Yesterday I was driving home and happened to pass by MacPherson Leather in Seattle. I decided to pop in and see if there was anything that caught my eye. In their scrap bin was a piece of alligator that was big enough for a bullwhip handle:
When I got home I started work on this bullwhip! First I cut out all the cowhide leather layers:
By cutting out all the bolsters and prepping them all at once it really shaves off a lot of time in the making process. I cut them out a bit wider than I need them and split them to the thickness that I want. Then when it comes time to put them on I tweak them to fit the whip.
I had originally planned on taking some more pictures of the making of the internal layers, but was talking to another whip maker on the phone while I was working and forgot to take more pictures.
I’ve got about half of the overlay cut out (it’s 12 plait in kangaroo) and I’m hoping to find time today to finish the entire bullwhip before I leave town tomorrow for a few days.
A while ago a person who had ordered a snake whip about 1 1/2 to 2 years ago from me sent me an email saying the whip was leaking a tar like substance. Here’s one of the pictures that he sent:
He said the that he’d clean it up, but it’d just reappear again in the next day or two. I’d never heard of anything like this before and set out to do a bit of research (calling my whip maker friends).
Pretty much everyone’s first reaction was that it was weather related. However that was just everyone’s first guess. No one had ever seen or heard of this except Paul Nolan! One of the vintage Cecil Henderson whips that Paul has also does this, but he doesn’t know why.
At this point I became very curious…personally I like to know why things do things (not just how). So I offered the snake whip’s owner a trade, I’d make them a new snake whip if I could take apart the old one to see what was happening.
Before I show you the inside of the snake whip, here’s a very good tip for any whip maker, You can learn a lot by taking apart one of your own whips! That’s right, I knew what was inside this snake whip, but I learned a lot about how my construction techniques hold up by taking apart a well used whip that was about 2 years old.
Here’s the whip dissection photos:
What was happening inside the snake whip was the tar was being formed at the core and because I plait very tightly it ran out of room in the core and had to go somewhere and that somewhere was outwards. So it found the seam in shotbag and exited there.
Next up was finding its way through the plaiting, which wasn’t a big deal because the plating is all seams. So it didn’t really stop there, it just sent straight out until it hit the bolster. Now here’s where something that I already did helped, I put my bolster’s seam 180 degrees from the seam in the core. So the direction it leaked from once it got through the belly hit the side of the bolster opposite the seam.
Unfortunately once it hit the bolster it started pooling there until there was enough of it to go all the way around the bolster and get to the seam where it finally made its exit through the plaiting where it finally emerged as the tar like substance.
Simply having my bolster seam 180 degrees from the seam of the core was almost enough to stop the leaking and in fact stopped it in several other spots on the whip. However after taking apart this snake whip I still don’t know exactly what was causing the tar to be created in the first place. I don’t know if it’s part of the natural breakdown of the lead, or environmental factors…but my money is on a combination of the two.
The 8 foot bullwhip I’m working on has now been plaited to just past the 5 foot mark. I got the bolster splice in:
It’s turning out well and I should be able to finish the overlay today and attach the fall as well.
Yesterday I cut out and some more falls and got them soaking in grease. Here they are drying off:
I also realized I was out of bullwhip holders so I cut out a few more and made them up:
In the past I’ve had a lot of test cracking type videos hosted by Google Video, which is being phased out this month. So I transfered a lot of videos to YouTube. These are mostly test cracking type videos, but there are some videos of other whip crackers cracking and some whip making videos. To watch these visit: http://www.youtube.com/bullwhipsorg
Yesterday I got a bit of work in on the 8 foot bullwhip:
Later today I should be able to find time to plait the outer belly and depending on time today I might be able to get the outer bolster cut out and attached.
This week I’m performing on the road, so aside from working on the belly today I probably won’t get any plaiting done until Friday. However I should still be able to cut out the overlay in my down time between shows.
Yesterday I cut out the overlay of the last of the calf skins that I had picked up a little while ago.
The insides of this bullwhip are finished and all they need is to be plaited over:
I’m trying to decide if I should start work on plaiting the overlay of this bullwhip now or not. I’m going to be out of town from 3/10 – 3/20 and I don’t want a half finished bullwhip sitting for 10 days if I don’t have time to work on it. I’ve got a pretty full week until I leave.
I don’t know if I’ll ever make any more of these bullwhips from calf or if I’ll be able to find decent skins to do it with. So this may be my last calf bullwhip (at least for now).
This morning I cut out the bolster for the 12 plait EconomINDY bullwhip that I’m working on. I didn’t like how the layers were sitting on the handle (it was too thin), so added a layer of thin leather of leather over the handle to add a bit of bulk to it.
Next up is cutting out and plaiting the overlay for this bullwhip!
On Friday I went into one of my local Tandy Leather Factories to get a side of kip and I was told that it was discontinued! I do have another local source for kip (and a couple of mail order sources), so I’ll still be able to get it. However Tandy’s website still shows it for sale, so maybe they’ll have it again.
I needed something for bolsters so I bought a veg tanned goat skin. I’ve used it for a core and two bolsters of a six foot whip I’m working on. One thing about goat is that it’s very stretchy, almost spongy at some points. What I’ve done to counter this is cut it really wide, then stretch it and run it through my splitter. This seems to take the stretch out, then grease it and recut it suit the whip. It’s a bit more work, but better than waiting a week for a side of kip to show up in the mail.
One thing I’m very curious about how dense the lash of this bullwhip will feel when it’s done. I think the sponginess of the goat will really fill in the space between layers nicely and give me a really hard hitting whip. So far I’m liking this goat (for bolsters)…the only problem is that the skins aren’t very long, so I’ll be doing a lot of bolster splicing for any bullwhip longer than 6 feet.
Yesterday I started work on an Indy style bullwhip.
This veg tanned drum stuffed kangaroo skin was 57 dm, so it’s big enough for a six or seven foot bullwhip. I’m trying something of an experiment with the first three layers of this bullwhip. A couple of weeks ago I made a bullwhip with a Jacka-like transition. The key to his transition is the combination of what you bind it with and the use of split cowhide for the insides.
If you’ve never felt split cowhide it has no grain side, so it’s rough on both sides, instead of having a rough and a smooth side. What I did with this whip is I rolled my core with the grain side in, so the rough side it out. Then I braided my inner belly with split cowhide and finally put the bolster on with the grain side out. What that has done is put rough sides touching each other for the first three layers. That is going to (in theory) give me a slightly more durable transition (and first 1/4 of the lash).
The worst case scenario is that this whip will handle handle like if I made it how I normally do…and the best is that it will be slightly stiffer. That’s the goal, slightly stiffer at the transition from the handle to lash. I don’t want a Jacka transition, just something a hair stiffer than what mine normally are.
Also for what it’s worth it’s much harder on my hands plaiting an inner belly that’s split cowhide. Because there’s soo much more friction from the rough sides you have to pull a lot harder.
After the first two layers were finished I did the next belly and bolster how I normally do (out of kangaroo and kip).
Last night I also got the overlay cut out, but still need to stretch, split, and pare it.