Here’s an email I got recently:
I have a 10′ snake whip I just finished, came out beautiful, my first one. I have tried it and can only get little pops from it intermittently, I was wondering if it might be the length of the fall or cracker or both, could you tell me what the lengths should be for both of these and how many strands should I use in the cracker?
Thanks for the email and when a whip doesn’t crack right, there are basically two things that will cause that:
#1 Operator Error
#2 Equipment Error
I’m going to assume the person knows how to crack a whip properly and isn’t trying to “dish rag” it. So that brings us to #2 equipment error. In my opinion there is no one length for a fall or number of strands for the cracker that is correct. You can get a great crack with a whip that has an extremely short or long fall, and you can get a great crack out of a whip that has a very heavy or light fall. Heck you can even get a decent crack from a whip that has no fall.
Every whip will like slightly different fall. When I started I would cut my falls at 3 feet and put them on the whip. I’d take it to the park and start cracking it. I would then cut the fall shorter and shorter to find the length that I liked. Pretty simple…just trial and error. If what is failing is the fall, you’ll quickly find the perfect fall length for the whip.
As for the cracker for simply getting a good crack, this probably isn’t the problem. As for how many strands, it depends on what you are using. Right now I have a spool of lighter nylon and it takes twice the number of strands that I use when I use heavier nylon. The easy way to find what is right for what you are using is to make three crackers. Make one that’s what you think you should have, then make one that’s heavier and one that’s lighter. Put the middle one on the whip and crack it a bit. Then try the other two…which cracked the best? Use that one. You can take it a step further if the one that cracked the best was the light or heavy one. You can then make another cracker a step further in that direction and see if that works even better!
After experimenting with different falls and crackers and the whip’s performance doesn’t improve, then you need to look at the internal construction of your whip. Is it efficiently moving energy down the lash of the whip? A couple places to think about are:
Is it braided tightly? If the braid isn’t tight on all the braided layers, the energy travelling down the whip is hitting speed bumps slowing it down and making it hard to crack.
Is your core dense? Since the question relates to a snake whip, you are using mass instead of the leverage a handle would give you to put the initial energy into the whip. If you core is lead, but not well packed, or of a huge diameter, then the energy is once again hitting speed bumps.
Is your core something other than lead? For example ball chain is something popular for a core with many amateur nylon whip makers. I don’t understand why you’d use ball chain as it’s hollow and doesn’t contribute weight or density to the core of the whip (but I don’t make many nylon whips), however in my opinion for a leather whip it’s useless for adding weight.
Those are just a few things to consider if the problem is beyond the fall and cracker.
Hope that helps!