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Will missing chunk of finger grow back?

Hi All,

I’ve been making jewelry a relatively short while-since 2006. As a
matter of practice and for the sake of avoiding injury, I’ve always
been mindful of my work habits in my shop. Despite being careful
though, every now and then schtuff happens. This time, fairly big
schtuff happened. -Interestingly enough, this particular schtuff
happened outside of the shop, with a tool no less.

In a Bugs Bunny-esque food/mind-tricks moment, my finger looked like
a potato, and I tried to chop it up for a soup I was making. (Bad
humor aside,) we’re planning on replacing our cooking knife set and
decided to buy/test the Cook’s Illustrated recommendation for “Best
8-Inch Chef’s Knife.” We’ve had our horrible Henckel’s set for about
15 years, and while we’ve always honed them before use, we’ve never
had them professionally sharpened. As a result, I became used to
having to apply extra force while cutting with the dull things, and
thereby tended to take them for granted.

Enter shiny new super-sharp knife that will cut you if you look at
it the wrong way.

I took a cooking class years ago, and was trained to properly handle
a knife and cut while cooking. Before the new blade ever arrived, I
made a very specific mental note to go slowly while re-acclimating to
handling a sharp blade. I started out being hyper-mindful, but I was
making a really big soup, and over the course of dicing and slicing I
slipped up-figuratively and literally. I took a big chunk out of my
left-hand index finger.

Non-dominant, but important enough.

Long story wrapping, I was reminded of one of my favorite (and
incredibly funny) Ganoksin posts from several years ago, “Shop

I looked back through it hoping to remember whether or not someone
else cut off/out a chunk of a finger flesh-and if so, did the chunk
really grow back? Of all the awful injuries in that thread (cutting
into fingers/fingernails with saw blades, drilling fingers with cup
burs, etc.), nobody seems to have removed body parts-or parts of body

I was told in the ER that my finger flesh will grow back and fill
in. [ER 3 wasted hours of my life that I will never get back-I could
have doused it with saline solution & slapped a bandage on it
myself-my husband tried to tell me, but I was having none of that-it
hurt like hell and because of that I thought I was going to die,
hence my insistence on going to the ER.] However, now that I am again
rational, I really believe they told me it would grow back just to
shut me up-and perhaps to not have to deal with my nonmedical
insistence on doing a graft/reattachment, etc. During my mishap, I
surprisingly had the wherewithal to find/grab the plug, bag it, and
bring it (forgot the ice, tho). Of course I’m now wishing, with
regret, that I’d just stuck it back on myself to see what would
happen-the super glue solution.

Here’s what it looks like. Warning: Squeamish? This is not for you.
The negative space is a pretty ugly divet, and it measures roughly
6mm x 6mm x 3-4mm. The nerves appear to be just fine as per the
application of Lanacane (oh. my. gohd.); however, I’m worried that
this is slightly more than a superficial top-layer removal. At a
minimum it is a big, incredibly awkward missing piece.

So, has this ever happened to any of your fingers? Did your
epidermis/flesh-combo (as opposed to just epidermis) grow back?
[::lightbulb it heals, the divet may be of better use than a ring
clamp. Lemonade.]

[FWIW–In case any of you are in search of the elusive "perfect"
chef’s knife, here’s the Cook’s Illustrated review.]

Tamra M. Gentry

It will definitely grow back. I’m a surgeon. After a year or so
learning from all of you, I’m happy someone has asked a question on
Orchid to which I know the answer!


I snagged the side of one finger with a router a number of years
ago. I took out a chunk maybe 15mm long, 5mm wide and 4-5 mm deep. It
filled in with scar tissue eventually. I can barely see it today,
though it doesn’t have much feeling. Amazingly enough I didn’t get
blood anywhere in the shop or on anything but my hand.


Tamara- So sorry to hear this. Yes it will heal but take a looooong

Keep it clean and covered and take some zinc plus a good multi
vitamin. If you are an omnivore, eating meat helps boost your
healing. I know I’m gonna get it now from the vegetarians, but I’m
just reporting on what has worked for me.

I find that if I hurt one finger I am much more likely to hurt
another as I have to slightly shift how I hold things and use hand
tools. I never seem to hurt myself in the shop, but am most likely to
nail myself in the kitchen.

