Why Put Lead in the Handle of a Bullwhip?

Why Put Lead in the Handle of a Bullwhip?

On many of my kangaroo bullwhips I put a bit of lead in the handle of the whip.  This is put under the heel knot to add weight into the palm of your hand when holding the whip.  A lot of people think this is to make the handle the same weight as the lash giving you a balanced bullwhip.  If you think that or want to know where I am coming from please read my *brilliant* post about Bullwhip Balance before continuing reading.

Okay, so now you know what I think of balance points on a bullwhip and why it doesn’t really matter if the handle weighs exactly what the lash weighs.   So that brings me to the next question, “if it doesn’t matter, why bother putting lead in the handle?”

Good question.  The main reason that I put weight in the handle of the bullwhip is to give you something secure to hold on to.  That’s it. Simply to make the whip not want to jump out of your hand when you crack it.

Alright so now you know why I put lead into the handles of whips you might be curious as to how I determine how much to put in.  When I make a bullwhip I always add lead towards the end of the process.  If I’m adding lead before the overlay is put on then I can crack the belly and sort of get a feel for how the whip is going to end up to help me determine what it needs.  If I am adding lead after the overlay is plaited I can crack the whip without lead to see what it needs then add the lead and crack the whip again and adjust if necessary.

One thing to consider is that I do not have a fixed amount of lead that I add.  I have a starting point that I always use, but you need to keep in mind that you can have two 8 foot bullwhips that crack very differently without lead.  However for the most part most whips of the same size and style will have the same amount of lead.

Another thing to consider is that lead isn’t added proportionally i.e. a 12 foot bullwhip doesn’t have double the amount of lead as a 6 foot bullwhip.  If that were the case and everything scaled up proportionally then the diameter of the 12 foot bullwhip’s lash would be huge!  However you can add more lead without adding much bulk. Because the lead is wrapped in a circle as the diameter of the lead on the handle gets larger you are getting more lead around it with only adding 2mm to the diameter of the lead load on the whip.

If you are trying to make a bullwhip the best way to figure out how much lead to put in is basically to experiment!


9 thoughts on “Why Put Lead in the Handle of a Bullwhip?

  1. Yeah it’s more a case of having some inertia in the handle to off-set the pull of the throw and crack. I’ve tried nose-heavy thongs and found them really annoying, so I tend to put as much lead as I can while keeping the butt a manageable size. I also found that when the butt end is too large, I find the whip awkward to handle and it ends up staying on the wall a lot more, so now I don’t go crazy about lead as much as I used to and I like the result a lot more. Size does matter after all hehehe.


  2. I put too much lead in my first lead loaded whip. A thin 8 footer. I put about 130 grams in ( wanted a wider knot, and didn’t know I was putting too much in ) and it’s definitely a loud cracker, but difficult to control for a long volley or arrowhead, just because the handle weighs so much, and the thong was so light ( I think it’s around 21mm thick )

  3. By wide I meant instead of the lead being 1″ wide, it was 1.5″ wide. I guess I should have said a “longer” knot.

    Usually I shape the knot only with leather. I only use sinew in the knot when I’m tying on the wrist loop and the leather that evens out the wrist loop and knot foundation.

    1. Jeremy,

      Have you tried using string to shape the turkshead? you can do some interesting things with it to make the shape that you can’t do (easily) with leather.

      Also once you have your leather on the handle do you carve it into the shape you want?


  4. I’ve only put lead on a nylon whip. I start out with a pretty heavy steel rod for the handle anyway. I’ve had a few “nose heavy” whips but found that a thinner fall solved that problem. To build up the heel knot foundation I use a triangular shaped piece of leather, staples, and sinew to shape and secure it. I do have some thin lead sheets so maybe I will try some on my next whip.

    1. Jeff,

      You’ve never put lead into a leather whip? I didn’t for the longest time but once I did I don’t know how I went so long without doing it!

  5. I use a safety beveler or my olfa knife ( depending what I’m doing ) to carve the leather. I used to use the sinew to shape it ( on my first and second whip ) but didn’t like it. I may go back and try it again just because it seems to be the norm.

    Jeff, I use a heavy steel spike for the handle foundation my whips, as do most makers, but the added weight of the lead makes all the difference. Just try it, for an 8 footer around 100 grams ( depending on thickness ) feels pretty good to me, so try it.

    I didn’t hold off using lead as long as Louie said he did, but it really does make controlling the whip easier in my opinion.

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