One thing that I’m notice lately is what makes a good bullwhip a great bullwhip is the little things. All the little things that a bullwhip maker does while constructing a bullwhip add up. For example the a little while ago I notice that if I pared the lace that I use on my turksheads the opposite way (top left and bottom right, instead of top right and bottom left) it would give me a tighter knot. All the little things like that end up being the bullwhip maker’s style.
Right now I have three bullwhips in the works:
- 18 inch 4 plait bullwhip: This bullwhip is finished except for shellac
- 8 foot 16 plait bullwhip: This bullwhip has a rawhide inner belly and has the 1st belly plaited.
- 10 foot Indy Bullwhip: This bullwhip has one belly plaited and the next belly and bolster cut out.
Also I’ve been learning a lot about rawhide lately. One thing that I’ve learned is that I’ve been braiding with it too wet. So I’ve been casing it and letting it air dry for a few hours before using. I’ve been getting better results this way.
Once again what I love about making bullwhips is discovering things. For example just about everyone had told me that you get rawhide wet and braid it. From what I’ve learned is you get the rawhide evenly damp (not wet) throughout the lace. Now there’s not much difference between damp and wet, but the devil is in the details!
Today I have three shows one about 30 minutes from my house, then the next two are about 2 hours from the first show. I’m hoping to find some time between shows to cut out the overlay for the 10 foot Indy bullwhip.
Here are some bullwhips and stockwhips that I’ve finished lately:
I’ve added some of the whips above onto my IN STOCK page and I’ll add the others soon.
My next project is a 16 plait 8 foot bullwhip with 10 inch handle. For that bullwhip I’m using a goat rawhide plaited belly. The rawhide is currently casing in the freezer. I’m learning more and more about rawhide and how to properly use it.
Yesterday I was performing in Portland and drove by Oregon Leather and picked up the book Braiding Rawhide Horse Tack. That book has a slightly different way of casing rawhide than what Gail Hought uses. I’m going to try the method from Braiding Rawhide Horse tack soon.
One thing that I’m noticing about rawhide is that it takes a lot more work to prepare it for braiding than kangaroo. That may be why a lot of people don’t use it.
After working hard to get caught up on my bullwhip orders I finally have everything shipped out! Because of that I’ve dropped my wait time from 3 weeks to only 1 1/2 weeks. The reason the wait is a bit longer than I need to make a bullwhip is that this time of year is my busy performing season and when you order I may be out of town, or just have a very full performing schedule and not have a day or two to devote entirely to your whip.
I do have one order pending, but it’s for an experimental bullwhip for someone and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. So it’s not technically an order until I make it and can see how it works (or doesn’t). I don’t want to charge the guy for something that I’ve never done before. It’s an interesting project which is why I took it, but if it doesn’t turn out I don’t want him to pay for a worthless pile of leather. At the very least I’ll be learning from the project.
Now that I have more time to experiment I’m going to make a few more bullwhips with rawhide bellies (possibly cores too). One thing that I did notice about using rawhide was that on the two bullwhips that I made one’s rawhide was soaked in water and one soaked in grease. The one soaked in grease is heavier than the other. That may be good in a shorter handle bullwhip, but this one is a long handle.
I’m still planning on making myself a pair of latigo stockwhips. I’ve had a side of latigo for a while that I bought for one whip a long time ago. I’m tired of looking at it, so I’m going to make some stockwhips out of it. Once it’s gone I’ll probably never buy another latigo hide. I prefer working in kangaroo…but what I’ve made with the latigo has turned out better than I expected!
Here’s a quick video of me giving the two stockwhips some test cracks.
After cracking them I want to make myself a pair of 6ish foot stockwhips.
Over the weekend I didn’t get much work on whips done (except for a bit Sunday) because I took my daughter out camping. We did some fossil digging and fishing, it was both of our first times doing both and it was a ton of fun.
I got home sunday afternoon and finished an 7ish foot 8 plait kangaroo stock whip’s thong and a 4 foot latigo stockwhip thong. The 8 plait kangaroo stockwhip is one that I started about 9 months ago and it’s been sitting on a shelf 3/4 finished. I finally got tired of looking at it and finished plaiting it.
the longer stock whip was fun to crack, it’s different from a bullwhip due to the longer handle. I have some cane and a couple of fiberglass stockwhip handle foundations around and I think I may make a stockwhip or two when I get a chance.
