Nylon Whips…

Nylon Whips…

Yesterday the book Making Nylon Whips by Shannon Reilly showed up in the mail.  I read it yesterday…and reread it last night.  I didn’t reread it because it’s a fantastic book, I reread it because I felt like I missed something the first time.  After the second read I feel like I didn’t miss anything, but the book did!

nylon whip making

There’s a lot of this book that to me was not included.  For example Shannon plaited whips from the point to the butt, but doesn’t say why this method was chosen over braiding from the butt?  I suspect that her reason for doing it this way is that it’s technically easier to do it that way (but that’s just my guess).

Does doing something the easy way make it a better way?  Sometimes it does…but sometimes it doesn’t.  Personally in my opinion in this case it doesn’t.  I don’t think you can control the taper as well when you work from the point of the whip.

Another thing that I feel got glossed over is the core of the whip.  She mentioned it’s the most important part, but doesn’t really go into it much.  She tells you have to put ball chain into, but that’s about it.

Now this might be my ignorance talking here, but why the hell would you want to use ball chain in a whip core? The point of adding it is to put weight into the thong and from what I’ve read a lot of nylon whip makers use it.  Once again I think that ball chain is easier to put in than lead shot or BB’s, so the technically easier method was chosen.

Once thing I’ve learned from making leather bullwhips is that you want a dense whip and one where the weight tapers evenly to the point.  If you know anything about ball chain (it’s what is used on Dog Tags or to keep your bathtub stopper from getting lost) it’s hollow!  and between each ball is the thin chain.  So you are losing a lot of density in the whip by having a hollow core!

Using something like BB’s will give you a more dense core.  Also because the ball chain all sits nicely in a row single file, the weight goes up and down through the core.  By using something like small BB’s or lead shot you can really pack it in and fill up more air space between the BB’s giving you a more dense core where the weight flows more evenly.

One thing to keep in mind about the author is that she makes whips for “lifestyle” whip crackers and not sport bullwhip crackers, so the level of performance expected from the whip isn’t the same.

Now keep in mind I’ve never made a nylon whip before, but I do have a pair of nylon whips from Steve Huntress (Steve makes whips for sport whip crackers).  I also have read Steve’s ebook on how to make nylon whips.  Steve’s book is great…and it’s sort of my foundation of my knowledge on how nylon whips are made.

If you are interested in learning to make a nylon whip I’d recommend Steve Huntress’s book: http://amzn.to/TIbvfR over the one I just read.

Is there anything wrong with nylon whips?  Nope.  However just like leather whips with nylon whips there are people that just make whips and people that have a passion for making whips.


8 thoughts on “Nylon Whips…

  1. Well said. I think sometimes people forget the reason behind a popular practice and just follow the practice blindly. Always good to remember why we do the things we do… I remember someone saying once that she always wondered why he mother would cut off both ends of the roast before putting it in the pan. So one day she asked her mother why she did that, and the mother said ‘Cause that’s how yer granny used to do it’. So she then went and asked her grandmother why she cut off both ends of the roast before sticking it in the pan, and her grandmother told her ‘Because back then the pan I had was too small to fit the entire roast, so I had to cut off the ends to make it fit,’ That always struck me as fascinating how easily we can loose sight of the reasons and be totally absorbed by the custom or ritual: if that’s how it’s done then that’s how I have to do it…

    The idea of using ball chain is to add weight in the core because nylon is lighter than leather, but as with leather, a dense core is what you want, because that’s the most efficient way of transferring energy down the whip. It’s not because somebody used ball chain as a core that this is the best way to do it. I’m not criticizing it, I’m simply saying “let’s not forget why wwe do things”.


    1. Franco,

      I totally agree with you that a lot of people do things the way they learned and not really thinking about why do they them that way. Personally one thing I think is more interesting than how someone does something a certain way is why they do it that way.

      One thing about whip making is that there is soo much tradition in how we learn. It’s easy for the why to get muddled up over the years and it becomes just the way we do it.

      Right now I’m re-learning how to pare. Normally I pare with my right hand reaching over the strand to cut the left side of the strand. I think this is the standard way most people pare because that’s how both David Morgan and Ron Edwards teach in their books. I was watching Strain pare and he does it with his right hand paring the right side of the strand. I asked him why he does it that way and that’s the way he learned to do it. Honestly I think the reason his strands are soo even (besides the fact that he is super talented) is that when you pare that way you can see the strand as it comes to the blade and can adjust in “real time” instead of 1/4 of an inch after the strand has passed through your hand.


  2. I pare both ways. Don’t you have to when you’re paring a 4 plait anyways? If you are paring both edges on the same side, you would have to learn how to pare on both sides of your hand, unless you untied the strand and re-tied it from the other end I suppose, but why bother?

