Bullwhip Belly and Bolster

Bullwhip Belly and Bolster

One thing that I used to do and stopped doing when making whips was that I used to cut out all the internal layers at the same time, before I did any plaiting.  I don’t know why I stopped doing this, however recently I starting doing it again and it’s a huge time saver!  I also find it’s easier to do one task several times than to constantly switch my brain to doing different things.

So for the whip I’m currently working on I cut out the core, bellies and bolsters before I did any plaiting.  When I used to do this people would ask me how I knew how wide to cut everything.  It’s pretty easy since everything is going to be approximately the same thickness withing fractions of a millimeter.  I cut the bolsters a little bit wider, then tweak them when it’s time to put them onto the whip.

Here’s the whip I’m currently working on, this is the inner belly completed.

bullwhip

This whip has a spring steel handle.  With the handle I think spring steel is the way to go over just a steel rod. The reason is that normal steel can be bent and spring steel cannot (except under very extreme circumstances).

Today I’ll finish up the interior layers of this whip and then move on to the cutting out the overlay.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Bullwhip Bolsters…

Bullwhip Bolsters…

Yesterday despite having a hurt wrist, I managed to get the internal layers of the 4 foot whip I’m working on finished.  bull whip

This bullwhip internally has a core, plaited belly, then two bolsters.  Up next for today is putting on a knot foundation and cutting out the overlay.  Cutting the overlay shouldn’t be too hard on my wrist.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

6 foot Bullwhip

6 foot Bullwhip

My current project is working on a 6 foot 12 plait bullwhip.  The first stop was a drive up to David Morgan to pick out a kangaroo skin for this.

veg tanned drum stuffed kangaroo

This kangaroo skin is 56 dm and will be the two bellies and the overlay.

Yesterday I got the two inner bellies braided.

bullwhip plaited belly

As far as internal layers go, all that’s left to do is the outer bolster.  The insides of the whip are assembled quickly compared to the outside.  The internal layers are about 5/6’s of the finished whip, however they represent a little less than 1/3 of the total labor, and they are the most important layers.  If you put a beautiful overlay on top of bad whip guts, the whip is going to suck.

Louie
http:/bullwhips.org

From the Mail Bag…

From the Mail Bag…

I recently got an email from someone asking about nylon whips.  Now if they are a reader of this blog they know I’m not a nylon whip maker, however I have made a few nylon whips.  Here’s what they asked:

“what do you use for your bolster material in the paracord whips? I hear that using tape is not the correct method?”

The few nylon whips that I have made I didn’t use tape.  There are a couple reasons for that.  First over time the tape can loose its stickiness so it don’t actually hold tight.  I think a lot of people use tape because it temporarily will hold a whip tight, however once you years get down the road I don’t know how effective it will be.  Second is that tape doesn’t add much bulk or weight to the whip.  If you were to use tape to add taper or weight you’ll be adding an insane amount of tape.

Keep in mind I’m now a nylon whip maker, so there may be ways to overcome both of these problems with tape (using tape).

The few nylon whips that I’ve made were made with bolsters, however they were vinyl bolsters that were cut like a traditional leather bolster to add taper to the whip.  They turned out just fine with this method.  I’m trying to figure out why more nylon makers don’t use this technique, it’s way faster than taping a whip and gives you some control of the taper.  My best guess is that it’s either that a sheet of vinyl can be expensive, so it’s a cost thing.  Or many nylon whip makers aren’t that well versed in whip making techniques and are scared to make a traditional bolster.

However in my opinion at the end of the day there is no one right way to make a whip.  If it makes a whip that cracks like the maker intends it to and it lasts for what the maker intends to be the life expectancy of the whip, then that way is correct for that person.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

From the Mail Bag…

From the Mail Bag…

I get people who email me with whip making questions all the time.  Here’s a recent one and my answers will be in bold:

… I am looking into tackling my first whip making project…. I was wondering if I could ask a few questions in this email about some of the specifics of making an Indiana Jones style 2 belly 12 plait bullwhip that is 10ft long. I am planning on doing the first belly as a 4 plait and the second as a 6 plait with a bolster running down the outside length of each belly.

Both bellies don’t need to be more than 4 plait. I know some people say that using an increasing number of plaits on each belly makes a better whip.  In my opinion if your internal construction is core – belly – bolster – belly – bolster and you think of a bolster as a 1 plait it totally destroys the increasing number of plaits in a belly theory.  

I’ve talked with some of the people at David Morgan regarding materials and they have directed me to your site as a great resources for my project. After reading through your site, I still have a few questions about what I would need to do to prepare for my project. Firstly, for a 10ft long 12 plait bullwhip, how much would I need to taper each of the strands for the bellies/overlay? I have heard that for the overlay some people go from 6-4mm, but I was wondering if you had any recommendations as to how much to taper each strand for the internal bellies and the overlay itself.

When I make a whip I cut the strands to fit the whip. What that means is that I don’t start with a specific width.  I measure the circumference of the whip, multiply it by 1.5 and then divide that by the number of plaits.
So for example my whip after adding the final bolster measures 60mm around and I’m making a 12 plait w
hip. My math would look like:

60 X 1.5 =90  
90 / 12=7.5

So 7.5mm would be my strand width assuming there’s no stretch in the skin.  So you’ll cut wider on the stretchy parts. 

