Watch out for those splinters

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Blog entry by timrowledge posted 11-06-2009 08:38 AM 9231 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Years ago I got a splinter at the base of the terminal tarsal of my right index finger. I pulled it out of course. No problem eh?

No so fast, buster. A few months ago a small lump in that place started to grow; I had sort of got the idea that I had a small bone spur there but suddenly it was getting bigger. It got to the point where I couldn’t bend the finger properly and trying to grasp things like jars to open them was uncomfortable enough to cause avoidance tactics. Finally I went to see my GP to see about getting a better diagnosis. He took a look, ordered an xray and ultrasound and off I toddled.

The ultrasound made it fairly obvious that something was growing on top of the tendon, which in itself was a relief since that ruled out a cancerous growth on the bone. We could even make out what looked like a possible fragment of splinter. Next stop, the duty surgeon to see about removing it.

That’s what I got up to this evening. Dr F. hummed and Arrred a bit whilst examining the the lump but decided to open up the finger to see what was in there. Time for a tray full of shiny hand tools to appear, including of course a hypodermic with long sharp needle, always a favourite toy. Now, sticking that in hurt but fortunately the anaesthetc started to work pretty quickly – apparently a close relative fo the stuff dentists give you. A minute or so later out comes the #15 bladed knife and slash, slash, slash, the top of my finger peels open and we can see the .38 caliber finger gun I had implanted during my time as a government assassin. Er, no, not that, not at all. Anyway that’s in the other index finger. Actually it was quite fascinating to be seeing the internals of my own digit. Not much blood to start with but a definitely odd looking lump of…. something. I was surprised since I had been assuming that we would discover a pocket of some nasty smelling pus and perhaps a tiny sliver of wood. Dr. F had to use a nasty looking pair of pliers and root around quite vigourously to work it out of the finger. It turned out to be a lump about, say small pea sized, of something that looked like chewed gum! Oh, we found the splinter fragment as well – I’d say it looked like a tiny bit of maple.

After all the rooting around the blood was starting to flow and it was time to stick a couple of stitches in and wrap up. For some time it was painless but we all know what happens after a well done filling at the dentist, right? Ouchy-ouchy as the drug wears off. Then the real pain can start… which is where I am now and why I’m typing this to try to keep my mind off it!

My advice – be very careful about those splinters.

23 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3272 days

#1 posted 11-06-2009 08:56 AM

Sorry to hear that your tarsal was terminal. I could not even begin to guess how many splinters I have had in my 60+ years. Most of the time I can get them out with a pair of tweezers, however the splinters that would not be defeated by the tweezers always seem to fester up after a couple of days and pop right out. Hope I never have to go through what you had to. Hope your health insurance covers most of it.

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3316 days

#2 posted 11-06-2009 08:58 AM

I had something simular happen to me but not as extreme.. my splinter got lost in the side of my index finger right around the first knuckle.. after about a year.. I was fooling around with the little lump that was there and was squeezing and trying to coax whatever it was to the surface.. and out popped a small sliver of red oak that was imbedded there for well over a year.. contrary to what people think..they don’t just dissolve and float away..gotta dig em out..

-- Randall Child

View nmkidd's profile


758 posts in 3137 days

#3 posted 11-06-2009 09:47 AM

Wow…...time release, self inflicted torture…....! That had to hurt…...get well so you can git to makin’ some new splinters.

-- Doug, New Mexico.......the only stupid question is one that is never asked!........don't fix it, if it ain't broke!

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3325 days

#4 posted 11-06-2009 11:01 AM

Hey Tim,
Been there with that lot and still got the dam huge scar.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#5 posted 11-06-2009 11:32 AM

Just goes to show you how something tiny can have such a huge impact

silver lining: all will be well in a few days.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3249 days

#6 posted 11-06-2009 03:02 PM

Glad everything is OK and in a few days you should be back good as new!

-- John @

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3751 days

#7 posted 11-06-2009 03:22 PM

I’ve had a similar but smaller experience to yours. This is why on big splinters I get a clean and sanitized razor knife and cut to make sure its all out. I agree splinters do not dissolve away as is rumored.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3298 days

#8 posted 11-06-2009 04:25 PM

I guess there aren’t many concert pianists who want to be woodworkers. Glad to hear you are on the mend. Sometimes LJ is more exciting than ER.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View lumberdog's profile


245 posts in 3231 days

#9 posted 11-06-2009 05:04 PM

I have had a lot of splinters, but i think the ones that bother me the most are the ones you get from birch lumber or plywood. It reacts with something in my body and within a couple of hours i will have very severe sore spot and what appears to be an infection.

