At the time of writing, I’ve spent the last two days in various hospitals, having various medical personnel scratch their heads in confusion. I’ll get to that in a little while but, because I’m some sort of guitar-setup-badass, I’ve turned my misfortune into a teaching opportunity.
So, for context, you can feel free to read the (separate, linked) post on string winding direction and how to properly wind strings onto tuner posts. It's something that causes a little confusion for some players, especially those starting out, so you might find it useful.
Now to the injury…
WARNING: A little further down, I’ll share two photos of my injury. The first is mainly just weird and mostly unproblematic. The second is a little more ‘messy’. We’re not talking anything particularly graphic or gory but, if you're very squeamish, you might want to skip this post.
If you’re working on guitars a lot, breaking a string happens from time to time. Occasionally the scenario mentioned in the string winding direction article happens with a guitar on your workbench and, usually, it’s fine. At worst, you might get a ‘string-whip’ across the back of your hand. That smarts a bit but, thankfully it’s not serious and is relatively rare.
Even more rare, I’ll bet, is what just happened me (photos follow)…
Below are some slightly unpleasant photos. Please don’t scroll further if you think that might be a problem for you. No judgement here.
A 12-String guitar, fresh into the workshop, was on the bench. I’d taken some preliminary measurements and assessment and was removing the strings. One string (just one) had been wound the wrong way onto its tuner. As I whizzed through with my automatic string winder set to loosen strings, this string tightened instead and, before I realised what was happening, it snapped and whipped back.
There may have been swearing.
I looked down, expecting to see a thin red whip-line on the back of my right hand and saw this instead.
Hmm. What’s going on here?
I pulled the string. It didn’t budge. Oh dear. A closer examination made me worry but, of course, I gave it another little pull to make sure. Nope. No moving that.
Off to the Emergency Room at the local hospital I went. Made my way through triage and assessment with some very confused looking nurses and doctors. Had a couple of x-rays. Another consultation with another confused doctor who sent me for yet more x-rays before confirming the problem.
I had a guitar string directly through the centre of my index finger extensor tendon.
Through. The. Tendon.
And, the x-ray suggested, the string had carried on until it hit bone underneath. Through the tendon. To the bone.
Despite that it was massively painful to do so, the fact I could move my finger was a good sign. Even so, after more head-scratching at the bizarreness of my injury, the staff at the local hospital decided against damaging my tendon any further and referred me to another hospital for un-stringing.
I assumed I’d be dealing with the top guitar-string specialists in the country but it turned out they were equally confused and amused by this weird accident. Still, though, they knew what to do and soon, the string was out.
In the process, however, I swapped a 0.015”/0.38mm hole in my hand for one that was much bigger.
This is the aftermath of a freak accident with a broken guitar string. Crazy, or what?
So, I've spent the last two days being harpooned by a guitar string, having my hand cut open, and my tendons yanked about for examination.
And, I’m under strict (and I do mean strict – they were very emphatic when I made ‘self-employed-have-to-work’ noises) instructions to do no work for a period. Which sucks. No ‘work’ but I am required to keep my fingers ‘mobile’ which I’m taking to mean I can type stuff like this. Things could be worse.
The bottom line
Hey, look: Guitar strings break. Many guitar strings have broken but I suspect accidents as weirdly bizarre as mine are astronomically rare.
That said, be careful out there. Be careful how you string and watch yourself as you restring. Try keep anything sensitive out of harm’s way. The odds are pretty long against anything happening, much less anything as crazy as this but, it never hurts to take care.
If you’re one of the appointments I’m going to have to reschedule over the next while, I’m really sorry. I hope the photos of my horrific hand go some way towards securing your understanding. 😉
This article written by Gerry Hayes and first published at hazeguitars.com