Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Recently I got an email from someone who wanted to know the names of the different parts of a bullwhip. There is some variation in the terms that people use. The variation is usually a geographic thing, but it can also be a generation thing.

We’ll start at the end you hold and work our way to the end that makes the noise.

The knob on the end is called a heel knot.

Bullwhip Heel Knot

Moving up the whip, you then have the handle. Despite it being called the handle, most whip crackers hold the whip in their hand by the heel knot. Holding the whip by the heel knot allows you to use the full length of the handle as leverage to put more energy into the whip with less effort on your part.

Here’s the handle:

Bullwhip handle

Visually at the end of the handle is the transition knot. This know is mostly decorative. There are specific instances where this knot has a function, but is most whips it’s purely for aesthetics. A whip doesn’t need this knot to function, in fact I’ve made many by whips by request that don’t have that knot.

This knot typically sets at about the spot where the rigid handle ends. It’s main purpose it to hide the transition from the plaiting pattern of the handle to that of the lash.

Bullwhip Transtion knot

Past the transition knot is the Lash or Thong of the whip. The lash is the flexible part of the whip that’s braided.

Bullwhip lash or thong

Extending past the lash is the fall. The fall is attached to the lash by a knot called a “fall hitch”. The way a bullwhip is designed the fall which takes a lot of stress is easily replaced.

Bullwhip fall

Finally we to the end of the whip that makes the noise and that’s the crackers. Like the fall the cracker is designed to be replaced, and replaced very easily. The cracker takes the most abuse out of all the parts of the whip, it’s also cheap to replace.

Bullwhip cracker

There you have it, all the parts of the whip.


8 Foot Bullwhip – Making

8 Foot Bullwhip – Making

Yesterday I finished the overlay of an 8 foot bullwhip. It’s 12 plait in whiskey kangaroo.

After the overlay was put on, I tied some string for the foundation for the transition knot:

Then put a turkshead over the string:

The string base for the knot is something that I put on to keep the knot from sliding up and down the whip if it loosens over time. It also builds up the space under the knot and gives it a little bit of texture.

Also you’ll notice the color difference between the knot and the handle/lash of the whip. The knot is the color of the leather when I get it, and the handle/lash is the color the braiding process (pulling/plaiting soap/etc) changes it to. The knot will be darkened during the finishing process.

Today I’ll put the heel knot on, roll and schellac the whip and ship it out!


Bullwhip – In Progress

Bullwhip – In Progress

Yesterday I finished up all of the internal layers of the 8 foot bullwhip I’m working on. I braided the outer belly and then cut out the outer bolster:

This bolster is a two part bolster, I join the with a long wedge shape. This makes is much easier to braid over to join them and it also helps keep them together over time.

I then attached the bolster to the handle:

An put some weight into what will be the heel knot foundation of the whip.

This weigh balances out the whip a little bit more and makes it so that it’s not super nose heavy and wants to jump out of your hand when you crack it.

Then I cut out and did the strand prep for the 12 plait overlay:

And got started plaiting the handle.

I’m about a foot into into the whip and today I should get the overlay finished. Tomorrow will be the knots, rolling and any finishing touches. Then this whip is off to its new owner!