Hand Maintenance

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.

Postby Zach Taylor » 03/20/11 05:59 PM

I was talking to an acquaintance of mine who had a relative who was a card cheat. He mentioned that this relative would soak his fingertips in rosewater and glycerin for several hours a night to aid finger sensitivity.

This got me wondering if any of the magicians here who enjoy pushing their abilities to the edge have any sort of basic hand maintenance practices that they've ground useful. I usually use a very small amount of hand moisturizer maybe once every couple of days or so whenever the air is dry and makes it hard to catch cards for certain sleights, but beyond that I don't have any sort of regular ritual. I get the feeling though that there might be things I can do regularly to give myself an advantage.

Are there any practices such as moisturizer types and frequency, finger stretching/limbering exercises, or exercises to improve hand muscle strength that you've found useful over the years?

Thanks,
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Postby erdnasephile » 03/20/11 07:49 PM

Zach:

The moisturizer question comes up often, and there was a rather lengthy thread about this on Genii Forum and another on the Green Monster. Brands that seem to be mentioned a lot are (in no particular order): Golden Touch, Cornhuskers lotion, Vagisil; Crack Creme; Bag Balm; O'Keefe's Working Hands; Na-PCA by TwinLab (at Whole Foods). I'm sure a search of either of these forums would be useful, as what works well is a very individual thing. It depends a lot on age, climate, and personal characteristics. The most common complaint seems to be dry hands after age 40 (I can't do Daryl's Snowshoe Shuffle anymore as a result).

As far as finger exercises, while it's true that certain card moves require building strength (passes, pinky count, etc.), I've not needed to concentrate on building specific finger strength other than practicing the sleights themselves. I did however, used to lift and worked hard on grip and finger strength with various torture devices. I'm not saying they didn't help, but I didn't really notice a difference in my skills when I was lifting. (You might run the question past Josh Jay and see what he says).

If memory serves, the late Neil Lester used to send along brochures about a finger strength building program along with the merchandise--but I could be mistaken.

As far as maintenance, Eugene Burger was amongst the first I read who recommended regular professional manicures, but that recommendation seemed mostly for appearance sake.
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Postby SteveP » 03/20/11 10:16 PM

Dry hands! I'm with you on that. I've always had dry hands, even in my 20's, but much worse now that I'm in my 40's. I haven't found a lotion that holds up very long for me. The longer lasting ones are generally too sticky.

For me practicing is mostly for timing. I don't sit around with decks of cards or coins and just run through moves. As a hobby I play bass guitar and that really aids in finger strength and keeping my hands "loose".
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Postby Zach Taylor » 03/21/11 12:42 AM

Erdnase: Thank you for the information. I'll make another scrape of the forums and try to find some of those threads. Do you find that regular moisturizing helps at all, or is that an approach you haven't personally used?

Steve: I've found the stickiness to be an issue as well. That's part of the reason I'm wondering if a long term regimen might work the skin enough to keep the necessary suppleness to the fingertips especially. Cultivating an instrument definitely seems like it would be an asset (especially the bass, wow). Maybe I should try taking up the guitar again or something like that.
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Postby SteveP » 03/21/11 01:16 AM

Zach,

I've heard that you can soften your hands by putting on lotion before you go to bed and then sleeping with cotton gloves. Never tried it, so I don't know if it works or not. If dry hands are an issue, you may want to avoid hot water, like doing the dishes. That can dry out your hands.

I think that playing any instrument is a good addition to anyone's life, but piano, bass, guitar, etc. has an extra benefit for magicians. It took me a couple of months to really get my fingers strong enough for playing the bass. The side effect for playing any guitar is a lot of practicing can give you calluses early on, but I don't have that problem now. But I believe it really helps me. As I've gotten older, joints ache and the body gets stiff, but I've never had that problem with my hands.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/21/11 02:25 AM

Has anyone tried the Thurston method of using one's own urine to soften the hands before going to bed? At least the price is right!
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Postby SteveP » 03/21/11 07:50 AM

Was that in Steinmeyer's book?

Also, avoid hand santizer (which follows along the same lines as Thurston's technique) because the alcohol will dry out your hands.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/21/11 08:47 AM

any successful explorations using DMSO to bring something useful into the skin?
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Postby erdnasephile » 03/21/11 10:29 AM

Zach Taylor wrote:Erdnase: Thank you for the information. I'll make another scrape of the forums and try to find some of those threads. Do you find that regular moisturizing helps at all, or is that an approach you haven't personally used?



Hi, Zach:
During the winter, I tend to develop painful cracks at my fingertips, so I put some sort of lotion on (currently, Na-PCA) whenever I touch water and just before going to bed. (O'Keefe's--which is a little too sticky for daytime use for me unless the cracks get very bad). I also use a bit of the Na-PCA or Cornhuskers just before performing, especially if I'm going to be doing side steals or cull work. I have yet to try Vagisil, but I'm told it works great for this purpose.

