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Back in August, MAKE fan Michael Biggs reached out to us with a very interesting request: to help him crowdsource ideas from the MAKE community for a prosthetic for his missing index finger. Here’s the story in his own words:


My name is Michael Biggs. I’m 21 years old and currently on active duty in the US Army. My family and I have been fans of Make Magazine for years now and we suggest the publication to all our creative friends. I’ve always had a passion for creating things. Whether it was building toys in my basement out of scraps and duct-tape, wooden boxes with my older brother or just music with whatever I had laying around, I love to make things.

I’m an Eagle Scout and a merit badge councilor. I enjoy playing the piano, guitar, snare drum and ukulele. I’m a passionate wood worker and a lover of all things I can tinker with. Among my prized personal creations are several hand-made wooden music boxes, jewelry boxes and some sturdy wood-spirit walking sticks.

When I was fifteen, I lost a significant portion of my index finger in a woodshop incident. I had to learn a lot of simple things all over again. It’s true what they say: you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. For a long time I kept my hands in my pockets so that people wouldn’t see what was missing, but eventually I had to cope with the fact that I was different from other people.

It may not seem that serious to some, but answering the same questions and telling the same stories over and over can really take a toll on a guy’s sanity. Even people I had never met would ask me what had happened to my hand. Sometimes I could go a few weeks with a person not noticing the missing finger but as soon as they noticed it became the elephant in the room.

Humor was my way of adapting to my new life. The jokes started simple. “How did you lose your finger?” They would ask. “I was picking my nose and I got punched in the face” would be my well-practiced response. Or for someone who is more familiar with cartoons, “You can’t stop a gun by plugging it with your finger.” The list of jokes grew ever longer, more diverse and complex.

One joke has had my attention for a few years now because it seems like such a fun and achievable idea. I was a camp counselor at Rock Enon Boy Scout reservation in West Virginia, when one of my favorite students, a Tenderfoot at the time, said that he had recently watched the movie “Inspector Gadget”, and stated that I should get myself a “Gadget Finger”. After being re-told a few times, the joke split into a selection of “Gadget finger” ideas ranging from a useful Swiss Army finger or a romantic candle lighter finger, to the less plausible sleeping dart finger or the classic finger hook for the less hard-core pirate (which could make nose picking a bit more hazardous).

In the end I did make myself a pretty rough finger hook, but I never had the tools or the inspiration to build a prosthetic that I would be able to apply in everyday life with any sort of practicality. The dream however lives on and the challenge is open to all who would be interested in contributing to its realization.


We thought this was a great idea – indeed, with Michael’s sense of humor, we immediately came up with the tag line “Giving Disability the Finger!” So, we had Michael get his hand photographed and 3D-scanned so makers could design virtually, and even create 3D-printable prototypes. Put links to your designs in the comments below, and we’ll publish the best and craziest designs we get.

Hand Scanned .dae
Hand Scanned .stl
Hand Scanned .hxn
Hand Back .jpg
Hand Front .jpg

Ken Denmead

Ken is the Grand Nagus of GeekDad.com. He’s a husband and father from the SF Bay Area, and has written three books filled with projects for geeky parents and kids to share.


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Comments

  1. Rahere says:

    To fit the finger, a shapelock base, mounting a bayonet socket for:.

  2. jec0435 says:

    If it’s any consolation ..you have really nice hands! Despite your missing digit. ;)

  3. chuck says:

    I lost the first joint of my index and middle fingers of my left hand in an industrial accident (saws and time clocks don’t mix- there’s no profit in being fast).
    As a rabid artist, musician and maker (and a southpaw!), I was concerned about my amputation and looked into prosthesis. I tried some DIY solutions (pre-internet) with little success. I eventually had a set of prosthesis made by Hangar. They are beautiful but not very useful. The two major factors for a successful finger prosthetic are a firm anchor point and tactile feedback.
    Pinch the end of your finger lightly and roll your finger back and forth. Feel how loose the skin feels? Even with the proper adhesives, the prosthetic never seemed sturdy enough to put pressure on. I tried a glove with a built in steel shank to keep the finger rigid, but it was impractical. A truly functional finger prosthetic would have to be some kind of screw-in system with a surgical steel receiver tapped right into the bone of the stump with a kit of different attachments.
    The other deal breaker for my prosthetic was the lack of tactile feedback. The silicone doesn’t transfer texture or vibration very well at all. I think with a careful selection of materials you could develop something that does transfer vibration and temperature better. Of course you could have mechanical tactile feedback as well- kind of like a hearing aid circuit that picks up, amplifies and transfers vibration from the tip of the prosthesis to the tip of the stump.. Imagine a finger that vibrates when it’s pointed north or brought into an electrical field.

    1. chuck says:

      … and from Science Daily today- A Blueprint for Restoring Touch With a Prosthetic Hand
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014155638.htm

      BTW I’m missing two fingers and my favorite answer to the ‘how’d that happen’ question is to get serious, look them in the eye and say ‘It’s not a good idea to piss off the Yakuza… twice.’

  4. Robo Hand says:

    He didn’t have to go far… Robohand has a finger that can help him… Please contact us!

  5. aaron says:

    I was born without my left arm, and when people ask I make up detailed and grewsome tails of how I lost it mostly farm related, and when thay start turning pail I laugh and say “just screwing with you I was born this way.”
    but I learned not to need another arm, but from time to time I would like a tool.
    I settled on a tentical sourta thing with a industrial jaw for a hand, that could be replased with a bit or soket driver of some kind.

  6. Gady says:

    “The phantom finger of truth” – A lie detector. The idea is that when pressed, it would light one LED at random. That would freak out some people ;-)

  7. I created the Mesh for Michael and I hope to make a better one but the files are what they are right now. The Mesh was made using Strata Foto its pretty Fair with 19,370 facets. here is the thingiverse thing – now published at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:148909
    In my 3d class at Hammerspace on Saturday we created and printed an attachment that looked abit like a giant crayon. Contact Michael if you want to mail him a printed model.

  8. kjunkinsKen says:

    My first reaction: remembering back to my childhood in the mid sixties when Sixfinger was a toy every boy wanted.

    http://www.museumofplay.org/blog/play-stuff/2010/11/sixfinger-sixfinger-man-alive/

    The ultimate spy/prosthetic/cool-tool.

  9. Dave Dalton says:

    Michael came to Hammerspace here in Kansas City with a need for a 3d model for this article.

    I molded and cast a lab stone copy of his hand that Tim Middleton used to produce the 3d model.

    We do all sorts of special effects and prosthetics here and it was neat to be able to combine traditional life casting with modern 3d scanning.

    I hope Michael gets the Swiss army finger he deserves.

  10. Sean Blaine says:

    Check out my instructables.com posting “thumb prosthesis” “http://www.instructables.com/id/Thumb-Prosthesis/” and thingiverse.com posting “finger prosthesis” “http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:201010″. I have nearly the exact same injury on my right hand as well as a missing thumb phalange. I created these prostheses to meet my need to restore function, and like you I found the silicone ones to be pretty much useless for hand work and to expensive to risk damaging with an accidental hammer strike. This the best and only option out there for people like you and I. If you need any help fell free to contact me.

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