Bullwhip hide selection…

Bullwhip hide selection…


One of the most important things when starting to make a bullwhip is picking out the right hide for the job.  Picking a hide to small won’t work and picking a hide too big will leave you with a ton of leftover kangaroo.  


Another consideration is what you are making.  If you are making a long whip that will use two hides, you will need to find two hides of similar thickness.  The thickness of the hide wil make a difference in how the whip looks.  A thicker hide can give your whip a more rugged look and a thinner can give you whip a smoother look (how you pare the strands will also change the look of the whip).

Scaring and stretchiness of the hide are also a factor in selecting the kangaroo hide.  A hide is virtually useless if it’s overly scarred.

 Bullwhip kangaroo hide

Right now I’m looking at two natural tan kangaroo hides and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. One hide is 52dm and the other is 53dm.  I could make one 10-12 foot bullwhip or make a two 6 foot bullwhips.  Making a pair of 6 foot bullwhips appeals to me right now…but before I can use those hides I’ve got an 8 foot budget bullwhip cut out and I think I’m going to plait that before I cut up more roo hide.



9 thoughts on “Bullwhip hide selection…

  1. Louie,
    I’m always amazed at how you get so much out of a hide. I feel like I must be getting the stretchiest hides in the world, all the time, from different sources lolll, because it takes me much more leather than it does you to do the same job.

    By the time I’ve trimmed the very stretchy spots (arm pits…) and have taken out the stretchy outside leather with the bellies, there is never enough left to make the entore overlay out of any one hide, regardless of it’s size. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong here; I mean my belly sets are always cut to fit the core, but there is always a lot of stretch on the first 1/3 of the skin (the outside part), that in order to get cales that are wide enough once stretched and skived, I find I have to cut them very wide at first.

    Any thoughts or pointers on this? it see,s to be my last big hurdle…


    1. Franco,

      I’m very lucky to have had excellent teachers for hide usage (David Morgan, Meagan Baldwin and Joe Strain). I trim as little of the outside as possible to make the perimeter of the hide not jagged (and smooth enough to cut lace around). So I’m not cutting away much of the stretchy hide, just making the outside smooth. Now I cut the outer belly first (cutting wider around the stretchy areas), there are two reasons I cut the outer belly first:

      1. The wider strands are easier to cut around wider turns in the hide
      2. If I hit a stretchy spot, it will still be stronger because of the wider strand.

      Also the wider strand strand use up more of the stretchy leather. I cut the outer belly starting at one of the “ears” of the hide and going to the neck then to the other ear…but before I get to the other ear I start cutting the inner belly starting at the “ear” that I didn’t start the outer belly at and cut across the tail section, then around and up toward the neck. And after the inner belly is started I finish cutting the outer belly, then go back and finished cutting the inner belly.

      By using the ears of the hide and the yokes for my belly sets it uses up the “ears” (back legs) of the hide which are stretchy and usually thrown away…and I’m not wasting good kangaroo on the yokes of the belly sets.

      Another reason I cut this way is to cut the inner belly across the tail. That leather is a bit thicker and I think it will help strengthen the transition from handle to thong (I honestly don’t know how much this helps…but it cant hurt!).

      Finally I cut the overlay.

      Hope that helps

  2. Hi Louie,
    yes you are indeed fortunate to have David Morgan as a teacher, as well as the others too :-) I should think their experience invalluable!

    Well that sounds a lot like what I do, but here is what I’ve been doing so far and maybe with this you can give me insights…

    I first try to stretch the outter skin so I can see where the very stretchy bits are, well we know where they usually are, but it’s never exactly the same is it?

    Then I trim the edges to make them smooth (much like you do).

    After that I will cut a test strand from one ear to the other going up around the neck, to find the real deal on where the stretch is located. I don’t cut this strand entirely, but leave it attached at the other ear, so that once it’s been stretched in my hands, I can more easily figure out where the stretchy spots are. Once I locate them, I mark them on the flesh side with a pen to have a visual reffrence. I then trim oout these bits and cut another test lace and I repeat the process until I’ve gotten most of the really bad bits out. The test laces usually end up in turk’s head knots or wrist loops, so they are not wasted, and the stretchy bits become wear leathers or fillers or covers for the butt end.

