How did/do "primitive" people trim their toenails?

I can’t figure out how I would deal with my toenails without clippers. While I guess a lack of shoes might make the issue less critical, I still wonder how people dealt with the issue.

I asked this exact question a long time ago. Let me see if I can find it.

That didn’t take long:

With OP on that. The nail clipper is one very underappreciated tool.

I’m cringing after reading that, cutting and tearing nails. I suppose whatever you had to do, if it works.
I would think they would let them break or fall off, cut them with flint rock or possibly bite or chew each others nails off (barf).
Nails on the hands actually can be useful (in cave dwelling times and for scratch tickets), I really don’t see the purpose of toenails except as being purely vestigial.

It wasn’t much of a problem before people began to wear shoes regularly, and they would have had knives and sharpening stones to use by then.

They keep really long needles, thorns and nails from coming all the way through from beneath.

I go barefoot alot ( don’t say it, I own shoes and yea I know y’all think Arkansans are hicks) my feet are really tough but I still have to trim my nails. No, I don’t go gallovanting around the forest barefooted, so breakage is not something I have tested, personally. It seems to me that would happen. Kinda like wild horses and zebras don’t need their hooves trimmed like domesticated horses do. Anyway, that is what I think.

If you have a favorite rock for sanding down spear shafts and the like it would also work to file down your nails.

I never wear shoes. Always sandals.

For some reason my toenails very seldom need trimming.

I trim my fingernails when they begin to annoy me. Yes, clippers are great.

That makes sense. Maybe to minimize infection? Learn something new everyday.

I don’t think he’s being serious. If you don’t wear shoes your toes will be heavily calloused and pointy things will not easily penetrate them. If something did penetrate the toe stopping at the toenail won’t have any real advantage.

As was mentioned in Shagnasty:'s other thread, they file them, with rough objects, like stones, to keep themselves groomed. I don’t think its reasonable to consider humans, extant or prehistoric, as more primitive, than extant apes, or monkeys, and those specimens have grooming behaviors we can study.

Here’s a funny “just-so”-type observation of mine. Consider the common house cat. They spend a great deal of time grooming. They’re small animals, but their energy requirements are met with the high-energy = meat-rich diet. But they don’t groom themselves just because the cleaner they are, the healthier they are – they do it to show off.

“Everybody lookitme. I’m so casual. Just pickin’ at my claws. Why, i’m completely defenseless right now, as I put them into condition. A big ol’ rival could make a mess of me, right now. La ti da.”

Yeah, right. Go ahead and grab a cat while its grooming itself. Just be sure to put it on YouTube. I bet the cat would appreciate the opportunity to show how fast it can correct you – even with only half its claws in prime condition.

I rarely use clippers. I find tearing works well on both finger and toe nails.

My Siamese cats do groom to be noticed. Sometimes they chew on their claws. It’s a sound I don’t like to hear, it is fore-warning of furniture damage to come. If they remember they have scratching posts to use, or maybe they are scratching my furniture to annoy. They are seriously evil, most days. They are very handsome cats, though. You better believe it and tell them daily, or else!!

Same here, although I’d change “rarely” to “never.”

I don’t own clippers.

Tearing doesn’t always work so well, I’ve had a few instances of extreme tear, which is uncomfortable.

This amazes me. My wife’s nails are thinner than mine, so maybe hers are normal.

Mine are way too thick to tear, I have also had no success biting them.

J.R.R. Tolkien was no fan of Siamese cats and referred to them in a letter once, IIRC, as “spawn of Mordor.”

This short clip from a scientific documentary I once saw has some good information.

The trouble I have with tearing fingernails is the “leftover thumbnail effect”:

  1. Use one thumbnail to trim the 4 fingernails of one hand.

  2. Use the other thumbnail to trim the fingernails of the other hand.

  3. Use one thumbnail to trim the other thumbnail.

  4. hmmm. What to use to trim the remaining thumbnail?

I do it this way anyway, usually having to bite the remaining thumbnail and tear it off with greater difficulty with the freshly trimmed thumbnail.

Yep. I pretty much never use clippers. I just pick at the toenails and they trim pretty easily. With my fingers, I’ve always been a nail biter, so that takes care of that. Although, now that I’m married, my wife likes to take to my toes with clippers, so not as much tearing is involved these days, although I still have a habit of picking at my big toe to trim it down.

I have nail clippers, but

  1. I mostly only need them on my toes to keep the nails from bumping into my shoes
  2. I find a sharp knife works nicely to trim nails, both finger and toe.

I like my nail clippers, but I’d do fine without them.