
You’ve used any number of the methods above to straighten the tip out and possibly given it a polish…
…now it’s time to test out the needle with some airbrushing work.
Before you dive right in make sure the needle and airbrush is fully cleaned so that you don’t have any other contaminants or additional reasons that the airbrush might not spray perfectly.
Then ensure that you’ve properly thinned the paint using the same thinning method and ratio you normally would – you want everything to be as predictable as possible when testing the needle so you can easily understand any potential problems.
Grab something flat and non-porous (plastic Coke bottle) to do a test spray on and simply try it out.
It’s a good idea to test it out fully by doing some large spray areas first, then dial the pressure right back (and perhaps thin your paint some more) and test out some fine detail and fine lines.
If it the result is acceptable to you then that’s it, job done!
But… after all of the straightening effort you’ve gone to if it still isn’t spray correctly then the needle may just be a lost cause.
If this is the case then all you have left to you is to order a new one.
But that’s certainly not the end of the world, it’s not as it we’re loath to buy more modeling equipment, it just means that while we’re shopping for replacement airbrush parts we can also buy other modeling supplies while we’re doing so…
…like paint you’re getting low on.
And paint you’re not getting low on but you kinda like the colour and might use it one day on something…
And that small scale affordable kit you’ve been considering for some time while you’re at it…
Oh, and they’ve finally got a couple of mid-range priced kits that you’ve been chasing for a while… you just can’t pass those up…
…OH! And there’s a high-end multimedia kit that’s pretty rare, it’s JUST come in and it’s a steal at $350… quick get it before someone else beats you to it!!
See how much fun airbrush needle shopping is… 😜😎