    Then starting at one ear, I will cut the first belly, cutting it wide and going around the neck to the other ear. Then depending on the length needed for the second belly I will either cut aroound the neck again or I will go around the tail first and then up around the neck. The second belly is started from the other ear than the first, so as to ballance the skin out a bit.

    Then it’s time for the overlay, starting at one ear (what’s left of it) and going around the neck to use up whatever stretchy bits might still be left on the wider strands.

    To me this seems like a good approach, but I see that compared to how you cut oout your bellies, it’s a bit different. Still, those last 6 strands of the overlay, the ones making up the point of the whip, take up a lot of leather and I’m often forced to split it between two hides. The only time I ever cut out an 8 footer from one single hide, I came up short and had to splice strands near the tip, which I hate doing. Ever since that time I think I’ve gotten afraid of coming up too short or of having strands that are too thin, so I tend to cut wide and this leaves me needing more than one hide. Tell me, have you ever experienced this? Do you have any tips on cutting that might help me?

    Many thanks for your help Louie. I enjoy your page everyday :-)


    1. I used to cut my strands wide, and I’d be wasting a lot of hide when I trimmed or tapered the strands. Now when I cut the overlay I do it wide for about the first pass around the skin (sometimes two passes), so that I don’t get surprised by any unexpected stretchy areas. I figure I can pare the strands down to the right width later. After the first couple of passes I try to cut the roo to 1mm wider than the diameter that I want to keep waste to a minimum. Why 1mm…I figure I’m losing about .5mm on each side of the lace when I pare it.

      With my bellies I cut the part that will be filler strands at staggered lengths instead of having 4 strands that taper to a point a the same spot. So for example instead of having 4 strands that are all 6 feet, I’d cut them at 4.5 ft, 5 ft, 5.5ft and 6ft. That’s going to save me 3 feet of lace.

      Another thing I can do because I have a ton of scrap lace kicking around here I can cut my bellies short (if needed) and use the scrap lace as filler if I have a hide that’s questionable to do the job. However in a perfect world I don’t want to be adding in any fillers.

      I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a 10 foot whip from one hide…and I think it’s been a little while since I’ve gotten a natural tan hide that’s been big enough for me to get an 8 foot hide out of just one skin. For an 8 foot bullwhip I generally go for a 65dm or larger skin. If I remember correctly the last few 8 foot Indy bullwhips I”ve made had one belly from a different hide.

  3. Hi Louie,

    I had a question regarding larger overlay stranding. Let’s say you’re doing a 10 or 12 ft. whip and you have a standard size (say 55dm) hide which can be used for the bellies and a larger hide that can be used for the overlay. I get a bit apprehensive when approaching how best to utilize the larger hide. I don’t want to waste leather by cutting away large amounts to remove the stretchy areas but I don’t want to ruin the first 3 or 4 strands if I’ve read the hide wrong and didn’t compensate for those stretchy areas. Those first few strands, when stretched, would have areas extra narrow, i.e. ruining the smooth taper on the strand we’re striving for.

    Is it ‘standard’ practice for the longer whips to use the larger hides and try to get a full overlay set out of it or is it better to always cut the bellies from the outer areas and it need be, use two trimmed hides for the overlay?


    1. Scott,

      Personally I always try my best to use the outer area for bellies where the strands are wider and don’t take much stress or abuse. What Joe Strain taught me was that when making a 10 or 12 foot bullwhip use three roo skins in the low to mid 50 dm range to make two whips. So you’d cut each outer belly from a different skin and the inner bellies is the third skin. Then you cut 8 strands from each skin to give you 24 strands or two 12 plait whips.

      Yes that means you need to make two long whips…but for me that’s fine.

  4. Thank you for the blog. Very informative.

    I am in the beginning stages of learning to build whips. I thought I would start with a simple stock whip of 6 feet (2.2 meters) of cowhide and see how it goes.

    In the making of stock whips in particular, would a single kangaroo hide be large enough to complete the whip….including a fully plaited handle?

    Any advice you could lend me on load, belly, etc. of kangaroo stock whips would be greatly appreciated.

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