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Feb 27, 2020 - 10:07:22 AM
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86 posts since 4/13/2015

I’m lucky in that I have thick, tough and fast growing nails. Still, I play so much that my right middle finger nail sometimes becomes worn thin—or even breaks, or splits and must be cut short. Now, I can still play with a nail that is short, but some of the crispness is missing. This happened recently—a few days before I was due to to a children’s concert at an elementary school, so I decided to try an acrylic nail.
I went to one place, and she said $10 (after I was finally able to make her understand I just wanted ONE.) That seemed steep, so I went to another place, and they quoted me $4.00. Plus they could get me right in.
The first thing that surprised me was that the acrylic nail wasn’t glued on over the whole nail, but just the last 16th or so of an inch.
Once that was done, she built it up with quick-drying layers of clear filler of some sort. Then it was filed and sanded and trimmed to the length and shape I wanted. When she was done, I couldn’t even tell the look from my natural nail.
She said as my natural nail grows out, to just keep trimming it, and soon the acrylic nail would be gone entirely.
I don’t anticipate having to do this all of the time, but it’s nice to have a back-up plan in a pinch. The nail plays and looks completely natural, and for $4.00 seems like a good deal.


Feb 27, 2020 - 12:42:27 PM
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710 posts since 11/25/2006

I've had acrylic nails put on for years and never had a problem. Just don't use clippers - use files. There's always the advantage of cute Vietnamese women doing the work.


Feb 27, 2020 - 3:40:34 PM
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113 posts since 1/23/2007

I've been doing it for several years. Costs $5 and I tip her $5. While she's waiting for it to dry, she does a quick manicure on all my nails.

You can also let your nail grow out a bit and have them put just the filler on without a tip. Looks even more realistic but doesn't seem to last as long.

As mentioned above, don't try and trim it, file it. The first thing I do when I get home is shape it the way I like with one of those big emery boards that she gives me.

Feb 27, 2020 - 7:23:20 PM
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249 posts since 10/16/2011

Most of 14 years i have had the acrilic nails done on my two playing fingers .I love the idea the banjo picks are on my fingers for like 3 months straight permantally and just pick up a banjo at any time and play . First off this never affected my nail health or any of that stuff and have done both having acrilic nails and some times not and just using a kelly fredom pick . My prefrence is for no finger picks and just acrilic ones . Not to say i haven't had a couple total nighmare situations where the salon folks kind of wrecked my nails and once right before Cliff Top and that's where plan B kelly fredom picks saved me . These acrilic nails are a powdery substance mixed with a liquid and brushed on . I have them put mine on double thick so no chipping problem from being to thin. You have to file down as nails grow . I wait till they grow out almost to last third of my nail and don't get them filled in (optional ) . Heres a pic of them grown out around have way . I marked out with pencil where acrilic nail ends . You will become famous around the nail salon by the way as the music playing guy .

Mar 5, 2020 - 8:15:21 AM



130 posts since 2/18/2005

Man, was I glad to discover this thread!
I've been playing 3-finger banjo and finger-style guitar for decades - since the 1960s, in fact. I've always had the ideal fingernails for this, tough, smooth, long-growing, and quick to grow out again if they got broken, which wasn't very often.
But recently (I'm now over 70) I'e been having problems, especially with my right middle-finger nail. Just when it is about to reach optimum playing length for the zither-banjo, it gets a notch in the tip, which means I have to file it back until it's really too short for decent sound production. And the middle finger is the one that carries the melody in classic style!
I'd been thinking about going to a nail studio for advice, but by chance I had an appointment with a dermatologist for other reasons. I just asked him if dermatology also covered finger nails, and when I told him why I asked, he gave me a small bottle of medicinal nail-varnish. To be applied at bed-time and washed off in the morning.
Now, a couple of weeks later, I've reached playing length again, nd there's no sign of splitting yet. So this may be the cure.
If not, at least I have your positive recommendation for the nail studio as a fall-back!

Mar 5, 2020 - 9:24:32 AM

86 posts since 4/13/2015


That’s EXACTLY the same experience I have. I can always tell when the nail is wearing thin by the appearance of a V in it.
FWIW, I have needed to file my acrylic nail down every few days due to growth of my natural nail. I am almost back to my natural nail. As far as I can tell, there appears to be no ill-effect on the natural nail. As I say, I won’t need to do this all of the time, but it’s nice to know it’s available.

