Tiger Nails

Since I started fingerpicking guitar in 1969, I have been searching for a technology to replace metal finger picks and plastic thumb picks. Don't get me wrong, I used them for 25 years and they sounded great. However, they are very uncomfortable and have a tendency to migrate when your fingers sweat or if you pick very hard. And you cannot strum on the down stroke like with a pick but with your fingers (not the thumb). Reinforced fingernails I discovered are the key to the problem.

I started to realize that fingernails are not strong or durable enough to last very long. I tried press-on nails but they kept coming off. I then fashioned titanium nails to fit over my own that were glued on with 5 minute epoxy. They worked great but they came off after a few days or I had to pry them off if I didn't want to go out in public with silver nails on my right hand. Though this was more of a problem for my step-daughter.

I eventually found out that professional licensed nail technicians used better materials than the press-ons from the drug store. However, you have to be licensed to use these materials. So I decided to go to nail salon to have them done. This worked pretty fabulously for a year or so. I really can't recall if I was totally satisfied, but the cost was relatively expensive. So I elected to buy the materials myself. Since I couldn't buy the professional materials, I bought the best consumer stuff I could find. I was a prosthetist for 30 years (artificial limbs). I did significant independent research in plastic materials and composites. Testing and usage were primary focuses. My faculty advisors were biomaterials PhD's with specialty in bone cements for joint replacements. Acrylics are the materials used in both nails and joint replacements. However, this was only half the battle.

I tried brass molds that fit over the nail so they would almost be net-shape when the molds were removed. It took me hours to get the molds off because the waxes I used were not good enough. I them made plastic forms I made from polyethylene plastic cups. They did the job good enough but there was a huge learning curve. I thought I was good enough, but I wasn't. I had to continually had to redo them because of lifting (unbonding of the edges around the cuticle). There was a significant amount of grinding with a dremel that usually caused abrasion damage to the skin around my nails. In a bout of ambienesia I ground through my thumbnail into the nail bead at the base of my nail. It took it a 6-8 months to grow out. My wife had change nail salons shortly before that. That is when I found Arica.

This lady is licensed, she has access to the best materials and has the technique down pat.
I have had little or no problems. Almost no lifting, very little breakage, no problem with excessive wear and great performance playing guitar. It has completely transformed my playing ability. And for an average price of $20 every 3 weeks. Yes and I get some looks at the store, restaurants, the gym etc., but who cares I can play guitar like a bad mother shut your mouth!

As you can see in the picture I have my thumb done too. I still use a flat pick sometimes, but on a very limited basis. It's mostly for playing at high speed. I'm providing some video to show how it all works. 

                                                                                                   The Process 

Most of the time the artificial nails do not need to be replaced. They just need to be backfilled where they have grown out past the cuticle.



                       Ready for backfill                                        Finished New Nails with Nail Tips




                                                             Curved Overlap Nail Tips

 (The best procedure for adhesive bonding is to clean, then roughen the surface and remove debris from the surface. The nail surface should be wetted completely by the adhesive for the best bond.)