If this was my first whip I’d probably try to cut at 7.5mm all maybe taper down to 6mm at the point of the whip.  Then resize as I’m plaiting.  

I understand I also need to bevel the edges of the leather to get the best plaiting, so that will also be accounted for when preparing my leather straps. Secondly, how long (approximately) would you recommend each of the bellies to be? I am unsure about how long to make each belly as from what I have been able to find online, each belly does not go all the way down the length of the whip.

The general formula most people use is approx. 1/4 and 1/2 the final length of the  whip.  

And lastly, is there a set time when I should begin to drop strands in the 12 plait overlay?

Start dropping at the end of the final belly.  However you can resize if necessary at any point. 

I have read that one needs to bring the 12 strands down to about 6 strands by the end of the whip. Do you have any recommended times to begin dropping strands from 12 to 10, 10 to 8, and then 8 to 6?

You drop when necessary.   The width of the strand will tell you when to drop.  If you drop too early you’ll get gaps and if you drop to late you’ll get bunched up strands and in a worse case scenario a big air pocket inside the whip. 

I am sorry for all of the questions being placed in one email. I really appreciate the time and consideration for reading this! Thank you so much for your time and help.

Hope that helps!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Kangaroo Bellies and Boslters…

Kangaroo Bellies and Boslters…

Here’s a 6 foot bullwhip that I made a while ago.  It’s internal construction was two bellies and two bolsters, however I made this one using kangaroo bolsters instead of cow leather.
bullwhip_1_280814

The end result gave me a slightly slimmer profile on the whip.  This is shipping out to its new owner today!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Glued Bullwhip Handle?

Glued Bullwhip Handle?

Something I’ve done in the past and occasionally do now when making a bullwhip is glue the layers together.  I’m not using glue on the entire bullwhip, simply the non plaited layers on the handle.  I do this using a Leather Cement:

bullwhip glue

 

It’s pretty easy to do I simply put some on the part of the core that touches the handle foundation, then tightly bind them together with artificial sinew.  I repeat this with all non  plaited layers of the whip.    What that does in theory is if the artificial sinew were to ever breakdown hopefully the glue will keep the whip from twisting on the handle.

Is this a realistic concern?

Probably not.  The artificial sinew on the handle doesn’t really take any stress, so it’s not going to break from that.  And it degrading over time really isn’t a concern.

So why do I do it?

I’m not sure and I pretty much only do it on cow leather whips.  My reasoning is that typically they have a slightly different construction than my kangaroo whips and there is 1-2 less layers on the handle tied down, so less force compressing it on to the handle.  Also with cowhide generally being thicker the bindings on the outside of a layer of cowhide doesn’t necessarily translate to as much force on the inside as it would with kangaroo.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Bull whip progress…

Bull whip progress…

I got a bit of work into the English Calf Bullwhip that I started the other day.  I got the belly plaited:
plaited belly

Then I cut out the belly:

plaited belly bullwhip

And attached the bolster to the handle:
whip

 

I should be able to get some more work in on this tomorrow!

Also I just listed the Shark Spine Bullwhip on ebay, you can check it out (and bid) at: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=221380741725

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Shark Spine Bullwhip Progress…

Shark Spine Bullwhip Progress…

I’ve gotten a lot of progress into the bullwhip with the shark spine handle.  Here’s the belly inserted into the handle:

bull whip

I put the handle (with belly attached) into the hollowed out shark spine. Then I filled it with epoxy and let it dry.

The next step was attaching the inner bolster.  To do this I put a bit of leather cement on the inch of handle and belly that extended past shark spine and tightly bound the leather in place and let everything dry.

bullwhip

On top of that boslter I put a second bolster with basically the same process.   Right now I’m working on the overlay and I’ll post pics of it when I’m finished with it.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

 

 

Splicing a Bolster

Splicing a Bolster

When I first started making bullwhips the bolsters stressed me out the most.  I have to figure out how to correctly fit them around the whip, how splice them,  how long to make them, etc.  Now they are probably one of the easiest parts of the whip for me to make.  Before we get into showing you how to splice a bolster I want to give my opinion on why a bolster is necessary in a bullwhip.

A boslter (in case you don’t know) in a bull whip  is a piece of leather that is fit over the inner layer of the whip so that it wraps around it and cover the inner layer.  Typically a bolster is longer than the plaited layer below it…but not always.

The bolster has several function:

  • Adds weight
  • Adds taper
  • Fills up air pockets inside the whip
  • Holds dressing

Another thing that a bolster does which a lot of whip makers don’t think about is that it gives you a smooth surface to plait over.  That allows you to be able to get the bull whip plaited a bit tighter with a little less effort on  your part.  Plaiting over a smooth surface is much easier than plaiting over a surface with texture!

When putting a bolster on a longer whip quite often you’ll have to splice two smaller pieces together to get the length you want.  I do this using a diagonal splice which looks like this before it’s put on the whip:
bull whip bolster splice

I learned about doing a diagonal splice from David Morgan’s book Whips and Whip Making. If you want to make whips I highly recommend this book!

Here’s me doing a bolster splice:

Hope that helps!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org