Shaping the Point

Shaping the Point

Yesterday I had someone email me with a problem they were having with making whips.  They said:

“Your blog has turned into a great resource for beginning (and not so beginning) whipmakers. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting these past few months and one thing that I’m still having issues with is maintaining a round cross section when braiding over the looses belly strands. I’ve tried several different ideas to keep the strands from laying on top of each other forming a rectangular shape with the effect of sometimes working, sometimes not. This ends up adding a lot of time doing multiple plaiting over the same area until it “passes” inspection. Can you share your experiences and what works for you to maintaing a round rather rectangular shape?”

If I remember right David Morgan in his book Whips and Whipmaking cautions that having filler strands that are flat/rectangular can stack up on each other giving your bullwhip a square cross section instead of a round one.

There are a few  things that I do or I’ve done in the past to reduce this:

  • Cut the filler in half or thirds: Basically I cut the filler strand down the length of it, splitting it into two or three strands that are all connected at one end.  If you cut them with the knife held like you are paring you will get a shape that’s like a parallelogram, and they won’t necessarily stack up in a square.
  • Plait tighter or not as tight: The amount of pull you use can change how the filler strands stack up.
  • Full length bolster: If the bolster in your bullwhip runs the full length of the whip it will wrap around the filler strands giving your whip a more round cross section.
  • Lube up the filler strands: Greased strands will change shape better than dry strands.
  • Roll promptly: Roll your whip immediately after finishing it.  The filler strands will still be a bit moist from the plaiting soap and any dressing and will hold a shape better.

Hope that helps!


4 thoughts on “Shaping the Point

  1. This is also something I’ve had problems with, and I too am aware of Morgan’s cautions, and yet, the issue still arises from time to time. Here are some ideas, perhaps they will supplement (or not) yours.

    I have at times, kept one filler strand from the last belly at full width, instead of tapering it along with the others. This act sort of like a bolster would but only it is made of kangaroo and not kip, as my bolsters are, and it isn’t wide or thick enough to cause any problems with keeping a thin point, which I’ve found running a bolster to the end does (unless you end up cutting it as thin as any of the other strands, and at that point you may as well use a kangaroo strand rather than a kip bolster).

    I use the much rounder shape of the thicker part of the whip to ease me into rolling the less round areas. In other words, if you try to roll a less round area (like the point) on its own, it may be difficult, but if you start by rolling the thicker areas first and slowly move up to the more squarish part of the thong, you will find that it will take on a round shape more easily (or at least I’ve found it does).

    Another thing I’ve found helps is if you take all the filler strand in your hand and sort of round them first into position. Sometimes using fine sewing thread helps to keep them together so they don’t come apart before you plait over them. I know this isn’t very popular because a lot of people don’t like to use any sort of binding beyond the transition zone, but this isn’t really a binding, it’s just to keep the strands in the roundish shape you’ve made them into.

    My two cents… What do you think Louie?


    1. Franco,

      those are great ideas!

      I also forgot to mention that you can also lube up and round the filler strands like a fall. That helps a little bit. You can also carefully reshape the whip a little bit with a rubber mallet.


  2. Hi Louie/Franco,

    Thanks for the tips. Yes, I’ve tried the rounding of the strands(like a fall) and sometimes it works, sometimes not. It may have something to do with the hide itself. In any event, what I tried on my last whip is taking two of the longer filler strands and routed them to lay on the outside of the bolster leaving the other strands to be covered by the bolster. This allowed the strands inside to curve/bend more readily than had all the strands been grouped together. The result was a nice round finish to the diameter. I thought this might affect the taper but it didn’t (at least in this instance). I’ll try this on my next whip and see if I get a consistent result.

    Thanks again for the tips guys.

    1. Scott,

      I see what you are trying to do with running the two on the outside. Personally I think (this is in my head since I haven’t tried it your way) having all the stands with a bolster covering them will force them to be more round.

      Try cutting them in half, that will not only have them stack in a less square but they will end up a bit more dense after plaiting.


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