Superglue to the Rescue!
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
A couple of days before a recent solo recital I somehow managed to cut open the tip of the middle finger on my left hand. I’m not really sure how it happened…it sort of just appeared. I suspect it may have resulted from cooking or cleaning up the dishes or something like that; it couldn’t have been from practicing as this had never happened before. The problem was that it became incredibly painful to play on! In fact it got to the point where I couldn’t put any pressure on that finger without experiencing a terrible shooting pain. Not the best timing when you have a recital coming up in two days featuring, among other things, Bach’s Sixth Suite, one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire!
And so began a day of chaos. After a couple of hours of attempting to practice through the pain, I eventually succumbed to the frustration and forced myself to find a solution. I texted friends and colleagues near and far. A bandaid? Painkillers? “Oh you’ll be fine, don’t worry about it!” A few of the less helpful suggestions. But then came the flurry of messages about superglue. “Oh I heard superglue is good for that stuff!” Superglue? Really?! You can’t be serious. I ran into a colleague in the hallway and she said the same thing. “Oh maybe try superglue?”
OK, I thought, there must be something to this!
I googled where to find superglue near me. The first place that popped up was an officeworks about a kilometre down the road, so I decided to walk there during my lunch break (between teaching lessons). I went to the superglue section and studied the packaging carefully, thrown off by the dire warning advice: KEEP AWAY FROM SKIN.
Yikes, I thought. What do I do?
I bought it anyway, not sure if I would actually end up using it.
As I was walking back to teach I had a sudden realisation that perhaps I ought to email a trusted colleague from the US, Brinton Smith (an amazing cellist and person), who of all the people I knew, would certainly have an answer for this dilemma. (Anything cello-related, whether it be regarding strings, setup, rosin, tailpieces, endpins, you name it - this is the guy to ask). And boy was I right! Luckily he responded in a matter of minutes, with just the advice that I needed.
“…if you do it right it should hold well enough and give you a stick free coating… I couldn't be a cellist without it at this point. I am held together by superglue and caffeine. I asked a dermatologist if I was going to poison myself this way, but he said that's actually what super glue was first invented for-treating battlefield wounds- and that it should be totally fine.”
Immediately I went to the bathroom and tried out the superglue, being extra careful not to spill any on my other fingers, or even worse, to accidentally superglue two fingers together! A tiny droplet was all I needed. I followed Brinton’s instructions, washing my hands first, drying, applying the superglue, dabbing with a paper towel as it started to dry, then washing my hands and drying off once again afterwards. A nice little seal had formed in the cut, and miraculously, it no longer hurt to put pressure on it.
This superglue treatment got me through the next three days, including two solo recitals. I only had to re-apply once each morning and that did the trick. (Although you may have to reapply a little more depending on how deep the cut is.)
So there you have it. Now I know! And now you all know.
If this ever happens to you.. don’t despair. Reach for the superglue! And let’s all thank Brinton for the wisdom.
Despite all of the above, please be careful when using it. Try not to use too much or spill it all over your hand or something disastrous. And if you do, please resist the urge to blame me for it :) Ie. use at your own risk.