4 1/2 foot Bullwhip

4 1/2 foot Bullwhip

Over the weekend I started work on a shorter bullwhip which was originally intended to be 4 feet long, but I ended up making 4 1/2 feet long.   The inspiration for this bullwhip internally was the Terry Jacka bullwhip that came in for repair.  I was thinking about how he uses a split leather for the internal layers of  his bullwhips and how that’s one of the reasons why his whips can get so heavy.

So this bullwhip that I made has a core, belly and bolster from split leather, however the 2nd bolster is veg tanned cowhide with a kangaroo overlay.  The reason the last internal layer wasn’t split was that I wanted a smooth surface to plait over to allow me to pull a bit tighter when making this whip, while still getting the “rough on rough” effect on all the internal layers.

This bullwhip has a slightly thicker profile than my shorter bullwhips normally have, but it’s not that thick.  I think this bullwhip’s in the hand weight feels closer to a 6 foot whip, however it’s actual weight is no where near a 6 foot bullwhip.

It’s got a great crack as well:

I also wanted to do some patterns on the handle of this bullwhip:

How to make a bullwhip

However I wanted a two tone handle and I had several options for methods that I could think of:

  1. Hand dye the handle portion of six of the strands.
  2. Braid the handle with 6 red and 6 black strands, then secure the 6 black at the end of the handle and add in 6 additional red strands at the end of the handle for the 12 plait overlay.
  3. Add black strands on top of some of the red strands on the handle.

I chose to go with the last option mainly because it’s something that I hadn’t done before.  I cut 6 pieces of lace and using a fid I followed the pattern going one way.  Here’s a pic of adding the black after a few strands were added:

bullwhip handle

And the handle with all the strands added:

Bullwhip handle

I did learn a few things that I didn’t anticipate when I started adding the second color to the handle.  Mainly that I should have cut everything a hair wider to deal with the slightly increased diameter of the handle once the extra layer was added.  Also that adding lace over something that is already plaited is a pain in the butt, and it probably would have been easier to plait two piece of lace on top of each other from the beginning.

Here’s the finished bullwhip:


Bullwhip handle

This bullwhip is available on my IN STOCK whips page!


6 thoughts on “4 1/2 foot Bullwhip

  1. That’s a nice bullwhip. Out of curiosity, what’s the difference between using a split leather for a bullwhip’s internal structure, vs. what you might use as your standard internals? I was under the impression that each layer of the bullwhip, core, bolsters, and plaited bellies, were all split to a uniform thickness to allow for a smooth braid and help eliminate lumps in the finished whip. Would you be so kind as to elaborate?

    Thanks, Nathan

    1. Split leather, which I think are actually called Leather Splits are rough on both sides, so there is no grain side.

      That puts a lot of friction inside the whip which is one of the things that gives a Jacka bullwhip that transition (contrary to popular belief it’s more than just binding). I think it’s a bit denser than leather with a gain side as well, but I could be wrong.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Nathan, it is not necessary to split the leather to a uniform thickness to make a good whip, many

    don’t do this on any type of whip, but it’s most common on indiana jones whips because David

    Morgan didn’t even own a splitter, as far as I’m told.

    To me, splitting the leather seems more of a visual thing than a performance thing, because

    splitting the leather to a uniform thickness makes them fit together much more even, and

    there is a smooth texture in the end, which I like on most whips, expect indy whips of course.

    I do however think it’s necessary to split everything possible when making matched whips.

    If everything is uniform in thickness, the total diameter of everything will end up closer on the

    final outcomes.

    1. David Morgan does own a splitter, it’s pictured in his book Braiding Fine Leather and I’ve seen it at his shop.

      Some leather needs splitting and some doesn’t, I do it on a case by case situation. My decision is determined by the qualities of the skins / hides I’m using and the project I’m working on.


  3. I first tried split cowhide for bolster but had nothing but trouble with it. It tore easily. I’ve been using chap leather that is very dense. I picked up a new cowhide from Tandy Leather the other day to use as boster material. It is about a 2-3 oz hide – a little thicker than the chap leather. I am going to try and split it down just a hair with a homemade splitter.

    That whip looks really fast! Nice job on the handle design.

    1. Jeff,

      For split cowhide the veg tanned is hard to work with when it’s thin, I use a different (unknown to me) tannage. Thanks for the compliments on the whip!


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