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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

Another Smashed Fingernail

Nov 15, 2009
 First off, this is not a recommendation or endorsement. It is merely a report of my personal experience with a common problem for those of us who work with tools and are incredibly clumsy.

Yesterday the fingernail on one of my fingers got between a fast-moving piece of metal and the side of a combine feederhouse frame. The fast-mover was a hammer. You can guess the result--lots of jumping around, lots of yelling and a few whimpers once I figured out that all the yelling was after-the-fact and not going to change the situation. Which was that my fingertip was rapidly turning purple beneath the fingernail. Being the stoic, manly-man that I am, I accepted the consequences of my clumsiness, finished the repairs, and ended the day with a throbbing finger. Smashed fingernails are common in my job, so I resigned myself to 24-to 36-hours of intense pain and a week or so of discomfort.

But this smashed fingernail was more intense than most I've experienced, and by 2 a.m. I was still unable to sleep. So I fired up the computer and checked the internet for information about an old carpenter's remedy for smashed fingernails. I've heard for years about guys drilling or melting holes in their fingernails to release the pressure and reduce the pain of a smashed fingernail. And there it was--precise instructions on how to use a heated paperclip to relieve the pressure. There were internet entries from doctors and emergency room nurses that said it was a commonplace, safe and effective "cure." Heck, there were even YouTube videos of guys using the procedure on themselves.

So at 2:30 this morning I was at the bathroom sink with an unfolded paperclip clamped in my mini-ViseGrips. The small butane torch I use to heat-shrink electrical connectors was burning blue and hot on the edge of the sink. The purple, throbbing fingernail had been sterilized with alcohol then wiped clean. In a burst of amazing courage I heated the tip of the paperclip glowing red and held it gently against the most purple part of the fingernail. There was a faint hissing sound, an odd burnt odor, and suddenly blood spurted from the tiny little hole. Once the bleeding stopped, I applied more antiseptic, installed a Bandaid, went back to bed and found blissful sleep. This morning the fingertip is sore, but no longer throbbing with each heartbeat and MUCH less painful than it was mere hours ago.

Again: this is not a recommendation or endorsement. I am a mechanic, not a doctor. A CLUMSY mechanic who will most certainly now carry a few paperclips in the medical kit he keeps in his toolbox.
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COMMENTS (5 Comments)

Years ago I had the same problem and went to a doctor. He got out an ash tray and some rubbing alcohol and a paper clip. He poured the alcoho into te ash tray and set it on fire. He then proceeded to heat the paper clip (not red hot) and perfored the operation. The blood spurted over his hand and onto my arm about the elbow. Ah! Instant relief.
5:04 PM Dec 18th
I use that smallest drill bit in the set that will never be used for anything else anyway. Just twirl it with finger tips of the uninjured hand and presto--pressure all gone.
7:41 PM Nov 17th
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