For a long time I’ve wanted to make a bullwhip with a sharkskin handle. The main problem is that it’s very expensive and I’m unaware of anyone locally that sells it. So I can’t see it before I buy it. I didn’t want to spend $150 or $200 on a skin that was totally unusable.
Well I finally found someone that was willing to sell me a small piece of sharkskin. While it was much more expensive by the foot than a whole skin, a 9 x 12 inch piece will satisfy my curiosity and if it’s usable it will make 1 – 2 handles. Here’s the piece that’s on it’s way to me:
I think it’d be cool if the skin is braidable and I could make a sharkskin whip! However from what I’ve read it’s got some texture to it, so the plaits rubbing against each other over time probably wouldn’t be good for the whip.
Today I did some work on a Deluxe Budget Bullwhip and after I cut out the strands for the belly and overlay I gave them a coat of grease. That got me thinking about why I think it’s important to grease a lot of leather. Most veg tanned cowhide that you see in leather shop (like a Tandy) is pretty dry.
When you are using a dry hide you really need to put some grease into it and let it soak in…not just plaiting soap before braiding. If you braid a really dry hide you can tear the fibers by plaiting too tightly. However if you grease them would might normally tear on a dry hide hopefully the fibers will stretch or bend a bit and not break. Also by putting more oils into the the whip you are making a the beginning you will increase the life of the whip…and make the users not have to put multiple coats of grease on their new whip before they use it.
Another advantage of grease is that when it softens the fibers on an internal layer, you are able to get the whip a little more dense by plaiting over the top of it.
Also by adding grease early on you are adding a bit a weight of the leather in the bullwhip, and that little bit over all the strands adds up.
So all those reasons are why I always grease up a dry hide or skin.
This morning I cut out the belly and overlay for an 8 foot Deluxe Budget Bullwhip.
I know what you are thinking, “What’s the difference between a Deluxe and the Regular Budget bullwhip?” Well basically the deluxe has a plaited belly in it. That plaited belly will add density to the core and a bit more action to the whip.
I don’t know how much time I’ll have to do the strand prep and any plaiting today, once again I have a full performing schedule this weekend.
I’ve seen several of these in museums in rural areas where I live and I’ve always wanted to try to make a black jack. This one is a bit different from the ones that I’ve seen mainly because of my whip making background.
In the final picture, I still haven’t rolled the whip or cleaned it up, so it still looks a bit rough.
Having now made one of these, if I ever make one again I’ll know what to do. There are a couple things that I would do differently. The main one is that I plugged the shotbag at the wide end with a rolled up strip of lead. My thinking was that it would add more weight (and it does), but it make the large knot a bit wobbly. Also I’d probably plug the thinner end instead of the wide end.
This was a fun project to do, but I don’t see myself making anymore of these because I don’t know how legal they are to own, and with that said I don’t want to sell them because I don’t want any legal trouble. However it was fun to make!
Last night I started working on an Red Latigo bullwhip that is 8 plait. I’ve got the overlay cut out and it’s already had one trip through the splitter.
I’m thinking because this started at 4mm thick and after the first round of splitting it’s about 3.2 mm, it will still need to be thinned down a bit more. I’m hoping to get it into the 2.25mm to 2.5mm range.
As an 8 plait whip if the leather is very thick it will be hard to drop strands or do it as a “straight eight”. In a perfect world I’d like to do this whip with an 8 plait point without dropping any strands, but I don’t think that is realistic. The leather probably won’t be strong enough if I thinned it down that much.
I might try tapering the thickness of whip’s overlay as it moves towards the point. So run just the last half through the splitter, then the last third, and finally the last couple of feet. That might let me get the strands thin enough to do an 8 plait point and not have too much trouble with breakage while plaiting.
Currently I have a Red Latigo bullwhip in the works. This stuff is fairly thick at about 3.8 mm and very dense when compared to something like kip. Here’s the bullwhip I’m currently working on:
I made one whip where I only thinned down the leather near the point so that I could get a nice tight braid at the end. However for the whip that I’m working on now I thinned down the entire length of all the strands. I split them down to 3mm thick.
By thinning down the strands I’m able to get a tighter braid without killing my hands. The thinner strands bend a bit easier than the thicker, so I have to use less energy plaiting to get the whip braided to about the same tightness.
I don’t think the whip is losing any “toughness” because the strands are still 3mm thick! So far this bullwhip is turning out well, I should at the very least have the overlay finished today.
Yesterday I braided the overlay of a bullwhip made from Red Latigo:
The hide that I made this out of was a bit thicker than I wanted. I had ordered 8 / 10 ounce and the invoice is marked 9 / 11 ounce. While they are basically the same thickness, the slight bit thinner would have been nice.
While making this whip I thinned down the leather on the last about half of the whip, then thinned the last quarter a bit more. That let me get a tighter and smoother braid near the point.
The next one of these that I do I will probably thin down the entire lengths of all the strands. That will give me a smoother profile on the whip. However all that splitting will add to the cost, since I intended to use this side of red latigo for budget bullwhips.
Later today I’ll probably do the knots on this bullwhip.