The other day I was making a shot bag for a whip. If you don’t know what a shot bag is, essentially it’s a bag that holds lead shot (hence the name shot bag) inside the whip. My shot bags are made out of a tapered strip of leather that is rolled into a tube.
This tube is then filled with fine lead shot.
Mmm…margarita and lead!
Here’s a quick video of me filling up a shot bag:
The main reason that I use a shot bag is to add weight to a whip. This is mostly used (by me) on whips that have no handles like signal whips or snake whips.
One thing that I think is important to the construction of a bullwhip is dropping strands while it’s being plaited. Now this is something that in my opinion you have to do on some level on a bullwhip 12 plait and above (there are some exceptions to this).
If you don’t know what a strand drop is, it’s making the whip have a one point have less strands than the part before. For example I’m making a 12 plait bullwhip, at some point you will put strands into the core making it starting at that point 10 plait. Look at the bullwhip below:
It starts as a 12 plait and ends with 6 plait point. One of the reasons for a lower strand count towards the point is that it by having less strands you have thicker strands. Lets say each strand at a 6 plait point is 5mm thick, then the strands of that same point would be 2.5mm thick at 12 plait. To give you a bit of perspective 2.5mm a hair thicker than the edge of a U.S. Half Dollar.
With a thinner strand you run the risk of cutting a strand whenever you are out cracking if the whip it comes near anything remotely abrasive, like a rock. Obviously with a thicker strand you don’t have the same problem.
Also at the point of the whip you generally want to plait very tightly because that’s where a lot of stress is put on the lash of the whip. With a thicker strand you can pull harder before the strand would break than with a thinner strand.
The general rule of thumb that I follow when making bullwhips (for any 12 plait and above) is that the point will have half the plait count as the beginning of the whip. So a 12 plait whip will have a 6 plait point and a 24 plait bullwhip will have a 12 plait point.
Wait a minute…didn’t I just say that a 12 plait point had strands to thin?
Yes I did, but typically something like a 24 plait bullwhip isn’t something you’d use for everyday cracking. That’s into collector whip territory where it’s a functional piece of art, versus something you’d take out to move cattle or for a beginner to be cracking into the dirt.
Also strand dropping shows the skills of the whip maker. Strand drops aren’t easy to do, especially when compared to not dropping strands. I suspect the reason most people would make a 12 plait bullwhip that’s has no strand drops is simply lack of skill of the maker or lack of pride in the finished product.
Recently in the mail I got a flyer from Tandy Leather Factory in the mail with their February sale items. One thing that caught my eye was that they had Ostrich Leg Skins on sale.
If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ve probably noticed that I love making whips with handles from unique leathers. In the past I’ve made bullwhips with handles made from:
and Sting Ray Skin
That got me thinking that making one from ostrich leg skin would be a fun project. The description on Tandy’s website says the average size is about 5 x 22 inches. That would give me enough leather for at least two handles, but more more likes in the ballpark of 4 handles!
Unfortunately I’ve got a few more things I want to do before I get around to making an ostrich handle bullwhip.
For the last 11 days I’ve been on vacation and sure enough I managed to run into a bunch of bullwhips along the way. Whips are fairly common to see when you are visiting unfamiliar places, you just need to know where to look. The first place I looked for whips were in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and found a really tiny three foot bullwhip:
The next batch of whips I found in a street market in Cabo San Lucas.
Then I found some a whip, quirt and bosal in a museum in Cabo San Lucas.
And then a couple of days later I was at Disneyland and got to see the whips they sell outside the Indiana Jones ride.
One thing that amazed me was that they sell these bullwhips to kids and there is no disclaimer of any kind with them.
Here’s a the Indiana Jones Role Play Set that comes with a bullwhip:
One thing I remember from my last visit to Disneyland (probably 4 or 5 years ago) was that at least one of the Indiana Jones’s on the ride used to hold one of the cheapo pitch whips they sell outside the ride. Now all of the bullwhips they Indiana Jones has on the ride look much more screen accurate. Unfortunately because of low lighting and the ride being bumpy I couldn’t get any pictures of the whip that Indiana Jones has on it.
Also during my vacation I made a new friend named Sideshow Bert. Bert does juggling and stunts and one of the things that he features in his show is a bullwhip! Here’s Sideshow Bert’s demo reel and at the 2:04 mark you can see parts of his bullwhip routine.
His bit with the “Visor Cam” is very funny and very original. I think it’s a brilliant idea to show the audience another view of the newspaper trick!
Now that I’m back home and back to work all the orders of in stock whip will ship out today!