-- Lumberdog.. Morley, Michigan

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3255 days

#10 posted 11-06-2009 05:21 PM

Add me to the list of those with the dormant splinter doing an encore. The skin healed over on mine, but it was infected underneath, and started to swell and hurt. When the pain got bad enough, I gritted my teeth and squeezed it like a zit, and the last little piece of splinter popped out along with the pus. The feeling of relief was immediate.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3128 days

#11 posted 11-06-2009 06:47 PM

I have a great flourescent light with built in magnifier mounted on one of my benches. Originally for soldering small electronic devices and projects. I don’t do much of that these days. Although my Woodcraft remote for my Delta Dust Collector would not work out of the box, and with some testing, I found a cold solder joint and fixed it, so I didn’t have to send it back.

So, my magnifying light, and my very old Xacto pen knife, which I still have new blades for, and a good tweezers, have become the basis of a home surgical suite. Most cases involve splinters, mostly my own, so I have to operate left handed as well as right. On occasion my wife becomes the patient. She is a real weenie, so it has to be bad before she will submit to my home surgery without anesthesia. My first experience with this rough and ready surgery was about age 14, when staying at a friend’s cabin (his father was my physician), I displayed a splinterized finger to my doctor out on the dock, and he quickly pulled out his pocket knife and dug it out, pronounced it as fixed.

The moral of this story. Do get those splinters out early on. They don’t dissolve, they frequently fester (pus), and a foreign body granuloma (the body reacting to and walling off a foreign object) will eventually result, if an abcess large enough to expel them doesn’t happen.

You probably had a foreign body granuloma, Tim.

Recommended tools:

First, as we all know, trying to work them to the surface from the backside with a finger nail usually works.

Good lighting, magnification helps, something sharp that can be sterilized or thrown away, and a quality tweezers, women know where to get these. I use a little alcohol or a brief trip through the flame on our gas stove for my pen knife. Sewing needles are OK, they actually cause more damage than a small knife, however. I learned most of this from my parents when I was a kid.

If it is deep, or breaks off, and you can’t get it out, a trip to your friendly physician is in order.

Moral of story – get them splinters out early….......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View timrowledge's profile


45 posts in 3497 days

#12 posted 11-06-2009 08:28 PM

Yeah, mostly splinters come out easily enough, though the ones with barbs hurt like hell in the process. This one though must have broken at the tip, or maybe even just pushed a tiny lump in like a nailset.

Happily, being in Canada, I don’t have to worry too much about health insurance since it’s just part of what you get for the basic subscription to being a resident. I just turned up at the appointed time, explained why I was there, gave some basic info to the registration lady and got to sit for ten minutes while the surgeon checked the lump and got tools. (nice tools by the way, all shiny and techie-looking)

Now, in the cold grey light of a wet morning I have to say the pain is quite spectacular. I’ve broken various bones, been shot at, fallen from the top of a 70ft tree, crashed motorcycles, had my heart broken and this is right up there. I guess there is such a high density of nerve endings in the area it is inevitable. A well, it’ll all be healed in a day or two I hope!

And definitely, the moral is as Jim says above.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3128 days

#13 posted 11-06-2009 09:30 PM

and one additional point…..

Some of the wood we used is from barns, and may or may not have some recent horse manure on it, a prime source of tetanus, and tetanus spores live forever, and seem indestructible.


.............they generally last about 10 years.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View dlmckirdy's profile


199 posts in 3097 days

#14 posted 11-06-2009 09:58 PM

A couple notes to Jim;

Isn’t a pearl just a foreign body granuloma?

As for the tetanus vaccination, when my table saw bit my thumb a month or so ago, the doctor said not to trust the tetanus shot to really be effective for mor than about three years.

By the way, you’d be surprised how many TINY splinters a table saw blade can leave in your thumb! Antibiotics for nearly a month!

-- Doug, Bakersfield, CA - I measured twice, cut it twice, and it is still too short!

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3128 days

#15 posted 11-07-2009 01:37 AM


I think our memory thinks 10 years is only three, but 10 years is the stated frequency for boosters. Just quoting the authorities, and that is not me. If you can’t remember, get a booster, it won’t hurt.

Re the pearl, that is a good analogy. The organism protecting itself from a foreign object with a protective coat. A little different in our tissues, however, the oyster is configured a little more loosely.

Yikes, I don’t advise any saw blades in the thumb, definitely to be avoided.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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