Accidental Whitehide Fall Experiment…

Accidental Whitehide Fall Experiment…

A week or so ago when I was cooking up a batch of plaiting soap I put some falls in it to soak up a bit.   I took them all out after letting them soak up the plaiting soapy goodness…or at least I thought I did.  One whitehide fall got left behind and I just found it a couple nights ago.  It became very spongy and was very moist.  So I hung it up to dry and when it was dry it became stiff, it didn’t want to bend.  When I forced it to bend it just snapped in two pieces.

So the moral of the story is too much of a good thing is bad.


The Myth of Cowhide…

The Myth of Cowhide…

A couple of days ago I was talking to Paul Nolan on the phone and the subject of cowhide whips came up.  We both agreed that the perception that cowhide whips should be cheaper than kangaroo is completely false.   I think there are a few things contribute to this myth:

  1. A side of cow is usually cheaper by the foot than kangaroo.
  2. Most budget whips are made of cowhide.
  3. If kangaroo is the best, then cow is second best it much be cheaper

I’m going to talk about these things one at a time.

Cow is Cheaper Than Kangaroo

Usually cowhide is cheaper than kangaroo…but for a nice cowhide not by much.  You can get bargain basement junk that won’t really work for plaiting for around $1-$2 per foot, however most cowhide suitable for whip making will run between $5-10 a square foot. Where a kangaroo skin is about $12-$20 a square foot.  Now on the upper range of both kangaroo is twice the price of cow, but on the lower ranger it’s only a couple of bucks difference.

When you order any kind of leather through the mail you never know what you are going to get.  So your 10 dollar a foot  cowhide could be completely unusable for whip  making where the $5 per foot hide could be perfect.  I have several sources of kangaroo and for the most part they all get the kangaroo from the same place, so I’m getting the same skins, but the price will vary $8 per foot.  So I usually try to buy in the $12 -$15 price range…however I don’t mind paying more when I can actually go in a select the skins personally and find one with the characteristics I want.

Also a lot of people don’t know how much leather is wasted when you trim a cowhide, you are getting rid of a lot more than you would trimming a kangaroo skin.  That unusable leather is wasted money…so now a $10 cowhide is equal with a $12 kangaroo skin.

Cheaper Whips are Usually Made of Leather

Most of the budget priced whips for sale are made of cowhide, so that leads to the perception that cowhide is cheaper.  Here’s the thing, it’s hard to make a 4 plait bullwhip out of  kangaroo due to the roo skins smaller size which is why you don’t see a lot of cheap whips in kangaroo.

For example the 4 plait beginners bullwhips I make are in cowhide and one of the reasons for that is because I can’t get kangaroo skins that are big enough to do an 8 foot whip in 4 plait.

Another reason cheap whips are usually made in cowhide is that it’s easily obtained in the USA, but kangaroo can be tricker.

Cow is Second Best, so it Should Be A Lot Cheaper

If kangaroo is the best, then cowhide is in second place and by a lot of people’s thinking it should be drastically cheaper.  Think of a brand name can of corn at the store and let’s say it sells for $1.00, but the generic brand is only 75 cents, that’s 25% cheaper.  I think that this thinking has carried over to whip buying, where a 12 plait kangaroo whip is $500, then a cowhide one should be 25 % – 50 % less.

You have to consider that the biggest cost make a whip isn’t the material it’s the skilled labor to make it.  A skilled  whip maker isn’t going to use less skill to make  a 4 plait cowhide whip than a 12 plait kangaroo one.  It’s actually more work to work below your level than at your level…try asking Scorsese to intentionally make a bad movie.  He’d either not take the project or if he did he certainly wouldn’t discount his fee…same with whip making.

Here’s an example of cowhide costing more than roo.  Recently I had someone ask me for a price quote on a 16 plait cowhide whip, and that quote was $200 more than the same whip made of kangaroo.  The reason the cowhide whip was more is that it’s much harder to make a higher plait count whip out of a material that’s not really suitable for making a quality 16 plait whip.   Using the wrong material for the job (even if the material is cheaper) will increase the labor…like trying to make Origami out of bark instead of paper.

Wait a Minute…

I know what you are thinking, you’re saying, “Hang on there Louie, don’t you make a cheap 4 plait cowhide whip?

Yes I do.

My four plait whips come in two types a Beginners Bullwhip and a Deluxe Beginners Bullwhip.  The difference between the to is that he latter has a plaited belly.  With these whips I find close out leather, or leather that’s on sale from local vendors where I can actually see so I can pick the one or two cowhides that are suitable for whip making.  Occasionally I get a call from a mail order vendor that I trust when they have something suitable for me…but for the most part when buying on price (not quality) I have to see the leather with my own eyes.

Due to the fact that I use leather that’s on sale my 4 plait cowhide whips vary a bit.  That’s because the what’s on sale last month might not be what I can get a good deal on today.  Then the thickness variations in the leather that’s on sale will change how I internally construct the whips.  For example a heavier hide needs less filler near the point…and a lighter  hide needs to be built up a bit more near the handle.

Another way I can offer four plait whips is that I don’t make them to order…I make them when I have time.  Driving all over town looking for quality cowhide that’s on sale to fill one order would raise the cost a lot…but only making them when I can find suitable leather for a good price and making them when I have free time keeps the cost down.  If I got backed up in 4 plait orders and had to make them I’d probably stop.  They are no fun to make.