I avoid emergency rooms like the plague and mostly use super glue
and surgical tape with bad bleeders. I only go in if I can see bone.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry

Jo Haemer

If you took a chunk out of the side of the finger likely most will
grow back. If you took a 1/4 of an inch off the end, very probably
not. Having had two fingers reattached I have some first hand
knowledge here.

Don Meixner

I am a retired chef and what you describe is exactly when knives
must be kept sharp using dull ones lead to injuries like yours. If
you did not cut a joint off then yes it will heal but it will take a
lot of time if it is larger than half an inch and deep you should
see your doctor for proper care instructions to avoid infection and
systemic infection. As with any toll you let the tool do the work if
you are struggling to cut with knives then youare not sharpening

the Honing stick we professionals call a Steel is used after
sharpening and also between sharpening to remove small burs of metal
from the blade and to reduce sharpening time. IT DOES NOT SHARPEN A
KNIFE. You henckles were not horrible you were. All you had to do was
sharpen them. A professional in this area only charges about 20
dollars to sharpen knives and that will last you if you don;t cook
more than family meals a good while if supported by proper steel use.

in any case there are many sites just search chef knife and proper

I hope you heal well and ugh stories like this make my hands curl to
protect my fingers ich

Whew! (what a read! First, your skin will not work like spackling
paste and fill in the missing area unless it’s a puncture in which
case the dermis grows from under the epidermis and tends to level off
the injury under the scab ( presuming a good scab forms and you keep
it cleaned and minimise any chance for infection to set in. of
course, fight the urge to remove the scab under it is (going to be
provided all-is-well) to being flush with the skin’s surface.

Wear an appropriate glove (i like nitrile for most applications!)
when cleaning kitchens, bathrooms and preparing raw meat if you are
exposed to it. Keep it cleaned and dressed with an antibiotic for the
first 5-7 days if it is indeed as serious as your tome implies!This
is the wet phase of the wound care. If you are akin to using one of
the bandage sprays make sure you apply a thin layer of at least a
triple antibiotic over the injury befor sealing with spray. one
spritz won’t do in your case. Build up a good seal with perhaps 3
short bursts…

Don’t be tempted to inject any “filler” into the healing skin. it
will not be sterile and may cause more problems! Forget the “Lanacane”

  • chances are it was opened already and you didn’t squeeze the goo
    onto a cotton swab first. Always, when using any ointments, unguents,
    or cerates or anything that squeezed out of a tube or dabbed out of a
    pot, upon opening, use a sterile applicator to keep the remainder
    from getting contaminated. What you were probably trying to go for
    was a numbing action like LIDOCAINE provides. Some pharmacies and
    surgical supplies will sell you a 6"x6" sheet of lidocaine in a
    self-“adhesive” patch. Cocaine was widely used (and still is) in
    surgery and dental applications for its numbing effect. Should you
    have a friend that is a dentist you may be able to acquire some for
    your studio’s first-aid kit. If it is a liquid (which it is
    ordinarily dispensed as a blue liquid in an ampoule or vial ready for
    hypodermic syringes to pierce the self-healing latex gasket on top so
    it can be used more than once since it is an highly controlled
    substance. If you are lucky enough to acquire a vial of it keeping it
    refrigerated is ideal particularly since it will ONLY BE USED
    TOPICALLY. NEVER inject a wound with. well anything in your case
    (presuming you aren’t a medical professional!).You should also
    purchase a tube of silver gel for first-aid. It is one of the best
    things to protect and heal burns, brush-burns and other skin damages.
    Again applying with a swab.(I am not speaking about 'colloidal
    silver" preparations. that’s a totally different and a FAR LESS
    potent hence useful product.

