I received a hand tracing from a self amputee for the first time in 1994 when a pen-pal from Kentucky who I had met through Ken Schein’s Unique included it in one of our correspondences. I had photographed several amputees by that point and was aquatinted with several others through mail exchanges but I had never thought to ask for a tracing of their altered anatomy.
My friend, it turned out, had been making hand tracings to swap with other amputees and admirers and with that in mind, I began asking my other amputee friend to document their modifications via tracings, including my friend Roger (Stonehenge, Toecutter, Subtracting) who sent me his in December of 1997.
No doubt influenced by the popularity of RE/Search Publications classic Modern Primitives, the publishing group responsible for the Outlaw Biker family of magazines released IN THE FLESH in the early 1990s, covering body modifications that fell outside of the spectrum of ‘just tattoos and piercings’. Unable to show the kind of explicit content allowable in independent publishing, In the Flesh was at best PG-13 rated so when they first exposed the world to ‘Stonehenge’- they relied on tracings and text to share the story of one of the most interesting characters I’ve met in my years in the Body Modification Community.
Stonehenge (who’s photos would make their debut on my spcOnline site under the name ToeCutter, and later Subtracting) used amputation as eccentric body sculpting; cutting his fingers and toes off at alternating joints to reshape his hands/feet as well as self tooth removal to make his smile ‘look like a jack o’ lantern’.
Most of these procedures were done without the aid of anesthetic; in the documentary with him shot/edited by Shannon Larratt of BME he walks the viewer through his technique which includes a tourniquet, ice water soaks, a chisel and eating liberal amounts of yogurt before the procedure. He didn’t use suturing after a ‘subtraction’ instead favoring using prescription pill bottles to protect the wounds.
In this photograph, taken in the early 2000s at the NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom, Stonehenge/Toecutter/Subtracting was showing me the small piece of bone sticking out of the end of his most recent amputation, which he planned to remove with ‘dental tools’ he purchased at a flea market.
In the Flesh magazine went through two different launches but never had the longevity of it’s (significantly inferior) main competition Tattoo Savage 1 My copies are missing.
I’ve been unable to reach Toe for several years and all attempts to locate him have been unsuccessful.
- Published under the Easy Riders imprint through Paisano Publications; still in print. ↩
I ran into my buddy Roger- AKA The Toecutter AKA Subtracting at the 2001 NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom and snapped some updated pictures of his feet. One of the most common bits of ‘wisdom’ that always seemed to circulate around toe amputation was that if you were missing enough toes you wouldn’t be able to maintain balance and that walking would nearly impossible. Roger, wearing nylons that day, decided to take his shoes off and jump up and down and spin around to prove his nimbleness.
The last time we spoke he mentioned he was going to remove the last remaining (big) toe; unfortunately I’ve lost touch with him (with all of his known email addresses bouncing back) so I don’t know if he ever ‘finished the set’.
In the mid/late 1990s, IN THE FLESH magazine (issue number needed; I can’t find them in my archives) ran a story on a voluntary amputee calling himself Stonehenge.They chose not to run photographs of his modification; instead they published tracings of his feet.
I was contacted by Stonehenge throughout he SPCOnline email account asking if I’d like to run the pictures that In the Flesh had been too cautious to print. I’m unsure of the date- it was approximately 1996/7.
I corresponded with Stonehenge- who was then calling himself ToeCutter (and eventually Subtracting) quite a bit before eventually meeting him in 1999 at ModCon1 in Toronto. I found him to be an eccentric fellow; someone who’s personality was so larger than life that his amputations (which have since moved on to his hands) weren’t the most dynamic thing about him.
Subtracting consented to a filmed interview with BME’s Shannon Larratt during which he amputated a fingertip.
His Apotemnophilia (Amputation fetish) presented as part of a bigger artistic statement- he cut fingers and toes off at different joints to create an asymmetrical aesthetic making it about much more than just becoming an amputee.
The last working email address I have for him bounces back, so if anyone has current contact information, please get in touch.
His first contribution to the SPCOnline site included a ‘self interview’ which is reposted below.
“I get asked questions by a lot of people who are really interest in why I got involved with foot sculpture and how I did it and what are the consequences, so here goes:”
Why did you cut off and change the lengths of most of your toes?
First, I was intrigued with the question, “does it hurt?” My answer would be no except when you amputate right up against the body of the foot; not when you do the actual amputation, but only as it heals. Second, I wanted to change the length of the various toes, with the idea of showing off one more body modification. A bit extreme, I will admit, but the look is quite jarring for a stranger.
When you amputate even the first toe, does this affect your balance?
I would say, that after maybe two toes, I could sometimes feel that when my toes get a message from my inner ears to correct balance, I might lurch or have to do a further correction.
What about the flow of blood? Did you end up in the ER?
When I am going to amputate a toe, I must have all my equipment ready and as sterile as possible. That includes pre-cut gauze bandages so that I can apply direct-pressure for 30 minutes to one hour. The big toes and thumbs have larger blood vessels than the other toes and fingers. These are smaller arteries, and one does not staunch the flow of blood with just gauze bandages. The further back to the foot you go, the more the blood you get. When I did amputate a big toe, I used small rubber tourniquettes and I found that the blood flow was controlled with the combination of tourniquettes and direct pressure. If one goes too far back, one could be unable to staunch the flow and end up in the ER. I did not though. There was more pain and this continued off and on for four weeks, especially at night.
You have now done nine toes or portions of them, can you go further with your feet?
I like the look of my feet now, but I may amputate the nail portion of my last remaining big toe.
Are you thinking about amputating your fingers or portions of them?
This would be a major decision, due to my work and family. My daughter does not know I have amputated my toes. She might want to take a look at my feet if I amputated a thumb nail. This is a major decision.
You have amputated just fingers and toes – – have you thought about amputating an arm or leg.
This is major and I do not like the idea of having to get up to put an artificial limb on in the morning.
Have you met or contacted other people who are involved with do-it-yourself amputation, or wannabes who are searching for a doctor to the amputation for them.
There are people I have been in contact with on the internet. There is a want-2-be news group, and aside from people who want to lose an arm or leg, there are also people in these groups who have already had legs amputated. There are two men who have had the operations. I have heard of several women, who had legs amputated, but they are not Americans. There are also women who are looking for male amputees, they are called “devotees.”
What other body modifications have you run into?
There are people who want to modify their genitals in such ways as castration, multiple piercing, nullification (amputating the penis), splitting the head of the penis. There are people who want to become paraplegics, and of course, all kinds of amputations.
Are there any other body modifications you wish to mention?
In Indonesia, apparently, the teen-agers are stretching their ear lobes and putting plastic bottle caps in their ears. I’ve been doing that here in the USA before I ever heard that they were doing it.