About a year ago I made an instructional DVD that teaches you how to make a 4 plait cowhide bullwhip with a plaited belly. This DVD takes you step by step through the whip making process and even includes a shopping list with Tandy Leather Factory item numbers to make getting your supplies easy!
This is a great resource for learning to make your first whip.
I never really promoted the DVD or had it listed on my website…why…because I forgot to. So I’m re-launching the Make a Bullwhip DVD. It will sell for $30, however during the relaunch you can get it for $20 shipped in the USA.
My current project is working on an 8 foot Indiana Jones Style Bullwhip. I’m trying something that I don’t normally do when I make these whips. I’m trying to get a slightly lower profile on the heel knot.
Basically there are few ways to do this:
Use thinner leather: This option will change the entire whips profile, not just the heel knot.
Use less lead: This will also accomplish making the heel knot smaller, but may potentially give the whip an undesirable “in the hands” feel.
Put the lead on sooner: By putting the lead on a lower layer, I can use the same amount and it will stick out less.
I opted for adding the lead on a lower layer of the whip. Normally the lead goes on top of the outer bolster. My thinking all the layers give me some meat to attach the lead to.
If you look at the picture above you will see the layer that’s cut short is the outer belly. By attaching the lead in that space, the lead will not be on top of two layers (the outer belly and the outer bolster). That’s going to reduce the profile of the heel knot, however visually I won’t know how much until the whip is done.
One of my least favorite parts of any whip to make it to put on the heel knot.
I think it’s because at that point all of the plaiting is finished and I just want to be done and making the heel knot isn’t fun. However it’s something that’s got to be done and in comparison to plaiting, or cutting out the leather it’s pretty quick!
Right now I’m working on a six foot 12 plait bullwhip in natural tan kangaroo. I had some natural tan in stock, so I didn’t need to drive up to David Morgan to pick up a kangaroo skin. I’m using a 57dm skin, however I also found a belly that I had cut out a while ago for something else, but for whatever reason didn’t use in black kangaroo. Since this will be in the inside of the whip you won’t see it.
Currently I have both bellies and bolsters finished.
Next up is to put some lead on for the knot foundation on get to work on the overlay.
People always ask how I can cut out the overlay before I’ve got the inner layers finished. It’s pretty simple, I know about what the strand widths should be and cut them a smidge wider than that. I then will resize them once the inner layers are finished.
On the surface it sounds like it’s more work than cutting it later, however it actually saves me time. By doing all of one task at the same time (i.e. strand cutting) it saves time in set up and clean up. Regardless of what point I cut the strands they still need to pared which also accomplishes the resizing.
The more I make whips, the more I’m looking for ways to save time…not cut corners, but to save time by eliminating steps that are duplicate, like sweeping the floor twice or putting away the leather only to take it back out an hour later. While these are small amounts of time, when you add them all up they can add up to a decent chunk of time.
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.
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.
It’s an 8 plait bullwhip that was made by Bernie at EM Brands whips. It had the end chewed off by a dog. After chatting with the owner we decided to just put the fall where the whip was chewed off and to leave the wrist loop as it is.
I had to unbraid about a foot of the whip to create a little bit of taper to the point of the whip.
I tied a new fall hitch at that point and we’re good to go!
One thing I’ve learned in the past about making big orders of bullwhips is the importance of stretching before you start plaiting. For example yesterday I braided the insides and outsides of two six foot bullwhips, so that over 20 feet of plaiting! My hands and arms are tired, however without doing a bit of stretching before braiding they’d be a lot more sore!
It’s not just the braiding, but the cutting and pretty much anything will wear out your hands, and I can’t lose time as I have a deadline for this order, so I can’t be out of work for a day or two because my hands are sore.
The other thing about making these whips is looking to have productive time that is a different task with my hands. So cutting is using my hands differently than plaiting which is different than rolling whips.
This is a hard balancing act as to save time it’s easier to do things Assembly Line Style. So I try to do all of one task at a time. It saves it set up and clean up time, as well as you get much faster at a particular task when you aren’t constantly changing gears.
Today should be the last day of plaiting overlays for the six bullwhips! Tomorrow my hands will get a plaiting break as I get to work on the knots and making the handles for the stock whips!