Strand Drops

Strand Drops

Right now I’m making a 12 plait signal whip and the overlay is almost finished.  I was just looking at it and admiring my strand drops in this particular whip.  That got me thinking about dropping strands in a bullwhip.

If you haven’t made a whip, or don’t know what a strand drop is, basically it’s when you take plaits out of the whip (or more accurately drop them into the middle of the whip) to reduce the overlays diameter.

For example an Indiana Jones style bullwhip (like David Morgan’s) starts as a 12 plait (12 strands) at the handle and ends with only 6 strands at the fall hitch.  The 6 strands that disappeared between the beginning and the end were dropped into the middle of the whip.

Having good technique for dropping strands will give you a whip that when coiled doesn’t have kinks in it and will help give the whip a  nice taper.

For me the hardest part about strand drops was to avoid:

  1. Having a bump at the strand drop
  2. Having a dramatic decrease in diameter at the strand drop
  3. Kinks in the whip when coiled

A long time ago I used to cut out filler strands equal to the strand about to be dropped in to reduce the bump in the whip.  This took away the bump, but gave me a sharp decrease in the whips taper (David Morgan scolded me for that one time, but helped me fix it!).  What I currently do is cut out approx 1/2 of what I’m dropping into the bullwhip.

Also I’m dropping one strand from the front and one from the back of the plaiting at the same point.  What that does is gives me to opposing small kinks in the whip that almost cancel each other out.  If you drop to strands at the same point on the same side of the whip, you put two slightly weak spots together and it gives you one larger weak spot and a more visible kink in the whip.

There is more to it that that, and a lot of it is plaiting technique or knowing when to drop a strand.  I know there are other ways to do this, this is how I figured it out to give my whips a smoother taper and coil.


6 thoughts on “Strand Drops

  1. Hi Louie,

    thanks for the advice. Dropping strands is always frightening me.
    Once, you’ve told me you split your dropped strands too. Do you mean you’re both cutting 1/2 (approx) filler strand of what you drop into the whip AND you’re splitting the dropped strand, please?


    1. JP,

      I used to split them, I don’t really do that anymore. I occasionally still split them if the overlay is very thick. What I currently do is take out 1/2 of what I’m dropping in.

      Right now that seems to give me the best results.


  2. Hey Louie,

    I think the priority when making a strand drop is to keep the tension in the braid even. This will make the thong behave as if there was no strand drop. In other words, the consistency in the tension in the overlay is far more important than any aesthetic flaws in the braid at the strand drops. An overlay plaited with a consistent strand pull, will roll out smooth and straight.

    Some whipmakers drop one strand at a time, others drop two. Of those, there are some that drop them at the front of the braid, while others drop them at the back. Yet, there are others that drop two at the same time, one at the front and one at the back.

    David Morgan liked to drop two strands at the front of the braid. That’s the method I normally do. If properly done, no bumps, lumps, kinks or weak points are created. Take a look at this pic. It’s a 5 footer that I finished recently. The overlay is 12 plait, ending on a 6-strand point. Thus, 6 strands were dropped, and there are 3 drop points along the braid. As the picture shows, there are no kinks of any kind.

    Joe Strain likes to drop two strands at the same time, one at the front and one at the back. He gets excellent results. Terry Jacka uses the same method.

    Mike Murphy drops two at the same time, the first two at the front of the braid (say 12 to 10 plait), the second two at the back (10 to 8). He also gets excellent results.

    So, my point is, it doesn’t matter what method you use to drop your strands, if done properly and with enough practice, you should get excellent results.

    My two cents.


    1. Hey Bernardo,

      I agree with you that tension is a priority when doing strand drops and that there is no one right way…and no specific wrong way. I hope that came through in the post, that the way I’m currently doing it isn’t the only way. I also drop both of mine at the same spot, one from the front and one from the back.

      Your 5 foot whip looks great!

      What you said is good advice for anyone making whips:

      it doesn’t matter what method you use to drop your strands, if done properly and with enough practice, you should get excellent results.

      I’m always amazed at the pictures of self proclaimed master whip makers bullwhips that have kinks in them.

  3. Hi Louie,

    Thanks for your answer.

    Hi Bernardo

    Thanks for your explanations. I’ve seen your 5fter bullwhip on the COW forum some days ago.
    I was very impressed.

    Ok, so it takes practice, practice, …..and practice!



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