|We guitarists have always
been plagued by the eventuality of
breaking a finger nail just prior to (or even during)
a recital. During the past few years, as you
undoubtedly know, srtificie1 replacement
nails have appeared on the market. These nails
have been a godsend, but they do have
certain drawbacks. One drawback is the relatively
high price we pay monetarily for the insurance of
an artificial nail kit. I have one other problem
with preformed artificial nails, a problem
that many others share, end thats that the
thumb nail replacement is a fraction of an inch
too email. Ive devised ways of getting
around this at times of crisis, when an
immediate fix is required, but life on
the edge is not exactly my cup of tea.
I knew there had to be a better way to fix a
broken nail, if I could only figure it out.
One day, as I was leaving my
apartment, I took a large chunk out of the
businessedge of my thumb nail by an
inadvertent combined action of doorknob,
doorframe, and key chain. Well, I sat on my
steps, cursed my misery and pondered the meaning
of life. I even contemplated sawing off the rest
of my nails and taking up the kazoo. I then
steeled myself to my fate, deciding to dedicate
the mangled thumb to researching a more viable
alternative to undersized scraps of plastic and
crazy glue. My tearfilled eyes came to rest
on a neighbors Corvette. Always a source of
anguish in me for my not having gone into a more
profitable line of work, it was now transformed
into an object of joyous revelation an
answer to my silent prayers. There it was
a fiberglass sports car. I knew that the same
principles that keep the Corvette from flying
apart at 100 plus milesperhour would
withstand six nylon strings.
I did a bit of research and found
that, at least in automotive applications, the
fiberglass is made solid by being thoroughly
saturated with epoxy resin. I tried overlaying
strips of gauze soaked in epoxy over my nail.
This failed, for as soon as I filed the nail,
gauze fibers were exposed along the edge of the
nail, making the nail sound a bit nasty in use. I
then rationalized (by necessity) that plain epoxy
would do the job. Now I had the prob1erm of
keeping the liquid epoxy on the nail while it
solidified (approximately 5 minutes).
After much trial and almost as much error, I came
up with the following procedure.
1) Prepare a mold from a
piece of plastic snipped from clear display
packaging. (Bic disposable lighters come packaged
on cardboard with a. formfit plastic panel
glued over. This plastic panel is perfect since
it already has the proper curvature to fit under
the nail.) See the diagram for euggeetec3 shape
2.)Apply a thin coat of paste wax
to the top of the mold to prevent the epoxy from
adhering to it. I recommend Butchers Wax as
this is the brand I use end find effective. Any wax
high in Carnauba should work.
3.)Since epoxy works by filling
irregularities in a surface rather than
penetrating it, I use a piece of 600 grit
sandpaper to scuff the surface of the finger
nail. It may or may not help, but I do this at
4.)Mix the epoxy on a email piece
of cardboard with a toothpick. Equal parts of
epoxy and hardener should be used, as indicated
in the manufacturers instructions. I would
use only DEVCON 5 MINUTE EPOXY. This
product works consistently well.
5.)Place the mold under the
remaining portion of the fingernail, pp indicated
in the diagram. If the mold is a good, snug fit,
it should remain in piece without your having to
6.)Spread the mixed epoxy over
the entire surface of the nail, from the cuticle
out on to the mold, and from side to side. Make
sure the epoxy fills up all the areas where the
nail is missing.
7.)Wait the entire five minutes
before you attempt to remove the mold. I
dont suggest any filing or shaping of the
finished nail until an hour has elapsed since the
epoxy was applied.
8.)File the epoxy nail as you
would the natural nail.
This method of reconstructing the
nail is obviously a more time consuming process
than attaching a preformed nail. It is,
though, a stronger, more natural-feeling nail.
One never need worry about removing it as it will
grow out with the natural nail.
Obviously, one should keep a
commercial replacement nail kit in ones
guitar case in case of breakage just prior to
performance. If one has the time and would like a
more permanent and durable (and cheaper)
solution, I would recommend trying this method.
See accompanying diagram
of damaged nail and plastic mold.
Magazine Winter 1984