Don’t be a Scumbag Whipmaker…

Don’t be a Scumbag Whipmaker…

One thing that really pisses me off are people that misrepresent their whips.  One thing that I’ve always done with my bullwhips it accurately describe them and my experience level with making.  I’ve been making bullwhips for under 3 years and I’m not the best maker in the world…but I do make a whip that cracks well.  

That said I as browsing ebay’s bullwhips listings today and there is a bullwhip for sale.  I’m guessing it’s the first bullwhip that someone made.  Here’s a description of it:  

Cowhide bullwhip featuring high quality cowhide, 3 braided bellies, a vinyl bolster for a light weight design with a spring action, a 12 plait overlay, a 2.5 ft top grain cow hide fall, and 6 plait braided wrist strap. Handle done in the single-diamond pattern, and two beautiful turk heads (Knots on the handle). This whip was made to be balanced, light weight, have an easy fast action, and to be durable…

There are three things potentially wrong with the description (#3 is the biggest issue).  


  1. The description says that it has 3 plaited bellies, typically the more braided bellies you add the heavier the whips gets.  So I’m betting this bullwhip is more medium than light weight.  But that’s just a guess because I havent’ held the whip, so I could be wrong. 
  2. Another potential problem with this bullwhip is the “vinyl bolster”.  I don’t know much about vinyl, but I’d be worried that it’s not porous enough to allow leather dressing to penentrate it.  
  3. The description says “two beautiful turks heads”, here’s the picture of the turks head:
    turks head on bullwhip

    The turks head looks nothing like a knot should look, and it’s definately not what I would call “beautiful”.  

I’m not slamming the bullwhip, everyone has to start somewhere.  But if you are selling a bullwhip you have to be honest.  For example if it’s the first bullwhip you have made you should say that, that’s a very important piece of information.  I know that if you say it’s your first bullwhip it might not sell for as much money. But if you are just getting started as a whip maker you should be selling them to offset the cost of leather while learning, not to make money.  
Also being honest about the bullwhips faults, instead of calling the faults of the whip “beautiful”.   It’s very hard to be honest with something you’ve made, but if you are selling it you have to be.  You really need to try to step outside of yourself and look at it with a fresh set of eyes and see the bullwhip for the bullwhip, and not something that you are proud of because it’s your first bullwhip.
12 foot belly

12 foot belly


Tonight I started working on a 12 foot bullwhip.  The kangaroo layers have already been cut out, so all I have to do is cut the core, bolsters and then plait the layers.
12 foot bullwhip
One thing I’ve noticed about my progression as a bullwhip maker is that the bellies on my whips look much nicer.  Some of my early ones weren’t very easy on the eyes.  
By looking better, I mean that the bellies have a nice clean look to the binding, bolsters and the plaiting.  
Another thing that I’ve been doing lately is splitting all the kangaroo layers on my bullwhips so that all the strands are the same thickness (within the same layer).    Before I was just splitting the bellies.  
Since I’ve been using my splitter a lot lately, I’ve gotten much better at using it.  There is a bit of a learning curve with a splitter…and keeping the blade sharp helps a ton too!
Kangaroo bullwhip
Tomorrow morning hopefully I’ll have time to work on the next two layers (a bolster and belly).   I’ve got two afternoon shows, and I’m still trying to get caught up from being on the road performing for three days.
Sore Elbow

Sore Elbow

My right arm (elbow) is sore, I think I have a touch of “Wii Elbow”.  Lucky for me I’ve been doing more performing than plaiting the last couple of days.  A little bit ago I finally put the knots on the last cowhide Young Indy Bullwhip that I plan on making (for a little while at least).  


Young Indiana Jones Bullwhip

This Young Indy Bullwhip was the last of my hand dye practice bullwhips.  Later this week I’ll be starting work on a 12 plait kangaroo Young Indy.  I’ve listed the cowhide Young Indy bullwhip for $75 and you can get it on my “Bullwhips IN STOCK” page:  

Two Tone Bullwhips

I’ve also finsihed tying the knots on the pair of 6 foot 12 plait kangaroo bullwhips.  I still need to shellac them and of course I’ll need to test crack them!


Two Tone Bullwhips

I took the picture before I had tied the transition knots, I’ll post pictures once the shellacing is finished. 


Two Tone Bullwhip Progress…

Two Tone Bullwhip Progress…

Last night I managed to get some more of the overlay’s of this pair of bullwhips plaited.


Two Tone matched pair of bullwhips

They both have about 5 feet paliting and I should be able to finish the overlays and attach the falls today.  

