On many of my kangaroo bullwhips I put a bit of lead in the handle of the whip. This is put under the heel knot to add weight into the palm of your hand when holding the whip. A lot of people think this is to make the handle the same weight as the lash giving you a balanced bullwhip. If you think that or want to know where I am coming from please read my *brilliant* post about Bullwhip Balance before continuing reading.
Okay, so now you know what I think of balance points on a bullwhip and why it doesn’t really matter if the handle weighs exactly what the lash weighs. So that brings me to the next question, “if it doesn’t matter, why bother putting lead in the handle?”
Good question. The main reason that I put weight in the handle of the bullwhip is to give you something secure to hold on to. That’s it. Simply to make the whip not want to jump out of your hand when you crack it.
Alright so now you know why I put lead into the handles of whips you might be curious as to how I determine how much to put in. When I make a bullwhip I always add lead towards the end of the process. If I’m adding lead before the overlay is put on then I can crack the belly and sort of get a feel for how the whip is going to end up to help me determine what it needs. If I am adding lead after the overlay is plaited I can crack the whip without lead to see what it needs then add the lead and crack the whip again and adjust if necessary.
One thing to consider is that I do not have a fixed amount of lead that I add. I have a starting point that I always use, but you need to keep in mind that you can have two 8 foot bullwhips that crack very differently without lead. However for the most part most whips of the same size and style will have the same amount of lead.
Another thing to consider is that lead isn’t added proportionally i.e. a 12 foot bullwhip doesn’t have double the amount of lead as a 6 foot bullwhip. If that were the case and everything scaled up proportionally then the diameter of the 12 foot bullwhip’s lash would be huge! However you can add more lead without adding much bulk. Because the lead is wrapped in a circle as the diameter of the lead on the handle gets larger you are getting more lead around it with only adding 2mm to the diameter of the lead load on the whip.
If you are trying to make a bullwhip the best way to figure out how much lead to put in is basically to experiment!
Right now I’m making another one of the EconomINDY bullwhip, but this one has a lead shot core. Currently this bullwhip need it’s final bolster and overlay to before it’s finished.
I haven’t done a ton of shot cores on my bullwhips, so it’s fun to make this one. This bullwhip’s taper is going to be more like how I normally make my kangaroo Indy bullwhips thanks to the shot core building it up a bit in diameter (and weight). Today I’m out all day performing so I probably won’t get a chance to do to any more work on this bullwhip.
I’m still not 100% sold on having a lead shot core is going to be a good substitute for a 2nd plaited belly. It’s faster to make than another plaited belly, but now I’m going to have to add more lead to the handle to balance it out. While a shot core may save time adding a belly by the time I have to add more lead to the handle any time saving my be offset by added cost of adding more lead to the butt.
Right now my current project is working on two six foot dog leads. Both of them will be in eight plait kangaroo, one will be red and the other natural tan. Below is the lace cut out:
Then I stretched it and split it down to the same thickness:
And finally I resized it and pared it:
I like the pictures of the process of the strand prep happening, because it really looks like nothing has changed…but a lot has happened!
Also with these dog leads I put a core in the middle:
Normally with something like a 4 plait dog lead I wouldn’t do a core, but at 8 plait it needs one to be round shape. If I didn’t put a core in the leash would have a square cross section.
Here’s the brass hardware that will go on these:
Also on the navigation bar to the left I’ve added a section of my online store called Plaited Goods for Sale. Right now the main part of that is dog leads, I’ve got a bunch in stock, but only a couple listed. I’ll try to find some time to list more when I get a chance. I’m also planning on adding some more categories to that for the other things I make like Bosals, Rommel Reins, bracelets, etc.
Once these two dog leads are done I’m going to try to find some time to bang out a few more of my Beginners Bullwhips.
I’ve seen several of these in museums in rural areas where I live and I’ve always wanted to try to make a black jack. This one is a bit different from the ones that I’ve seen mainly because of my whip making background.
In the final picture, I still haven’t rolled the whip or cleaned it up, so it still looks a bit rough.
Having now made one of these, if I ever make one again I’ll know what to do. There are a couple things that I would do differently. The main one is that I plugged the shotbag at the wide end with a rolled up strip of lead. My thinking was that it would add more weight (and it does), but it make the large knot a bit wobbly. Also I’d probably plug the thinner end instead of the wide end.
This was a fun project to do, but I don’t see myself making anymore of these because I don’t know how legal they are to own, and with that said I don’t want to sell them because I don’t want any legal trouble. However it was fun to make!
Today I finished the second of two budget bullwhips. These aren’t a matched pair, just two bullwhips that I made back to back.
These have 8 inch lead loaded handles. I don’t put lead in the budget bullwhips that have 12 inch handles because the extra 4 inches of handle adds weight (and leverage). I still put some lead into budget bullwhips with 10 inch handles.
Here’s a couple videos of me giving them some test cracks:
This morning I got an email from someone asking about when to load the butt of a bullwhip. There are two ways that I’ve done it:
Add the lead directly to the handle foundation (so it’s the first thing you do before adding any leather)
Add the lead after you’ve finished the overlay (so it’s the last thing you do before the knots)
Of these two times to load the butt of a bullwhip, I started out adding it directly to the handle foundation. The advantage of doing it this way is that it makes it easy to build a nice looking knot over it.
Currently I’m adding it after I finish braiding the thong. The advantage of this is that you can feel the whip and add the amount of lead it needs, instead of guessing like when you add it directly to the handle. The disadvantage of doing it this way is that it takes a bit more work to build up the knot foundation, unless you are doing a more “can” shaped knot.
I don’t know if I’d say one way is right and one is wrong, just about every bullwhip maker does things their way and they have their reasons for doing it that way. Personally I like the idea of being able to see and feel how heavy the whip is before I add the lead. Honestly I’ve rarely changed the amount of lead that I was planning on adding based on the finished bullwhip.
I get the sheet lead that I use from a local hardware store called McLendon Hardware. It’s a locally owned hardware store, the big chain hardware stores like Home Depot don’t sell lead. You can also get sheet lead on Amazon.com. I’ve always bought my lead locally from McLendon’s because it saves me shipping and while I’m there I can pick up 8 inch spikes.
Yesterday I finished work on two more budget bullwhips:
I changed my design a bit with these two bullwhips. I added more lead to the butt of them. Originally my budget whips had no lead in the butt…recently I added a little bit and now my current batch has about double the lead that I had used before.
I like how these whips crack and I”m glad I tried adding more lead. It gives the whip a much better weight in the hand and an easier crack. The only downside that comes with adding lead to the butt is that it takes a little longer for me to make and it costs a bit more to add lead to the butt, so the price on these whips has gone up a couple of bucks.
P.S. I currently have 4 budget bullwhips available, you can see what I have by visiting my IN STOCK whips page!