One thing that I think is important to the construction of a bullwhip is dropping strands while it’s being plaited. Now this is something that in my opinion you have to do on some level on a bullwhip 12 plait and above (there are some exceptions to this).
If you don’t know what a strand drop is, it’s making the whip have a one point have less strands than the part before. For example I’m making a 12 plait bullwhip, at some point you will put strands into the core making it starting at that point 10 plait. Look at the bullwhip below:
It starts as a 12 plait and ends with 6 plait point. One of the reasons for a lower strand count towards the point is that it by having less strands you have thicker strands. Lets say each strand at a 6 plait point is 5mm thick, then the strands of that same point would be 2.5mm thick at 12 plait. To give you a bit of perspective 2.5mm a hair thicker than the edge of a U.S. Half Dollar.
With a thinner strand you run the risk of cutting a strand whenever you are out cracking if the whip it comes near anything remotely abrasive, like a rock. Obviously with a thicker strand you don’t have the same problem.
Also at the point of the whip you generally want to plait very tightly because that’s where a lot of stress is put on the lash of the whip. With a thicker strand you can pull harder before the strand would break than with a thinner strand.
The general rule of thumb that I follow when making bullwhips (for any 12 plait and above) is that the point will have half the plait count as the beginning of the whip. So a 12 plait whip will have a 6 plait point and a 24 plait bullwhip will have a 12 plait point.
Wait a minute…didn’t I just say that a 12 plait point had strands to thin?
Yes I did, but typically something like a 24 plait bullwhip isn’t something you’d use for everyday cracking. That’s into collector whip territory where it’s a functional piece of art, versus something you’d take out to move cattle or for a beginner to be cracking into the dirt.
Also strand dropping shows the skills of the whip maker. Strand drops aren’t easy to do, especially when compared to not dropping strands. I suspect the reason most people would make a 12 plait bullwhip that’s has no strand drops is simply lack of skill of the maker or lack of pride in the finished product.
Yesterday I made an 8 foot 8 plait dog lead from black kangaroo. Here’s the skin that I used, it was pretty large and the leftover is going to be a 4 or 5 foot bullwhip:
The first step was to cut out the eight strands. I did this by cutting out one very long strand that was about 110 feet long. I also cut out one core strand that was about 15 feet long and will be doubled inside the dog lead.
This was cut from the outer part of the skin, so I cut the strands fairly wide and cleaned them up on my lace cutter. I rarely have opportunities to use my lace cutter because it doesn’t cut at a taper like is required for a bullwhip. I can even up and pare faster by hand, but it was a chance to use this tool so I spent a little extra time and used the lace maker.
Below are two piles of kangaroo, the pile on the right is the lace and the pile on the left is the waste.
I also used the lace cutter to pare the lace, which again is faster to do by hand…but sometimes it’s fun to use a tool.
The one thing about dog leads compared to bullwhips is that they are a lot less complicated. With a bullwhip you are constantly paying attention to taper, or dropping strands, but the with dog lead it’s pretty much just plaiting.
Here you can see the eight strands (four on each side) and the two core strands. The core strands are wider than the overlay.
And here’s the dog lead finished without a knot covering where the wrist loop is back plaited. I do most of my dog leads with flat braided wrist loops. Pretty much the only time I do round wrist loops is with 4 plait cowhide leather dog leads. Even my 4 plait kangaroo dog leads have 8 plait wrist loops. I think it looks better.
And here’s the finished dog lead with the two tone knot.
Yesterday my family and I went to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire to see a friend of mine who was performing there. A couple of the vendors there were selling bullwhips and snake whips:
I also started cutting up lace for the four 9 foot rods that I’m plaiting over. I’ve cut up over 200 dm of kangaroo for them:
Later today I’m going to start the plaiting. The pain in the butt when plaiting over something long and rigid is that you have to untangle the lace after every pull or two. Making the first six feet really labor intensive, but he last few feet got pretty quickly!
My current project is plaiting over some metal rods:
I’ve got over a dozen of these rods varying in length from about a foot to about seven or so feet long. Each one will get a little turkshead knot at both ends.
Also I know several readers of the blog are amateur and professional magicians, so I figured I’d mention this. I the August 2011 issue of the M*U*M Magazine which is the magazine for members of the Society of American Magicians there is a two page article about me, so if you are a member check it out!
I’m still working on the 10 foot 16 plait bullwhip. I’ve got it plaited to about the 3 foot mark.
The thing that’s a pain in the butt when making a longer bullwhip is for the first 3 or 4 feet I’m doing more untangling than I am doing plaiting. Those strands are so long and they just get tangled in some wicked knots…especially on a bullwhip like this one at 16 plait.
Yesterday I also started work on a 10 foot 16 plait bullwhip. This whip will be done in black kangaroo with red highlights on the knots. Here are the kangaroo skins I’m using:
Last night I also cut out the bellies, but still need to do all the strand prep:
My slightly ambitious goal today is to get all the bellies plaited, bolster attached and the overlay cut out. Today I have a few things competing for my time so I can’t just work on this whip straight through otherwise that’d be no problem. Also I’m hoping to meet up with a whip group in the Seattle area this evening.
I recently started work on three signal whips. All three of them are going to be four feet long and made from kangaroo. First I made three shotbags:
Then I filled them and cutout bolsters. Here’s a picture of the progression of shotbags and attaching the bolsters:
And finally here’s the first completed signal whip:
This signal whip is 8 plait with a 5 plait wrist loop. This one is for sale on my IN STOCK whips page. The next one is going to be a 12 plait signal whip in black kangaroo with two white strands. The third signal whip will probably be a 16 plait signal whip.
Today I finished the overlay of a 7 1/2 foot Indy Style bullwhip:
And put the knots and wrist loop on it:
I gave this bullwhip a few cracks in my carport and it’s got a nice pop to it! This bullwhip also has a great in the hands weight, it feels like you are holding a whip!
So I have three of these bullwhips IN STOCK right now (7 foot, 7.5 foot and 8 foot):
The middle one (the 7.5 that I finished today) is a bit darker than the others. The reason for that is that it was made with “rawhide cream” instead of plating soap to braid it. As far as plaiting goes, I liked the rawhide cream…except the cost! It’s time to mix up a new batch of regular plaiting soap.