Here’s an email I got recently:
…I’m currently playing Slim, the jerk line skinner in a community theater production of ‘Of Mice and Men’. Stage directions indicated Slim is making a leather bullwhip while all the dialog takes place in act 2. I like historical accuracy and verisimilitude, plus I’ve always wanted to do leatherwork. I would love any feedback you can give me on kits or supplies and instructions for making an historically authentic (1930s) working mans bullwhip.
Even just some whip lore would be great. Thank you,
I just want to give you a heads up that a bullwhip typically isn’t something I’d recommend as an introduction to leather braiding. I’d recommend you get the book Braiding Fine Leather by David Morgan and work on a couple of the projects in that book before tackling a bullwhip to learn the basics of plaiting. Once you’ve made some of the easier projects you’ll have a lot more success with your first bullwhip.
As for making something that is historically accurate, pretty much not a lot has changed in the whip industry from 1930’s the tools etc are pretty much the same, a knife and a hook on the wall. In my opinion it’s gotten less high tech because there aren’t really any big whip making companies that use machines to braid anymore, it’s become a “craft industry” where it’s all hand done.
For the history of whips and some info about whip making, I’d recommend reading David Morgan’s Whips and Whip Making and for the history of whips in the USA you should read Whips of the West by David Morgan.
Hope that helps,
I was recently performing at a “pirate festival” and ran into this whip:
this bullwhip was only about 2 feet long, so it didn’t have much or a crack to it and was difficult to crack…but it sure was fun trying!
I’ve said it before, and it feels true every time…I feel like I’m always cutting out more falls!
It’s either falls or crackers…
Here’s a nylon bullwhip that I was fortunate to get to meet up with its new owner to personally deliver it!
This one is a 16 plait whip and is 5 feet long. I made this one a while ago, however it’s new owner happened to email me looking for something and this fit the bill!
On July 8th the world of whips and whip making suffered a HUGE loss with the passing of David Morgan. The next four paragraphs are from the David Morgan company’s facebook page:
David Morgan of Woodinville, WA died July 8, 2015. Born May 21, 1925 in Vancouver, Canada, David is survived by his wife of 62 years, Dorothy, their four children (Olwen (Robert Ruggeri); Barbara (Chip Zukoski); Meredith (Ed Orton) and Will), six grandchildren and one great grandchild.
David was a metallurgist by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He and Dorothy founded Austral Enterprises in 1962, which continues to this day as David Morgan, LLC.
David was kind, helpful, gregarious, generous, and an excellent problem-solver. He will be missed. The family wishes to express gratitude to Lawrence and Michelle’s Adult Family Home for the loving care they provided.
Services will be private. In lieu of flowers or contributions please do something kind or helpful in David’s name. David W Morgan, co-founder of David Morgan LLC, died on July 8, 2015 at 90 years of age.
I was very fortunate to discover that David Morgan’s shop wasn’t too far away from where I lived when I first got into whip making. I’ll never forget showing him a whip that I was proud of and him pointing out all the mistakes that I made. That “tough love” really helped make me a better whip maker.
I learned to plait from the Ron Edwards books, however I learned to plait correctly by having David show me all the places where I had extra movement or was just plain doing it wrong.
Pretty much all the skills that I use to make a whip David helped me with and was always very generous with his time and I will miss him!
Looks like season 2 of Gotham will have some whips in it with the addition of the Tigress character. Here’s the blurb from TVLine:
Fox’s Gotham is ready to unleash its Tigress.
Jessica Lucas, who recently wrapped a run on Fox’s Gracepoint, has landed the Season 2 role of Tabitha Galavan aka Tigress, TVLine has learned exclusively.
On the DC Comics-based drama, Tabitha is the lead enforcer for her brother Theo, a billionaire industrialist hell-bent on taking over Gotham (and to be played by go-to bad guy James Frain). Described as sexy and violent — and toting a bullwhip! — she’s the opposite of her cold and calculating brother, deriving a sensual pleasure from the mayhem she’s tasked with making.
