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.