So next time your shopping for a 12 plait cowhide whip and think it should be drastically cheaper than a kangaroo whip, just save up the extra money and get a kangaroo whip…or downgrade to a 4 plait cowhide whip.


Stock Whip

Stock Whip

Ever since I visiting Paul and Lauren at Midwest Whips and got to crack some stockwhips, I’ve wanted one…and when Adam Winrich was in town it reinforced it!

This evening I made a simple stock whip from Red Latigo.

stock whip

The plan of this whip was pretty simple, a 4 plait latigo overlay and with tear drop shaped piece of veg tanned cowhide as the core.  One thing that I did do to the overlay in addition to tapering and paring the strand was I split them at at taper.  So the thickness of each leather strand at the keeper end is thicker than the point.

stockmans whip

Another thing you’ll notice is that there is no plaited  handle.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  The main one is that I didn’t have any kangaroo lace kicking around that was thick enough to do a 4 plait handle.  Also with this being a whip for sport cracking and a whip that I don’t plan on using for too long, I’m not too worried about it slipping out of my hand.  If it was a whip that was to be used by an actual cowboy, I would have put in a handgrip.

I gave it a few flicks before I put the heel knot foundation on it and determined it needed a bit of lead.  I added a one  by six inch strip of lead and then put the knot over that and I think it handles much better!


Splitting Latigo

Splitting Latigo

Last night I started working on an Red Latigo bullwhip that is 8 plait.  I’ve got the overlay cut out and it’s already had one trip through the splitter.

I’m thinking because this started at 4mm thick and after the first round of splitting it’s about 3.2 mm, it will still need to be thinned down a bit more.  I’m hoping to get it into the 2.25mm to 2.5mm range.

As an 8 plait whip if the leather is very thick it will be hard to drop strands or do it as a “straight eight”.  In a perfect world I’d like to do this whip with an 8 plait point without dropping any strands, but I don’t think that is realistic.  The leather probably won’t be strong enough if I thinned it down that much.

I might try tapering the thickness of whip’s overlay as it moves towards the point.  So run just the last half through the splitter, then the last third, and finally the last couple of feet.  That might let me get the strands thin enough to do an 8 plait point and not have too much trouble with breakage while plaiting.


Leather Thickness

Leather Thickness

Currently I have a Red Latigo bullwhip in the works.  This stuff is fairly thick at about 3.8 mm and very dense when compared to something like kip.  Here’s the bullwhip I’m currently working on:


I made one whip where I only thinned down the leather near the point so that I could get a nice tight braid at the end.  However for the whip that I’m working on now I thinned down the entire length of all the strands.   I split them down to 3mm thick.

By thinning down the strands I’m able to get a tighter braid without killing my hands.   The thinner strands bend a bit easier than the thicker, so I have to use less energy plaiting to get the whip braided to about the same tightness.

I don’t think the whip is losing any “toughness” because the strands are still 3mm thick!  So far this bullwhip is turning out well, I should at the very least have the overlay finished today.


Red Latigo Bullwhip

Red Latigo Bullwhip

Yesterday I braided the overlay of a bullwhip made from Red Latigo:


The hide that I made this out of was a bit thicker than I wanted.  I had ordered 8 / 10 ounce and the invoice is marked 9 / 11 ounce.  While they are basically the same thickness, the slight bit thinner would have been nice.

While making this whip I thinned down the leather on the last about half of the whip, then thinned the last quarter a bit more.  That let me get a tighter and smoother braid near the point.

The next one of these that I do I will probably thin down the entire lengths of all the strands.  That will give me a smoother profile on the whip.  However all that splitting will add to the cost, since I intended to  use this side of red latigo for budget bullwhips.

Later today I’ll probably do the knots on this bullwhip.

Also don’t forget my 29 foot 2 inch bullwhip being auctioned on ebay has two days left:


Side of Hide and More

Side of Hide and More

Yesterday UPS delivered a side of Red Latigo:


This side of Red Latigo is huge!  I was going to try to make some 4 plait bullwhips out of it.  If I do that I’ll probably have to thin it down a bit, it’s pretty thick.

Yesterday I also finished making an 8 foot budget bullwhip:

bull whips

It’s an 8 foot 4 plait leather  and this bullwhip is listed for sale on my IN STOCK whips page.

Finally here are pictures of six stockwhip handles that I got last week from David Morgan.


I had gotten a few of them a few years ago, and tried to get them between then and now, but they were sold out.  While they were going through some old boxed they found some and I took them…They were his last six!

Now I’m off to go sit in traffic on my way to my morning show today.


How to make a bullwhip fall

How to make a bullwhip fall

Here’s how I make my whitehide bullwhip falls in ten steps:

Step One:  cut out 5-12 falls leaving a yoke at the point end.

Step Two: Punch a hole in the yoke.

bullwhip fall

Step Three:  Hang the falls on a hook near your plaiting hook.

bullwhip falls

Step Four:  Pare the bottom right and top left sides of the falls.

Step Five:  Give them a coat of grease

Step Six:  Work on other plaiting projects and as I finish greasing those projects I rub the excess grease on my hands onto the falls that are hanging.

Step Seven:  When I need a fall I cut it off the yoke and cut a slit for the lash of the whip to go through

Step Eight:  hang it by the slit and pare the top left and bottom right sides (these are the unpared sides).

Step Nine:  Give it another coat of grease

Step Ten: Round the fall with a loop of leather.

That’s how I make my falls.  I’ve found that the extra grease they get by wiping my hands on them over time really lets the grease penetrate the fall.