Lucas’ other TV credits include The CW’s Melrose Place, 90210 and Cult, Friends With Benefits, CSI and the Canadian series Edgemont.
Wonder if there will be a real whip or if it’s going to be CGI?
Recently I had a whip come in that was damaged by a dog chewing on it.
This lash was an older one and I found it very interesting internally based on what I could see. the core appeared to be sash core and very fine electrical wire. The metal in the wire that was exposed was soft and didn’t add any stiffness to the whip, and since it was very thin it couldn’t have added much weight. When it was newer the wire might have added a bit of rigidity to the whip, but with such a thin gauge it couldn’t have added much.
The wire ran the full length of the lash.
I made a 6 plait kangaroo lash to match it, however mine didn’t use any wire.
Here’s the new lash next to the old one:
This was a fun project for me!
Looks like there’s a bullwhip workshop tomorrow in Nevada. Here’s the info from the Nevada Appeal:
Professional bullwhip instructor Doc Durden will share his talent in a free presentation at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park at 10 a.m. Saturday, when he will demonstrate the use of whips in both ability and marksmanship.
The term “bullwhip” is unique to the cowboys and buckaroos of the old West. The bullwhip was introduced to the United States by the Spanish Vaqueros. The Spanish, in turn, migrated into Mexico and taught the talent to the ranch hands of the old West. In the latter half of the 20th century, attempts to preserve traditional crafts, along with a resurgence of interest in Western performance arts, led to an increased interest in whip cracking as a hobby, performance art and competitive sport. The motion picture “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” in which the hero uses a bullwhip as both a tool and a weapon, generated increased interest as well.
Saturday’s event offers an opportunity for audience participation and brief instruction. Durden claims a 99 percent success rate in teaching anyone to snap a whip for the first time after 15 minutes of instruction.
Durden at times appears as “Wild Bill Hickok” and uses the bullwhip to enhance his character portrayals. He is also a casting director, producer and videographer who has appeared on the Discovery Channel and HBO, and more. His most recent production, “The Evil Twin,” is a Western filmed in Virginia City.
For more information, go to dangberghomeranch.org
Should be a fun time if you can make it out!
A question I get asked a lot about making a whip is whether you should use plaiting soap or if you can use leather dressing like Pecards for plaiting. To put is simply you can use either for plaiting, however each will have its own advantages and disadvantages.
When using leather dressing for plaiting it’s best for leather that isn’t drum stuffed. Drum stuffed leather has oils worked into it at the tannery and is already nice and full of all the good stuff that’s in leather dressing. So if you use it for plaiting you will probably end up with a really greasy whip.
Leather dressing is also more expensive than plaiting soap, so there’s a little bit of an extra cost.
Leather dressing is great to put on layers of a whip that may be dry like a bolster that’s cut from cowhide that isn’t drum stuffed.
Plaiting soap is great for using on all types of leather, however if you are braiding leather that isn’t drum stuffed remember that it doesn’t contribute as much oils to the leather as a leather dressing would. It’s primarily a lubricant to make plaiting tightly easier.
Plaiting soap is very cheap a giant pot of it will cost you a few bucks.
What Do I Use?
When making whips I personally use a combination of the two. If the leather hasn’t been drum stuffed I give it a hit of leather dressing and let that soak in. Once the dressing has soaked in I use plaiting soap for the actual braiding.
Hope that helps!
Not too long ago I was up in Edmonton, AB, Canada doing a show and stopped by a farmer’s market. I was looking around and heard whips being cracked! Turns out it Tianna The Traveller cracks a pair of stock whips to build a crowd at the start of her circle show. Here she is doing an escape where she’s wrapped up in packing straps and gets out:
After the show I had a good time chatting with her and it turns out her stock whips were made by Steve Huntress at Noreast whips.
I’ve got a pair of bullwhips that Steve made a long time ago…I think before Noreast Whips had a webpage! Steve also has a good book on making nylon bullwhips called: How To Make Nylon Bullwhips