When cleaning it in the first few days do flush with a sterile
saline solution first making certain there is no contact with the
wound and the bottle of solution is dedicated for wound washing, not
in addition to nasal washing, etc. Often nasal saline solution can be
gotten at dollar stores - just make certain the label says “sterile"
saline…If it isn’t printed somewhere on the package/bottle
that’s why the “saline solution” is at the dollar store! You can also
deaden things to a far lesser degree than lidocaine, cocaine or any
of the topical 'caines” with pure menthol. You can get crystals of it
at most international grocers in the spices section. Using tweezers
(have a sterile container ready, as well as sterile (or even better
bacteriostatic) water like diabetics use for their mixing of
insulins, etc.) remove a couple of smallish crystals out of the
container and drop them in to the sterile container.(if you want to
do it exactly weigh out 1 gram of the crystals, and use a sterile
glass container that can hold no more than 2cc’s as the 1cc of
sterile water is what you need to dissolve the crystals) and add the
water to dissolve (100 IU’s or 1cc- the capacity of a standard U-100
insulin syringe).The crystals are less a humectant than real (edible)
camphor. But do keep the remaining crystals tightly sealed as they do
attract ambient humidity to a degree (pure camphor in crystalline
form is perhaps 100 times more humectant and is generally stored in
its packaging in an airtight glass container). Once dissolved seal
the liquid well. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated- in fact a
modern electric refrigerator can suck the liquid out in it’s normal
operation keeping humidity at bay and the crystals may reform in the
container. If you are using an older model Servel or most natural
gas/solar refrigerators this is less of a problem. After cleaning the
wound /flushing apply a thin coating of the menthol solution letting
it dry in place then apply the silver or antibiotic ointment then
bandage, seal or otherwise restrict anything from contact with the
affected injury .Following the 5-7 “wet” days and healing
"jump-start", then try to keep it as dry as possible. You shouldn’t
need to 'numb the injured skin after that period, even the first 3
days may do. Still you want to keep it clean and protected. Silver
bandages are a great idea at that point: the pad is made with fine
silver “thread” and in some brands the covering/adhesive area is
available in a waterproof styles. finding a non-stick silver bandage
for fingers and knuckles (usually sold together in the same retail
package) is ideal. Change the bandage as many times a day as seems
necessary until you have a healed what-remains-of your finger!.

If the first sign of infection occurs, seek a human with wound care
credentials promptly. Don’t presume all doctors have wound care
knowledge or experience! Your wound sounds superficial even though it
doesn’t seem like it to you.

Steri-strips a. k.a/butterfly closures may be used to hold gaping
areas together after the 2ed-3rd day and provided all/any bleeding
has completely stopped and there is no chance any particles, dirt,
etc. will be enclosed in the attempt to use closures to guide the new
skin’s growth into a shape that you can live with…

Best of health to you…

if you have questions contact me off list and i’ll try to answer

Funny how reading about your accident instantly brings back vivid
memories. Some people may want to stop reading now.

First, there’s that surreally long blank-faced moment of disbelief
before the blood rises, you know, when you think that somehow you
have magically escaped being damaged, because it’s not bleeding? As
you examine the layers of stuff you didn’t even know existed in your
finger? Then, you breathe again, and the whole oxygenated blood
thing happens, the tool-smushed cells open up again, and you become
totally involved in feeling a weird. burning, as the truncated
nerves start protesting at the top of their voices. Next, you notice
that your finger is dripping, but you’re not done with the
preliminary exam/belief part yet, so you rinse it in cold water,
which feels like you’re using hot sand, and you immediately realize
what a bad idea that was, because the unpleasant nerves are
outrageously taking screaming up to a whole new order of magnitude.
A fire-breathing crescendo of Insane! Whumping! Pain! Meanwhile, in
the back of your mind, you automatically begin to wonder how long it
will take you to reach the ER, and how busy they’ll be when you
arrive, while pulling an absolute blank on when and where you last
saw the car keys. Now that you have added thinking back into just
feeling, thoughts are popping up at alarming speed, how exactly. am
I going to stop this bleeding? am I going to get dressed? am I going
to get into the car? am I going to drive? Especially, with a hand
that is momentarily going to be wrapped in the nearest clean
absorbent thing available? The strange sounds you hear issuing from
your own throat bring you back to real time, but you’re still
completely unaware that it has only taken approximately 10 seconds
since your clumsiness sentenced you to an unwelcome break from your
bench, usually just as you’re due to finish and deliver an important
piece with a non-negotiable deadline.

Tamra, my sympathy. Extra points for bringing the missing piece to
the ER.

I twice managed to remove somewhat larger pieces of fingertip, like
a 12 mm marquis cut; once with an X-acto knife and straightedge, and
once with new blades on my garden shears. The fingertip detached by
the garden shears was green from chlorophyll when I presented it in
the ER, they looked at me strangely, but told me that chlorophyll is
similar to plasma, and they use it for transfusions in people with
certain religious beliefs! But the tip was too small to suture back
on, and when I brought up the medical superglue idea, I was told
that it’s only successful when used on the epidermis, and not on the
deeper tissues. Sigh. Years after healing, the knife cut fingertip
is still perfectly flat with dulled feeling, while the shear cut
fingertip has rounded out nicely and feels normal. They both
function perfectly, which is the main point here! If you keep it
clean, dry, and elevated above your heart- the Whumping goes away!