PS: the concert at the elementary school went swimmingly. Partial song list below. Just one word of advice: save the “movement” songs (Hokey Pokey, Head and Shoulders, etc.) for last, as it’s impossible to get them settled down afterward.

Kids songs
All God’s Critters
Row your boat
Gettin’ in the Cows
Skip to my Lou
Happy Adoption Day
Hokey Pokey
Marvelous Toy
I Have a Little Rooster
Buffalo Gals
Grandma’s Feather Bed
Kindergarten Wall
Ratlin Bog
Waltzing with Bears
When I First Came to this Land
Apples and Bananas
Polly Wolly Doodle
Do re mi
Head and Shoulders

With Regard,


Mar 5, 2020 - 9:37:43 AM
Players Union Member

Lew H


2483 posts since 3/10/2008

I really like the acrylic nails from my local salon. However, I have two problems. One is that I work on my chainsaw, lawnmower, and tractor. This discolors the nails and causes them (and the filler) to come loose at the edges of the cuticle. I can brush a bit of nail glue under them a time or two, but they still come lose. Second, the manicurist grinds my nails rough before putting the nails on. Since my nails have thinned in my later years, this means that when the fake nails come off, my real nails are extra thin. They will chip and break for several months until the new growth get out to the tip. So I've given up on them. I just use some glue with filler in it to coat my nails before I go on a picking spree.

Mar 5, 2020 - 11:28:03 AM

258 posts since 2/15/2015

Before acrylic nails I recall a Chet Atkins article where he detailed his application of cut up pingpong balls and superglue!

Mar 6, 2020 - 7:14:59 AM
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3875 posts since 5/12/2010

I used to do this, but like Lew says if you do any work outside a long nail whether real or plastic can be a problem.

Having your finger nail get ripped off while pitching fire wood is as good an example as any.

I just learned to play with a short nail and a steeper angle of attack.

However, when I did go to the nail place I would go with my wife. She is missing part of the middle finger on one hand, so we talked the girl at the nail solon into a deal.

Brushing liquid CA (Super glue) onto your finger nail will help protect it from wear. I do that when I expect to play a lot such as when I go to a festival.

Mar 6, 2020 - 10:04:34 AM
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72 posts since 11/2/2009

You guys might also want to check out “dip powder’ nails. I use finger picks on banjo, but dip powder nails solved my life long problem of weak nails for playing steel string guitar. I don’t let them get only enough for banjo so I don’t know how they would work out.
First a liquid layer of something, then dip the finger in a powder, repeat, then a “fixer” on top. They completely feel and look like your own nails, instead of like gorilla fingers.

Mar 7, 2020 - 7:31:55 PM
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104 posts since 9/3/2018

Yes, dip nails! This is the solution that has worked for me. I have been using this system continuously for a year and a half. I am a woman, and yet for some reason I abhor nail salons. I like to do it myself. I can imagine that a lot of you might concur.

I ordered Kiara Sky on amazon after watching this video. In it the woman uses a teabag (yes!) to extend her nail tip. I've been doing the same, or if my nail is long enough, just the dip nails on top for strength. 

It looks just like your own nail. As it grows out you can backfill it yourself, not dependent on a salon. You can use 150/220 grit sand paper to file if you like. Or get a glass file.

The nail tip DOES NOT break. The only problem I've had is sometimes it comes loose at the cuticle end. File it down, add another layer of dip powder, good to go. The dip powder is actually powdered acrylic. So instead of sticking an acrylic nail on, you are building up an acrylic nail bit by bit. It did take me some practice to get good at it.  At first it only lasted 5-7 days.  Now I go 3-4 weeks with maintenance. 


The last step is a shiny coat.  You don't need it though.  Or you can do it but rough it up a little so it's not shiny. For women, yes   you can do nail polish over the top.  To remove and start over, soak a cotton ball in remover, wrap nail up in foil for 15 min or so. 

 If you have a Sally Beauty Supply near you, you might check that out. They have their own version of dip powders. Also get a glass file there. And better removers than you'll find available in your local Target/drugstore.

Edited by - KatB on 03/07/2020 19:36:28

Apr 4, 2020 - 9:33:11 AM



113 posts since 1/23/2007

Now with the nail salons all shut down, its back to the drawing board. My acrylic nail has been on for almost 2 months. It ain't pretty but it still does the job. But it will be falling off any day now and I'll have to come with something. Will have to look more into Kats dip powder suggestion in the post above.

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