Next up for me is a 4 foot 12 plait bullwhip, I’ll try to post pictures when I start it.
Last night I completed three plaiting projects, one six foot Indy Bullwhip, one six foot long handle bullwhip and one riding crop.
Here’s the long handle bullwhip:
Here is the Indy Bullwhip:
And here is the riding crop (8 plait kangaroo):
I wasn’t ever planning on making a riding crop, but I’m trying to learn about using rawhide. Mike Murphy used to sell a rawhide bullwhip core, but doesn’t anymore and he told me that David Morgan does. I visited David yesterday and the rawhide core he sells is for a riding crop, it has a cane center. Because of the cane center it’s very rigid and I don’t think it would work well for a bullwhip. But I did learn a little bit about using rawhide to make a bullwhip core from the rawhide riding crop core.
One thing I’ve noticed is that people that make a good bullwhip have very clean looking inside layers on their bullwhips. This is based on the pictures that I’ve seen of people’s bullwhip bellies and from the few bullwhips I’ve taken apart.
So for example if you have a sloppy looking core, then chances are you aren’t really passionate about making a great bullwhip. A sloppy looking, but properly made will probably still function the same as a clean looking core, they maker will probably cut corners or not try very hard in other areas as well.
This is just an observation that I made last night when I was finishing up rolling a belly for a 6 foot Indy Bullwhip.
I was thinking “man that’s some good plaiting, nice and tight, and straight” then I thought that it’s on a layer that no one sees.
Yesterday I got some more kangaroo hides from the UPS man:
and I also got one rawhide kangaroo skin:
The rawhide kangaroo skin is hopefully going to be used for the first belly of bullwhips. I still need to learn more about preparing the hide for braiding. It’s not as easy as I’ve heard. In the past I’ve heard that for braiding rawhide you just soak it in water and start braiding, but there’s a lot more to it than just getting it wet if you want to braid it properly!
I found a book called the Art of Braiding by Gail Hought and it’s got a section on casing rawhide. Hopefully that will help, Gail’s book has more info on preparing the rawhide than Bruce Grant’s book.
Over the last couple of days I’ve made another bullwhip with a plaited rawhide belly. The main difference between this one and the on that I did the other day was that I soaked this one in water (not dressing) to soften it up.
After I plaited the belly and the the rawhide dry it did harden up (not quite as hard as before soaking it). I think that the reason it didn’t fully harden was that it soaked up some of the lube from the bullwhips core. After it dried I did notice that it seemed to be a tighter fit and it kept the tight fit after I lubed it up. So the rawhide was softer, but since it shrunk when the water evaporated it kept the smaller size.
Originally I was worried about it cracking and breaking, but I don’t think that will be a problem because it will soak up dressing from the other layers of the bullwhip.
I’m almost finished making an experimental bullwhip that has a plaited rawhide (goat) belly, then the 2nd belly is the usual veg tanned, drum stuffed kangaroo layer. The whip looks fine, but the test will be how it handles when I take it out for some test cracking (hopefully tomorrow).
Today I ordered a kangaroo rawhide skin and I’ll try using that. It’s much more expensive than the goat rawhide, so I’ll have to see if I like it.
From what I’ve heard and read about rawhide it’s normally soaked in water to loosen it up, then it’s plaited. When it dries it will harden up and give the whip a more “springy” action. From seeing the inside of a whip that I’ve taken apart I have a hard time thinking the rawhide will dry, I think it would soak up the leather dressing and become softer than dry rawhide. Using that notion instead of soaking the rawhide in water I soaked it in grease to make it soft. It got nice and soft and it braided easily, but it never really dried out and got hard.
I don’t know if that is good or not.
I may have to make a bullwhip with the rawhide layer out of rawhide that’s soaked in water to see if there’s a difference…I think that after all the grease that goes into making a bullwhip the rawhide will soak up enough grease and it won’t become rigid again.
One thing that about using the greased rawhide is that it seems to be much more dense than kangaroo, so it’s adding more weight to the thong…which can be good.
I just finished a 10 foot Indiana Jones Style (Morgan style) bullwhip. It’s the standard 12 plait kangaroo with the proper knots on it. The only thing left for me to do is take it out to the park and give it a few test cracks to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do.
I also finished the snake whip that I was working on, but haven’t taken any pictures of it yet.