If you are a new jammer you may have wondered why so many advanced players all tend to wear some sort of extension or fake fingernail while playing. This article will explore the reasons for wearing fake nails in the first place, the materials that can be used, and how to make/apply them properly. Hopefully, by the end of all this babbling, you will be able to make a reasonably informed decision as to whether using fake nails is right for you as a jammer.
“A fake nail will be much more durable than your natural nail.”
Why Fake Nails?
If you’ve seen jammers wearing fake nails, you may have asked yourself why anyone would glue such hideous chunks of plastic to the ends of their nails. Well, this is for a few reasons. The first is durability. As the “nail delay” is on the fingernail, your own natural nails will take a beating from the abuse that jamming can cause. A fake nail will typically be much more durable and have less friction than your natural nails. Wearing fake nails will reduce the risk of chipped, bent, or torn nails. The latter can be most painful if it occurs below the fingertip and will take weeks to properly heal.
Another reason to wear fake nails is to reduce gouging. A natural nail is thinner than most fake nails and tends to self-sharpen during play. It becomes a small gouge that will rip chunks out of a disc while tipping, pulling, or even just delaying. This self-sharpening of natural nails requires more maintenance: not only day-to-day, but throughout the course of a normal jam day. Fake nails, especially acrylic, need little to no edge attention and won’t sharpen during play.
“They will give you more extension and better penetration.”
Fake nails will give you extension beyond what a natural nail can. Depending on genetics and the amount of calcium in your diet, a natural nail gets pretty flimsy once it’s about 3/16” past your fingertip. A fake nail gives you extension beyond what a natural nail can before it starts to bend or tear (ouch!). The extension of the nail gives the wearer a couple advantages: it keeps the disc a little higher off your forearm/body while delaying and allows better penetration into the rim for rimming, sets, and pulls.
Fake nails, as mentioned above, have less friction than naturals—especially acrylic. This gives you the obvious advantage of a disc that spins faster and longer.
“You don’t wear a claw-hammer on your belt when you go dancing, do you?”
Another reason for wearing fake nails (which is a matter of personal preference) is that you can take them off at the end of the day. Although there are plenty of jammers who keep nails on 24/7, it’s not for everyone. Fake nails are necessary tools for jamming, just as a claw hammer is for effective carpentry. But you don’t want to wear your hammer on your belt when you’re out for a night of dinner and dancing with your sweetie, do you?
What are fake nails made of, and how do I get them?
There have been many types of materials and apparatus used over the years from thimbles to guitar finger picks, and from Lee Press-On nails to dental acrylic—even small seashells. Finding a product or material that you prefer can be a matter of availability and personal preference. Acrylic is perhaps the most effective material being used today, but they aren’t always easy to come by. The same goes for Swedish plastic. Still today, one of the most convenient and effective materials is the protective outer tube from Krazy Glue. Not only is this a relatively fast plastic, but it is also included in the purchase of a tube of Krazy Glue. Don’t be shy about trying new stuff to stick on the end of your nails—you could discover the next best thing to happen to freestyle since judging!
“Don’t be shy about sticking stuff to the end of your nails.”
As mentioned above, you can cut nails from the outer tube of Krazy Glue. It is soft and easy to shape, but this is also a disadvantage as it wears down over time. It also has a natural curve to it already that helps fit the curve of your finger.
Acrylic nails are not only hard and fast, but for the fashion-conscious they can come in virtually any color you desire. But getting them is a little tricky. Some are made of dental acrylic such as Yar-nails and others come from nail salons. If you know someone who is a dental technician, they can make you an exact fit. Otherwise, you will have to rely on fine- tuning the fit after they have been made. The advantage of getting acrylic nails from a salon is that they will fit perfectly to your existing nails. Some players have them made in a natural color and leave them on until they break off or grow out. Salons nails will cost more, but are quite effective.
“Hobby plastic is pretty cheap, but you’ll have to go to Europe for the Swedish Stuff”
Hobby plastic is plastic that can be purchased at most hobby/craft stores. It is basically the same material (a dense polystyrene) that plastic models are made of and can be bought in sheets of various thicknesses from .005” up to .080”. The most common thickness for fake nails is .050” (50 gauge). Hobby plastic is also quite affordable and, if a couple jammers go in on buying a package, the cost goes down even more. It does require some special handling to get a curve to fit your own nails: This technique will be covered later in this article.
As for Swedish plastic, go to more tournaments in Europe and make lots of friends—especially with the Swedish players. See if they can hook you up.
Now I’ve picked a material, how do I get them to stick?
The two most common methods of adhesion of fake nails are Krazy Glue (or other cyanoacrylates) and contact cement. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. Krazy Glue adheres fast, is strong, and applies in a very thin layer. For some, nails applied with Krazy Glue have a more “intimate” connection with their natural nail and feel more like a part of their body. It also comes in a very compact container so it’s easy to tote around and can be used in emergencies like when you knock over that family heirloom vase while jamming at Grandma’s house. But these adhesives have drawbacks such as: instantly gluing your fingers or other body parts to each other, the fumes will burn your eyes and nose, nails can be exceptionally difficult to remove—sometimes taking a layer of natural nail with it, and nails can just POP OFF without warning.
“Crazy Glue has a more ‘intimate’ connection”
Contact cement is much less aggressive than Krazy Glue. It is easier to remove the fake nails and won’t take a layer of nail or skin with it. The fumes are nowhere near as nasty either. And if a nail is starting to lose adhesion, you can typically tell in advance and fix the problem. But re-application will take you out of the jam for as long as 20 minutes while the glue dries. You also need to count on that 15-20 minute dry time when the nails are first applied before jamming. Contact cement is a much messier process. Even in tubes, contact cement takes up a lot of space in your nail kit and has less of a MacGiver factor than Krazy Glue. And for some, there is a sort of “mushy” feel to the nail that feels like the nail could pop off any minute, thus losing that “intimacy” gained with Krazy Glue.
The next installment of this article will be on the making, applying and maintenance of your own fake nails.