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If you want to master somebody, you know, lock in on the one that has the most CDs. Because that'll give you the most material. And bury yourself in it. But don't expect to play with anybody who wants to hear you play Blind Blake, 500 tunes. I don't even wanna listen to a whole Blind Blake tape half the time... - Jerry Ricks, Port Townsend 97

Author Topic: Nails in a post-acrylic world?  (Read 498 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« on: March 22, 2020, 02:27:39 PM »
Hello folks. I just realized that besides being out of gigs and students over this virus crisis, I also will not be able to get my nails done. (The nail salons are closed.) I suppose I could order acrylic stuff and learn to do it myself, left-handed. But since I won't be performing for awhile anyway this probably a good time to get rid of the acrylics for awhile anyway.
So -- suggestions for how to get a good sound without them? I have been using them for probably 25 years. I know about fingerpicks, never was good at using them, but could try again -- what kind you recommend? Any tips on using them?
What about just playing with natural (or cut way down) nails? Tips on getting a good sound (and not breaking nails) that way? Although I guess if I break a nail now it's not such a problem since I won't have a gig coming up!
Other ideas? Thanks! Chezz

Offline Stuart

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Re: Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2020, 03:44:38 PM »

The obvious answer is that it depends on your fingers and your nails and the sound you're trying to get. As for me, I found that there's a sweet spot when using bare fingers and nails, "the Goldilocks zone," so to speak. I suggest keeping them long enough so that they hit the string and make it ring when you want, but not so long that they're going to catch and break, especially if you're snapping the strings. Try using a sanding sponge in addition to a nail file or emery board. The hardware and big box stores carry them.

A zillion years ago a couple of people I knew would put gelatin in what they drank to help strengthen their nails, but it appears to have been a myth that has been debunked.

Offline daddystovepipe

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Re: Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2020, 03:55:28 PM »
Whenever I break a nail I switch to "Pro Pik Fingertone" fingerpicks.  They have an opening so that you touch the strings with a mix of flesh and steel pick. You also have better contact/feel with the strings than with e.g National fingerpicks.  For me it's the closest thing to playing with nails.
Rob McKillop, a Scottisch guitarist specialised in anything between classical and jazz, prefers to play "nailless".  It can be done.  Check out his website on this topic

Offline Stuart

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Re: Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2020, 04:09:28 PM »
I've played nail-less, but not by choice. Auto repair, carpentry and woodworking made the decision for me.  :P

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2020, 02:49:33 AM »
I feel very fortunate that my nails seem to last out for the most part. I tried fingerpicks but didn't fancy spending many weeks of trying to master the art. My fingers just slid all over the strings. Over the years, I've been fortunate not to break nails often - even when gardening without gloves. I try to remember to wear gloves now. The nail on my second finger (I pick with two fingers only) has occasionally split, but I manage to salvage enough nail to keep playing. The weird thing is that even after it has grown out, it might split in the same spot some years later. I like to feel the strings when I play, so nails suit me in that respect. It still astounds me that my fingers know which strings to hit (I also touch-type, couldn't tell you the layout of a QWERTY keyboard, but my fingers know where the keys are - say a word and I type it automatically).
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Nails in a post-acrylic world?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2020, 02:15:08 AM »
Hey Chezz,

Iíve been using a product called Bondic, which is a UV resin. I knew my dentist had used a UV resin for some fillings and then saw a youtube ad about the product as having been developed by dentists. I also have seen Davie McPhail, a flytyer, use UV resin for coating certain types of trout flies. There are myriad commercial and craft uses, and various suppliers.

Bondic comes in a little metal case that contains a small black tube with a metal tip that emits a very thin bead of the slightly thick resin, about the consistency of syrup. You can spread it about with the tip for a thin layer and the surface tension tends to smooth out the bumps. The resin stays at this consistency, doesnít stiffen up, until you shine the (also supplied) small UV light on it for a few seconds. Then it hardens almost instantly and is very tough, more flexible that acrylic, actually, but easily sanded.

It took me a few attempts to get my technique down, but now Iím pretty happy with how it works and how it lasts. I do 4 fingers, 2 for picking and 2 for tapping the top. Itís also nice to have all four fingers look the same. Starting from a clean nail, I sand the nail some with a medium grit emory board and then wipe with alcohol. I wipe with alcohol before every application and I think this really helps it grip the nail. Then I draw a small bead that forms a U, starting slightly inside the skin roll halfway down one side, down around the tip and and halfway up the other side. Draw the bead just a mm away from the skin and the bead will flatten and spread out. Then I will fill in the U and feather up the nail. This layer should be pretty thin, and the reason is because it gives off heat when it hardens, just for a couple seconds. Itís not really painful, but a surprise the first time. (This is not a recommended usage) Once you have a thin layer on it seems to insulate and there is no heat sensation with subsequent layers. after hardening with the light I again wipe with acohol as there is a bit of waxy residue on the surface. Then I sand with a medium grit, wipe with alcohol and apply another layer, same pattern, starting with the bead around the edge, this time going ĺ up the nail, and then repeat the process going all the way up, but not quite to the quick. after the last layer, wipe with alcohol sand smooth, form the point to your needs and buff with fine grit. I find that you can discourage separation at the tip if you sand under the tip so that the edge is entirely resin and the actual nail starts back a mm or so, underneath.

You can use the surface tension to form the nail. When applying I keep the nail as flat horizontal as I can while applying the resin. When the layer has been applied I turn the nail upside down so that the ďsyrupĒ will thicken slightly along the center line of the nail, then I tip the point down slightly to move the thickness a little toward the point. Just talking about a second or two, before turning on the light to harden it up. Took me a few attempts to develop that technique, but using the surface tension that way helps get it pretty smooth. One nice thing, if you happen to let it run too long and you get a blob of resin against the skin, is that it does not stick well to skin at all and the blob is easily sanded. I find that I can let them grow about a third of the way down, with regular sanding, and then apply another layer to cover the whole nail and maybe a little touch up here or there before the final layer. I do them about every two weeks but I do 2 nails each week.

As I said, I think the UV resin is a little tougher, more flexible, than the acrylic. With acrylics if I stressed a nail when it was a little long it would often crack straight across right where the nail bends around the finger tip, even though the nail wouldnít break. The UV resin hasnít done this yet. Until I started wiping with alcohol at each step I felt that the resin was separating too easily at the edges, and could easily lift the whole resin piece off because of itís toughness. Using the alcohol I get much better adhesion. If you do see a small area that seems to be separating, usually along the side edges, you can sand it down to where there is no separation and then fill in and harden.

I canít remember what the cost was. I googled and found itís now about $20. I did a buy 2 get 1 free intro offer about 6 months ago and have gone through about one and a half tubes, but that includes repairing several mugs, a part on a food processor, etc. Iím sure I can get 5-6 applications and probably far more touch ups. If you google UV resin you can probably find many more suppliers with various systems. You can watch a Bondic Youtube, too.

This really works for me. Iíve been a crafts person/carpenter most of my life, so working with resins, small tools, etc, comes easy for me. I like being able to fix my nail immediately myself if I have a problem, so I will probably stay with Bondic after the salons reopen.

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