Clean, soft, well-formed hands and Augers are indispensable, not only to those who would make a good appearance in society, but to those who desire to excel in fine work. The engraver, the watchmaker, and many other artists find their usefulness and power greatly impeded by anything that affects the keenness of their sense of touch and the delicacy with which they can handle minute objects. The power of a well-educated sense of touch to detect irregularities in various articles is something marvelous. The turner can, by his mere fingers, detect in a turned rod defects which are invisible to the eyes and of which the callipers give no indication. The extraordinary extent to which this sense may be educated is best seen in the blind, who train themselves to recognize various articles and even faces by means of touch. Their ability to read by simply feeling raised letters is also a wonderful example of the power of this sense when properly educated.
Like every other sense, that of touch must be carefully trained in order to make it efficient; but all the training in the world will fail to make it sensitive if the tactile surface is dulled or injured. The things which tend to dull this sense are chiefly these: -
1. Dirt. Any foreign matter which is allowed to remain on the hands combines with the perspiration and forms an incrustation which dulls the sense.
2. Handling hot articles. Some persons train themselves to handle very hot articles, and prescriptions have even been given for rendering the hands insensible to heat. In all such cases the skin is toughened and thickened, and the fine sense of touch dulled; but so long as holders of various kinds are easily obtained, there can hardly be any reason or excuse for such a desecration of the hand. Boys are apt to try such experiments for the purpose of astonishing their friends and companions; but the loss which they sustain far outweighs any momentary gratification derived from such exhibitions.
3. Corrosive chemicals. Almost all salts and acids when brought into contact with the skin tend to make it rough and insensitive; and in the case of the hands, to disfigure and injure them. This is also true of strong, coarse soap, containing much alkali.
For keeping the hands soft there is nothing better than a little vaseline well rubbed into the hands before going to bed. The new compound known as lanoline, which is the carefully purified grease obtained from sheep's wool, is also said to be peculiarly efficacious.
The hands may be preserved dry for delicate work by rubbing a little club-moss pollen or lycopodium over them. This, which is an extremely fine resinous powder, is so repellant of moisture that if a small quantity of it be sprinkled on the surface of the water contained in a basin or pail, the hand, by a little adroitness, may be plunged to the bottom of the liquid without becoming wet.