Your pain is actually good news, your nerves are intact; and more
good news, for the next couple of weeks you’re off dish duty!

Speedy healing!

One night, I was an hr away from getting home & I get a text from my
husband to pick up gauze & bandaids.

He had a similar incident & wouldn’t go to the ER. It was bleeding
like crazy so wrapped it tight for the evening. The next 3 days
re-wrapped it with neosperin and kept it protected.

It was healing so well that we stopped wrapping it. We were amazed
that the chunk did grow back.

Also with sharp knives you get clean cuts which help the healing

Big fan of neosperin!


First, I was part of that thread many years ago. (Make sure if you
drop something it does not land in your lap.)

Second, I have taken bits and bobs out of myself many times but the
second worst had to be the time I was cleaning an angle vise in a
wood shop (see the thread Tamra mentioned for my number one). It was
a Bugs Bunny / Monty Python kinda stupid oops that caused me to drop
the vise. The problem came when I tried to grab it. After only a
second or two I ended up with a very shallow gash on the top of my
right hand. It started about where my thumb meets my palm and
traveled in a straight line paralleling the bones in my thumb until
it passed by the bones of my wrist. It was not deep at all but it

So fast forward a few weeks. It healed up fine with nothing but a
bright pink scar. But for years, until the scar faded I was always
being approached by caring people that wanted me to know that “I was
ok” and if I ever felt like hurting myself again, they would help me
get through it. It didn’t matter if I said it was an accident, they
would be all “That’s all right, those kinds of things always

Bloody drove me crazy for about five years with everyone I met
thinking I was cutting and/or trying to kill myself. What is wrong
with people?

Gerald A. Livings
Livingston Jewelers

I just bought a set of Shun Edo knives. They are so sharp using them
feels like cutting air, no kidding. I RESPECT them from the moment I
purchased them.

Great hand tools are meant to require very little force, otherwise
we would be hurling rocks to sack things into shape. I am super
careful of power assisted tools. They are fast to go damage in less
then the blink of an eye.

BTW, a plastic bag of frozen peas or corn makes a great alternative
to ice for a cold compress in event of a stupid lapse of. thinking
(and missing the awareness that a coworker had removed a safety
guard). Ask me how I know. No, don’t.

Who is always vigilant with surgically sharp tools, but still burns
herself once in a while.

Probably not. Not completely, anyway. I tangled with a table saw
once, around 1985.

I fought the saw and the saw won !. Sheared away the front of my
right thumb. not enough flesh left to sew up, so it was a gaping,
open wound for a few weeks. The flesh and most of the print never
grew back. a side-view profile shot shows it as about 2/3 the size
of my left thumb. The upside was that I learned to use my left hand

What is wrong with people is they assume. I have extensive scars on
my hands and arms from animal reasuc ans back when I played semi-pro
softball metal cleats were what we had I was a catcher so the back of
my left hand my arm and part of my right forearm a severely scarred.
I have been asked if I was in prison. no idea about why and don;t
want to know. Just people being rude yes that is the word rude lol


Thanks so much for all of the stories, tips, and well-wishes! -I’m
going to come back and reply to some of those in a bit.

First though, I have to say to Gerald Livings. OMG-it is totally
because of YOU and your post in that first thread years ago that I
taught myself to resist my urge to “catch” with my thighs and lap,
and to move away if I drop something at the bench.

Since that post, I’ve invested in a couple of good jewelers benches
with the catch drawers (along with a really good rolling
stool)–although I don’t always use the drawers. Even so, it’s all
good because I modified that old fire safety mantra of “stop, drop,
and roll,” to my bench mantra of “stop, let it drop, and roll back.”
-I’ve been using that for years with much success, thanks to you!

It’s so funny how wired the body’s reflexes are to want to
catch-it’s not all that easy to fight reflexes or instinct for things
like that. Now, though, letting stuff drop and pushing back is as
much reflex for me as trying to catch once was. [Playing your
file-drop snafu through my head scarred me for life-but in a good
way. ;-D]

Thank you, Gerald!


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