My current project is working on a dozen whips! Six of them will be six foot 12 plait bullwhips and the other six will be four foot stockwhips. The most labor intensive will be the bullwhips, so I’m working on them first.
For me, when making a lot of whips that are the same, the easiest way to save time is to do the same layer of all of them at the same time. This is “production line” style, where you do only one task at a time. This way your brain isn’t constantly shifting gears. For example, I cut out all of the bellies at the same time:
Then I went through and attached all of the inner bellies at the same time. Once they were all attached I plaited all six of them.
This way works great, but when I’m doing the overlays will be really rough on my hands.
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.
Yesterday despite having a hurt wrist, I managed to get the internal layers of the 4 foot whip I’m working on finished.
This bullwhip internally has a core, plaited belly, then two bolsters. Up next for today is putting on a knot foundation and cutting out the overlay. Cutting the overlay shouldn’t be too hard on my wrist.
Yesterday I got some work in on the 6 foot bullwhip that I’m working on. I got the outer bolster finished. I also did something with the bolster that I don’t always do…but whenever I do it I wonder why I stopped. When I was running the bolster through the splitter as I got closer to the end I thinned it down a bit more. So the bolster didn’t just taper by width, but also by thickness.
Here’s the whip in it’s current state:
Currently I’ve got it braided to the end of the plaited belly. Unfortunately I don’t think I’m going to have any time to work on this whip the next couple of days, so it won’t be finished for a few days.
Yesterday I did the strand prep and plaiting the outer belly for the 8 foot 12 plait bullwhip that I’m working on. And this morning I finished plaiting the outer belly:
It got me thinking about the importance of a plaited belly in a bullwhip. A plaited belly creates density inside a bullwhip and that density transfers energy.
The two belly two bolster construction method that the top bullwhip makers use is amazingly good at creating density within the bullwhip. The core is compressed by the inner belly. Then a bolster goes on to of that and the outer belly is plaited over the inner bolster. What that bolster does is no only add shape and a bit of weight to the bullwhip but it also fills up air space.
For example if I were to make a bullwhip using only plaited bellies you’d have small pockets inside the whip where there is no leather from one of the plaited bellies. There is no way to avoid this, that’s just how plaiting works, it doesn’t create a smooth surface. Sure you could really minimize air pockets by using a very high plait for the belly and splitting the strands down really thin. However I don’t imagine that would be a lot of work and wouldn’t give you an improvement over a low plait belly and a bolster…or that anyone would be willing to pay a premium for that!
So bolsters solve the problem of air pockets in between belly layers…why not just make a whip out of all bolsters (ie the only plaited layer is the overlay)?
You can do this and since a bolster is flat you don’t have to worry about air pockets. However you now have a density problem. How do you get the inner layers packed in tight? Maybe you could plait the overlay really tight and it will compress the bolsters and core?
Here’s a little video I made to demonstrate why I don’t think that would be very effective:
Basically in a whip that internally is all bolsters, the force of the plaiting is dispersed across all the layers giving you a whip that isn’t as dense as a whip that has the two belly, two bolster construction which I use.
Today I finished up a four plait Deluxe Beginner’s Bullwhip. These bullwhips have a leather core and a plaited belly. I found a great deal on some sides of leather that were perfect for this kind of whip, so I bought about 50+ square feet of it and will be making a lot of these in the near future.
The bullwhip that I made today was six feet long, however I plan to make a bunch of them at 5 feet long for a juggling convention I’m performing and teaching a workshop at this summer.
Right now I’m in the middle of a little experiment. I’m making two bullwhips, these are cowhide leather bullwhips made with 8 plait overlays. Where they are different is the internal construction. One bullwhip has a flared core and a plaited belly. The other has a straight core, plaited belly and a bolster.
When I use the flared core the idea is reduce the drop off at the end of the handle foundation when using a spike for the handle. That’s the same thing that’s accomplished by using a bolster that starts at the end handle (ie not covering the whole handle). However by using a bolster you get the advantage of it filling up air pockets in between plaited layers.
Normally when I make kangaroo bullwhips I do both a flared core and a bolster that doesn’t cover the entire handle. However these whips that I’m experimenting with are cowhide whips and are intended to be made to sell for less. So the less time I can devote to them the cheaper I can sell them.
I’m hoping that I like how the one with just the flared core performs because it’s less work on my end.