I got an Apple Watch recently and I don’t like the band it comes with, so I decided I’m going to try to make my own. I remember seeing David Morgan wear a watchband that was kangaroo and I remember seeing it an old David Morgan catalog, but couldn’t find it on their website.
A quick drive up to visit everyone at David Morgan and we found an old catalog that had it listed:
For some reason I thought they made them in house, but they were imported from Australia. Not only did they find the catalog for me to look at, they also managed to find a couple of the watch bands! One was new and one was used:
Here’s the front and back of the used one:
And here’s the new one:
As you can see it’s a pretty simple design. It’s got the plaited strap, then the flat leather part. I don’t know the technical name for the leather part that’s not plaited, so I’ll just call it the flat leather part. You can see it’s got some edge plaiting on the flat leather part. I don’t do a lot of edge plaiting, so I looked it up in Bruce Grant’s book Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding and to my surprise I found the same watch band and the picture was supplied by David Morgan!
Will Morgan was nice enough to show me an early edition of the book that Bruce autographed to David Morgan:
Now that I had my foundation, it was time to make the actual watch band, we’ll get into that in another post.
Currently I’m working on a plaiting project. I’m braiding over copper tubes. This is the second time I’ve done this specific project. Basically I have 95ish copper tubes of various diameters and lengths (2 inches to 15 inches). I then do an 8 plait braid of the top of them.
The key to this is finding the most efficient way to do plait them. I’ve found that I first sort them by size and leather color. Then I work with them as a batch of that color. If I was cutting out and braiding them one at a time, it would take forever.
Once I have a group of the same width and color I cut the lace and start plaiting:
When I get to the end of the first tube, I put the second tube end to end with it and keep braiding. The goal is to not really stop braiding. Every time I stop, or change tasks I slow down, and as they say “time is money”.
Once I have all of the tubes braided over, I then use tape to mark off where the ends are:
Then cut the leather through the tape to leave some of the tube exposed.
The final step is tying the knots. Unfortunately the knots are very labor intensive and I really haven’t found a way to speed them up. As Lauren Wickline once told me, “Knots are a time suck”. And fully agree!
The best way I’ve found is to cut the lace I’ll need for the knots, so it’s one long strand. The I tied the first knot and tighten it, then using the other end of the lace I tie the second knot and tighten it. Finally I cut the knot off the lace and trim the loose end.
Doing the cutting two at a time instead of after each knot save me about 10 seconds per tube. While not a ton of time, when you multiply it by 95+ knots it will save me about 15 minutes over the course of the project.
Once this is finished the next project will be a bullwhip!
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.
Here’s an email that I recently got:
I was just wondering if you could help me work out what lengths of kangaroo lace i would need to make a whip…is there some kind of formula to work out how many meters needed for a whip of 6 or 8 meters.
The general rule for making a whip is the total length times 1.5 to get what you need to make a whip. However that will vary a bit depending on how hard you pull, angle of the braid, etc. I’ve only made a handful of longer whips (over 12 feet) and always made my lace longer than 1.5 times the length of the finished whip. I didn’t want to get 17 feet into an 18 foot whip and run out of lace.
Another thing to consider is that if you are asking the question as to how much lace to use, I’m betting you are a fairly new whip maker, so I’m going to advise against making a 6 or 8 meter whip as an early project. Make a few shorter whips at 8 feet which or just under 3 meters and you’ll figure out how much lace you need based on how you braid.
Hope that helps,
Here’s an email I recently got:
have you ever made a whip from chrome tanned kangaroo leather or know anybody that has? I have made a bullwhip from chrome tanned cow hide its ok and it was my first one I made and I got a good deal on a side and figured if I mess up I wouldn’t be out much cash. but to my surprise it cracks pretty nice. I also made a small one from veg tanned cow hide which was much nicer to work with and a lot stronger then chrome tanned. with that being said how strong is the chrome tanned vs the veg tanned roo hide. the reason I ask this is because chrome tanned is cheaper and i’m not made of money but I would like a nice kangaroo whip if a chrome tanned one would be almost as good as a veg tanned one it might be worth it. and where would you suggest to buy good kangaroo hide? do you sell it? Thanks for the advice
My advice would be to save up for veg tanned kangaroo. It’s a much better material for plaiting. You could use chrome tanned for a belly where it doesn’t take the stress that the outer layer takes.
However keep in mind with any leather that’s not “drum stuffed” you will have to “hand grease” the skin. That adds extra cost on top of the cost of leather and extra labor on your end. Also the end result typically isn’t the same as a tannery doing the greasing for you.
Hope that helps…
Right now I’m finished up my last project before I head out of town for a couple of weeks to perform my show in California. I am helping out someone that is restoring a bag and needed someone to recreate the plaited straps. Here’s what one of the straps look like:
This was an unusual pattern, where it over two on opposite sides and checkerboard on the other two opposite sides. Also this strap didn’t have a core. Between it being hollow and the pattern it gave the original strap a rectangle like profile.
My version of it has a core and is much more round looking.
Here’s how I figured out how to make a bullwhip in a hotel room with out making holes in the walls. I hung the set to be pared in the door jam of the bathroom.
It was pretty simple, I just wrapped the end around a pen:
and shut it in the door. Here’s the view from inside the bathroom:
And here’s the mess that paring makes on the floor:
I’m kinda amazed that this simple system anchors the leather so well!
I recently had this bullwhip come in:
It was really dry, so I greased it and let it soak in. The I put a new fall on it and replaited some of the point.
I took it to the park and gave it a quick crack and it still works!
After I posted (original post here) about the kangaroo that Tandy LeatherFactory had recently started selling I got this email from Graham Packer Leather in Australia:
When we looked at the Tandy advert – we noticed that they had described the leather as “Finished Kangaroo Leather”.. This wording is important as I understand that the leather was from an Italian producer. This producer offers a Glazed Aniline leather – this leaner is produced with a veg retan process and then is lightly finished with Pigment. The leather is made for really footwear.
You say that you will soak the leather in grease to soften it.
In reality – it will never feel like the Drum Stuffed whip leather that you normally use.
Your comment are correct as to its origin and possible processing.
If you don’t know Packer makes what is in my opinion the best drum stuffed kangaroo you can get for whip making!
I agree with Graham’s assessment of the leather that Tandy is selling, it’s really unsuitable for whip making or braiding in general!
I just finished packing up a Make Your Own Stock Whip Kit:
These are a great way to learn to braid a whip, without the time commitment of learning to cut and pare leather. I’ve got a few more cane stocks left, once they are gone, I’m considering discontinuing the Make Your Own Stock Whip Kit. They take a lot of time to pack everything up and I don’t make enough of them to justify the time commitment…or maybe I’ll just raise the cost.