Hope this helps!
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/21/11 10:47 AM

Steve Pellegrino wrote:Was that in Steinmeyer's book?

Also, avoid hand santizer (which follows along the same lines as Thurston's technique) because the alcohol will dry out your hands.


Steinmeyer does mention it. The revelation originally appeared in Thurston's first wife's manuscript about their life together.
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Postby Dan Magyari » 03/21/11 04:11 PM

Check out CardGuy Compendium Volume 1 of Steven Youell - he addresses hand and finger strength there.
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Postby erdnasephile » 03/21/11 05:17 PM

Richard Hatch wrote:Has anyone tried the Thurston method of using one's own urine to soften the hands before going to bed...


Yeechh! That probably didn't work wonders for his love life.

(Hopefully he didn't just apply the stuff directly from the source...) :sick:
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Postby Bill McFadden » 03/21/11 09:19 PM

Also, you should read Giobbi in Card College 1 and 2.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/22/11 07:59 AM

Bill McFadden wrote:Also, you should read Giobbi in Card College 1 and 2.


Please, you're not saying that the pages were treated in urine... are you?

While I belevie Giobbi may well have read Eco's "The Name of the Rose" in the original Italian it just seems beyond the pale that he'd do something so uncomical even with the best of intentions.
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Reason: Yes, it's also in the movie.
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Postby Darryl Harris » 03/22/11 08:00 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:any successful explorations using DMSO to bring something useful into the skin?


Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) has the unique quality of giving one intense garlic breath moments after application. If that isn't much of a deterrent, then remember that DMSO can penetrate the skin, and carry all sorts of stuff with it as it is an extremely efficient solvent. Additionally, I don't know what (if any) long term effects the use of DMSO might have from a toxicity pov. One should consult the MSDS for the specifics before using DMSO.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/22/11 08:05 AM

The solvent aspect is precisely the feature I was referencing as it would permit skin treatments to penetrate the outer layers of the skin and offer a more useful/effective hand moisturizer.

Perhaps the bizarrists could also find some amusing use of the garlic-breath.
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Postby Darryl Harris » 03/22/11 08:27 AM

Just for sh*ts & giggles, I checked out the MSDS for dimethyl sulfoxide. If interested, here's the link I used. http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/d7120.htm

Jon, you have a unique sense of humor. Garlic breath as an effect. :)
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Postby Smurf » 03/22/11 02:30 PM

I have used DMSO in my life as a laboratory technician. It is nothing to play with. The problem with DMSO is that it doesn't stop at a deeper layer of skin, it can transport anything it dissolves into your bloodstream - and it is an excellent solvent. I don't recommend anyone experiment with DMSO.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/22/11 02:49 PM

http://www.amazon.com/DMSO-99-9-Cream-S ... B002VXZNUG

Kinda a generation behind the curve of what's been put into common use in this matter.

My thinking goes only as far as sympathy for the dry handed (I remember Charlie Kalish) and that externally applied skincare products tend to wipe/smear onto props and clothes while not doing much to improve the underlying tissue.

If only more folks in magic were as safety/grounded in their fantasy explorations of the "erdnase" authorship. ;)
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Reason: funny that the MSDS for water says it's okay for lungs.
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Postby J-Mac » 03/22/11 04:42 PM

Extremely dry skin here, particularly the hands. In the winter my hands crack and bleed; I use something called " Udderly Smooth" which is actually a cream for keeping a cow's udders from becoming too chapped in freezing weather! That clears up the cracks in no time and doesnt remain greasy or sticky on your skin. However it also doesnt solve how slippery things are in my hands, like coins, cards, rings, etc. For that I have used both Chamberlain's Golden Touch and Twin Labs Na-PCA. They both work well but seem to wear off after about 10 minutes.

And if I will be using the Classic Palm a lot then I use some bow rosin.

Thanks!

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/22/11 05:10 PM

I use this stuff at night and my skin is smooth in the morning:
http://www.neutrogena.com/product/hand+ ... estSellers
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Postby Bill McFadden » 03/22/11 05:22 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Bill McFadden wrote:Also, you should read Giobbi in Card College 1 and 2.


Please, you're not saying that the pages were treated in urine... are you?

While I belevie Giobbi may well have read Eco's "The Name of the Rose" in the original Italian it just seems beyond the pale that he'd do something so uncomical even with the best of intentions.


Oh Jonathan, you're such a card! I said, "Also" because I was replying to Dan Magyari's excellent suggestion to read Youell, ya' silly thing, ya'!
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Postby Zach Taylor » 03/27/11 06:50 PM

Thank you very much everyone for the information and replies. The Giobbi information was especially helpful, as were the numerous recommendations of creams and such. I've been unable to ascertain if regular treatments of some sort would be noticeably helpful or not, but I think I'll just try setting up a regimen anyway. I suppose it can't hurt. Much appreciated.
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Postby George Olson » 04/12/11 07:53 PM

Zach

Check in the archives for an interesting discussion about hand maitainence. I know Pete B had some great exercises.

GO
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