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.
A few days ago I posted how I currently do my strand drops and there is something that I should clarify because of the number of emails I’ve gotten.
When I drop strands I DO NOT remove any of the filler when I drop the first two strands. The wider diameter of the bullwhip at that point hides any bump. Also I drop my first two strands at the end of the longest plaited belly, the diameter of the whip is already decreasing at that point, removing anything would give you a huge drop in the whips diameter.
Also for what it’s worth I usually drop two strands a the same time, one from the front of the whip and one from the back.
Also my way is not the only way to do it, or necessarily the best way…but it’s the way that I currently do it.
Bernardo Del Carpio wrote a good comment on my Strand Drop post: http://bullwhips.org/?p=2899#comments.
Right now I’m making a 12 plait signal whip and the overlay is almost finished. I was just looking at it and admiring my strand drops in this particular whip. That got me thinking about dropping strands in a bullwhip.
If you haven’t made a whip, or don’t know what a strand drop is, basically it’s when you take plaits out of the whip (or more accurately drop them into the middle of the whip) to reduce the overlays diameter.
For example an Indiana Jones style bullwhip (like David Morgan’s) starts as a 12 plait (12 strands) at the handle and ends with only 6 strands at the fall hitch. The 6 strands that disappeared between the beginning and the end were dropped into the middle of the whip.
Having good technique for dropping strands will give you a whip that when coiled doesn’t have kinks in it and will help give the whip a nice taper.
For me the hardest part about strand drops was to avoid:
- Having a bump at the strand drop
- Having a dramatic decrease in diameter at the strand drop
- Kinks in the whip when coiled
A long time ago I used to cut out filler strands equal to the strand about to be dropped in to reduce the bump in the whip. This took away the bump, but gave me a sharp decrease in the whips taper (David Morgan scolded me for that one time, but helped me fix it!). What I currently do is cut out approx 1/2 of what I’m dropping into the bullwhip.
Also I’m dropping one strand from the front and one from the back of the plaiting at the same point. What that does is gives me to opposing small kinks in the whip that almost cancel each other out. If you drop to strands at the same point on the same side of the whip, you put two slightly weak spots together and it gives you one larger weak spot and a more visible kink in the whip.
There is more to it that that, and a lot of it is plaiting technique or knowing when to drop a strand. I know there are other ways to do this, this is how I figured it out to give my whips a smoother taper and coil.
I was thinking about the 10 foot bullwhip that I’m working right now. It’s one of the whips that’s made with the look of the bullwhip in the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Besides the color one of the things that makes this bull whip different is that it ends with an 8 plait point.
I really like making the 8 plait point on a bullwhip. It’s a bit more challenging in the tapering of the strands than a 6 plait, but a bit easier at the same time because I don’t have to deal with the 8 to 6 plait strand drop.
I should be getting home later today from my little trip and hopefully I’ll have time to do the wrist loop and knots on the 10 foot KotCS bullwhip that I”m currently working on. After that I still have the 6 foot pair of bullwhips and an 8 foot KotCS style bullwhip.
Last night while working on th 8 foot bullwhip I broke a strand! Breaking a strand isnt’ the end of the world, but it’s a pain in the ass. I’ve got a technique that I use to drop the broken one and add in a new one. I think this technique is original to me (but I could be wrong).
What I do is I undo some of the overlay and taper the broken strand to a point…but I give myself room to do some plaiting before it tapers. Then I take the strand that is going to be added and taper the start of that strand to a point. I add the point under the bolster and plait over it. It will wind out from under the bolster shortly before it’s needed.
Then when I’m ready I add the strand to the overlay, but don’t drop the broken strand yet. At that point both strands (the broken and one to be added) are about half the width of the other strands in the overlay. I run them together for one hitch, then drop the broken strand and continue with the added strand.
I don’t know if this is the best way to do it visually, because you can see a “double strand”, but it seems to avoid and lumps that I normally get when dropping and adding strands. Also I think it holds them in place pretty well.
That’s how I’m currently dealing with broken strands. It seems to work pretty well.