    Also, I was thinking about something which I wanted to ask you; you tie your wear-leather over the entire length of the handle and tie on the core from the tip only, right? What are the reasons for doing it this way?


    1. Franco,

      I can pare on both sides of the strand, I think when I said learning I should have said trying to get better paring with my right hand on the right side of the strand.

      You can pare a 4 plait opposite corners on bellys, that is the way that I’ve always done it. In my opinion for bellies it doesn’t really matter how you pare (opposite corners, both same, etc) as long as you braid tight. One you put the next layer above it all that is going to smoosh down the corner that might not be laying perfectly flat. I occasionally do a belly with both flesh sides pared, but have never noticed a difference between opposite corners.

      I don’t really use wear leather very much anymore, except for some with spring steel handles. The reason that I used to have the wear leather over the whole handle and the core over just the tip was to reduce handle diameter. If a spike handle had both wear leather and the core over it, you’d get a fairly thick whip. Now for bullwhips with a spike handle I use a core that covers the whole handle, then flares out a bit wider at the end of the spike. I’ve found doing it that way really helps reduce the sharp taper right past the tip of the spike on the finished whip.


  3. Hey Louie,
    I should have written, why did you attach the wear leather over the entire handle and the core only at the tip and not the other way around? I guess my thinking being that the wear leather is really only there as a safety to make sure that the steel spike doesn’t cut through the other layers of leather, but it doesn’t need to be so solidly secured. Whereas the core which does run though a good quarter of the whip, is under a lot more stress and might require more “anchoring” than a wear leather.

    Having said that, you new approach is an interesting idea, which pretty much comes out to the same thing except you do it with only one piece of leather, right?


    1. Franco,

      The reason that I secure the wear leather over the whole handle is that it all of the whip is on top of it and it makes it easier to really tie down the core that’s shorter. In my head it’s harder to bind directly to the spike, so having the wear leather cover the whole spike you bind as tightly as you can for the whole length, and then the friction helps out. Then putting the core on top of that, it really lets your tie the shortened core on tightly.

      Honestly I think that either way works, because everything else that bound down on top of it should also hold it in place and as long as you bind the above layers tightly nothing is going to come out.

      You’re right, the core that flares out does the two things in one piece of leather. Also by having it flare, you can make it flare out more or less and can somewhat control the taper right off the tip of the spike. I’ve been doing it that way for quite a while now. Actually I made the core on my first whip that way. In my head right off the spike I thought it needed something to soften the taper and that was my solution. I stopped doing it that way when I was getting tips from other whip makers on how to make a whip…but added it back in about a year and a half or so ago.


  4. Louie,

    I make my small snake whips 3 to 4″ from tip up with out a fall on them but attach the cracker to the end of it. For good indoor use I find this to work well for the people that are Lifestylers and people who have limited space.. But for why one way verus the other I learned more about how to drop starnds from adding them them to it working from tip to butt.

    I find for the bull whips (mind you I am only on my 2nd handled bull whip and design for the 3rd one as I learn and try difffernt mentods, I find that I want the fall and want to work from butt down and had to learn trying on a few snake whips from butt down how to drop stands. my first attempt on it fail misserble and looks horable. I Found a place that did tip frist tried that and it looked 100 % better. But then I also fingured out how better to drop them and not to cut them too darn early . :)

    I have not attemped any leather as of yet hope to after I feel I am much better.

    Chain bb, I see that on a lot of sites and people advising it, I went away from it from cost stand point the place aroudn here want more money then it was for a 25 lb bag of shot at 40 dollars. But I went BB, when I am out of them I am going Shot and makeing leather shot bags with the leather I have and see how that works. but have seen people commet about using eltical cord, spring steel, and other things into the core of the whip incluidign Steel wire witch by their acount turn out to be very ad when the cable broke small steel slives everywhere on the whip so I have not tired it.

    well I am babbling


    1. Strand drops in a leather bullwhip can be tricky and pretty much all the top whipmakers that use leather go from the butt towards the point and drop strand instead of adding them. There are several reasons for that, but for me I feel it gives me more control with the taper.

      As for ball chain, I’ve never understood why anyone would use it to add weight….it’s hollow!!! Sure it’s easy to find, but it won’t do a very good job of moving energy though the whip. BB’s are better, but lead is best. Lead is pretty cheap, search on the internet for a place that has flat rate shipping. I don’t remember the name of the place I get it from (something like ballistic products) but I’ve only bought two bags in six years!

      Oh, a snake whip without a fall and a braided crackers is typically called a signal whip.

      My advice to anyone who wants to make a bullwhip is to buy a kangaroo skin and try it. As for if it’s harder or easier than nylon, both have their parts that are easier and harder than the other. Right now Tandy Leather has veg tanned kangaroo on sale for the cheapest you can get it in the USA…get a skin or two now because with the current sale price it’s the best time to learn!


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