I also have a 5 1/2 foot 4 plait cowhide “Young Indy” bullwhip that needs knots (I have to dye the lace for the knots first).  Hopefully I can do those knots today as well.  

Next week I’m on the road from Monday to Wednesday (Nov 10-12, 2008) in Boise, ID, if you are in that area and want to crack whips or have a beer and talk whips feel free to contact me. 


Two Tone Bullwhip

Two Tone Bullwhip

Last night I managed to plait one of the 6 foot bullwhips up to the 12 plait to 10 plait drop.  Today I’m going to start plaiting the other bullwhip up to the same point.  I’ve been making this pair of bullwhips in staggered steps.  The reason I’m doing them that was is so that the contruction is exactly the same.  

For example if I were to make the two bullwhips at different times (i.e make one whole whip, then the next) I might end up with slightly different belly lenghts or bolster lenghts.  By making each layer at the same time I can compare them side by side as I go along.

bullwhip bolsters

Personally I think this is overkill and not necessary.  My thoughts on a pair of bullwhips is that they need to be made similarly, not necessarily exactly the same.  I”ve cracked two 6 foot whips by different makers (one in each hand) and they really don’t crack differently…unless they have different weights or handles.  As long as they have similar constuction you’ll be fine.  


Matched pair of bullwhips

Honestly I think it’s impossible to get two exactly matched bullwhips made.  There are two things going against it perfectly matched pairs:  First, you are using kangaroo hide and no two  hides are going to be exactly the same and there may be stretcy spots in different places.  Second, a human is making the whip and they can’t pull exactly the same on all the strands.  

Another thing is that your left and your right hand work differently and both bullwhips will break in slightly differently.  Your left hand (or non dominate hand) might favor a slightly lighter bullwhip…or a heavier one compared to your right hand.  


Pair of bullwhips…

Pair of bullwhips…

Yesterday I started the work of assembling a pair of bullwhips.   They are going to be 6 foot 12 plait bullwhips with two tone kangaroo overlay.  Right now I have the two bellies plaited and I just need to cut the last bolster, plait the overlay and tie the knots.  

Before I started the plaiting on the bellies of the pair of bullwhips I sharpened the blade on my splitter and split down the bellies to the same thickness and today I get to do that with the overlays.  Splitting leather is one of the parts of making a bullwhip that I consider a “chore”  and I’m not the biggest fan of splitting leather.  It’s not that I don’t think it improves the final product, but it’s boring to do. 

The last time I visited David Morgan we were talking about falls and I mentioned that it’s my least favorite part of making bullwhips. David told me that I should try to enjoy making falls because they are an important part of the bullwhip.   We also talked about what the weight and diameter of a fall  does to the bullwhips action.  

Today I’m heading up to Bellingham, WA (about 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Seattle) to do a couple of shows but I’ll have some time this morning to hopefully get the overlays for this pair of bullwhips split and maybe a bit of the overlay started.  


Dying Leather…

Dying Leather…

My experiementing with dying leather is finished and I’m ready to start making a Young Indy Bullwhip from kangaroo skin.  I did two experiments with dying the leather.  The first one I made the bullwhip, then I dyed it.  and the second one I dyed it before plaiting it.  

Plaiting THEN Dying

The advantage when I plaited the whip then dyed it was that it was much easier to do.  The disadvantage of doing it this way is that the dye job isn’t as good as it could be.  There are two things working against you:


  1. The bullwhip is greasy from the plaiting soap and the dye’s color won’t turn out quite right.
  2. You can’t dye every little bit of the bullwhip’s strands.  When the  bullwhip flexes there will be little bits that are under another strand that you can’t color.
Here’s the finished 6 foot that was made by dying AFTER  plaiting:
Young Indy Bullwhip
Dying a bullwhip after it’s made is not the best way to go for complete coverage of the dye.


Dying THEN Plaiting

The disadvantage with dying the strands before plaiting is that it’s a lot of work!  The advantage of dying before plaiting is that you will get better coverage of the dye and the color will be brighter because the dye is applied before greasing the strands for plaiting.  

I’ve found that there is less bleeding of the dye onto my hands when dying first because the strands are dry and the grease is penetrating the leather better.

Here’s a half finished bullwhip that was dyed BEFORE plaiting:


Bullwhip making

This is the method that I’m going to use when I dye the kangaroo Young Indy bullwhip.  

Dying Kangaroo Lace

The knots on both of these cowhide bullwhip are/will be kangaroo that’s I’ve dyed black.  Here’s me practicing dying some lace:


I’ll probably add both of these bullwhips to my IN STOCK page shortly.