Yesterday I did the strand prep and plaiting the outer belly for the 8 foot 12 plait bullwhip that I’m working on. And this morning I finished plaiting the outer belly:
It got me thinking about the importance of a plaited belly in a bullwhip. A plaited belly creates density inside a bullwhip and that density transfers energy.
The two belly two bolster construction method that the top bullwhip makers use is amazingly good at creating density within the bullwhip. The core is compressed by the inner belly. Then a bolster goes on to of that and the outer belly is plaited over the inner bolster. What that bolster does is no only add shape and a bit of weight to the bullwhip but it also fills up air space.
For example if I were to make a bullwhip using only plaited bellies you’d have small pockets inside the whip where there is no leather from one of the plaited bellies. There is no way to avoid this, that’s just how plaiting works, it doesn’t create a smooth surface. Sure you could really minimize air pockets by using a very high plait for the belly and splitting the strands down really thin. However I don’t imagine that would be a lot of work and wouldn’t give you an improvement over a low plait belly and a bolster…or that anyone would be willing to pay a premium for that!
So bolsters solve the problem of air pockets in between belly layers…why not just make a whip out of all bolsters (ie the only plaited layer is the overlay)?
You can do this and since a bolster is flat you don’t have to worry about air pockets. However you now have a density problem. How do you get the inner layers packed in tight? Maybe you could plait the overlay really tight and it will compress the bolsters and core?
Here’s a little video I made to demonstrate why I don’t think that would be very effective:
Basically in a whip that internally is all bolsters, the force of the plaiting is dispersed across all the layers giving you a whip that isn’t as dense as a whip that has the two belly, two bolster construction which I use.