Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Recently I got an email from someone who wanted to know the names of the different parts of a bullwhip. There is some variation in the terms that people use. The variation is usually a geographic thing, but it can also be a generation thing.

We’ll start at the end you hold and work our way to the end that makes the noise.

The knob on the end is called a heel knot.

Bullwhip Heel Knot

Moving up the whip, you then have the handle. Despite it being called the handle, most whip crackers hold the whip in their hand by the heel knot. Holding the whip by the heel knot allows you to use the full length of the handle as leverage to put more energy into the whip with less effort on your part.

Here’s the handle:

Bullwhip handle

Visually at the end of the handle is the transition knot. This know is mostly decorative. There are specific instances where this knot has a function, but is most whips it’s purely for aesthetics. A whip doesn’t need this knot to function, in fact I’ve made many by whips by request that don’t have that knot.

This knot typically sets at about the spot where the rigid handle ends. It’s main purpose it to hide the transition from the plaiting pattern of the handle to that of the lash.

Bullwhip Transtion knot

Past the transition knot is the Lash or Thong of the whip. The lash is the flexible part of the whip that’s braided.

Bullwhip lash or thong

Extending past the lash is the fall. The fall is attached to the lash by a knot called a “fall hitch”. The way a bullwhip is designed the fall which takes a lot of stress is easily replaced.

Bullwhip fall

Finally we to the end of the whip that makes the noise and that’s the crackers. Like the fall the cracker is designed to be replaced, and replaced very easily. The cracker takes the most abuse out of all the parts of the whip, it’s also cheap to replace.

Bullwhip cracker

There you have it, all the parts of the whip.


Sting Ray Handle Bullwhip Progress…

Sting Ray Handle Bullwhip Progress…

Here’s the work that is completed on the bullwhip with the stingray handle in the last couple of days. I finished the outer belly:


The outer belly was attached:


One of the biggest challenges wasn’t the 20 plait lash, but figuring out a way to attach the stingray to the handle.  For the handle the lash’s overlay has a long yoke that covers the whole handle, so the 20 plait lash is well secured under the sting ray.  Then I cut the sting ray to size, put a bit of a “sealer” on the flesh side to give me a nice solid back to glue to the handle. Then I used contact cement to hold it place along with some stitching at the seam.  It seems to be pretty solid right now.  I also had to use my dremel to grind down some of the sting ray’s bumps at the seam so that there wouldn’t be any sharp edges.

Here’s the stingray cut to size:

sting ray

And here’s the back of the sting ray after I coated it with gum tragacanth:

sting ray handle on bullwhip

This bullwhip is my first whip that has a 20 plait lash (I’ve done some 24 plait handles before) and I was amazed at how easy…or how not super difficult it it.  In the past the plaiting that I’ve done above 16 had fancy patterns, while this whip just has 4 seam work, which is pretty easy.  And the strand drops aren’t too hard because the strands are soo thin there isn’t too much bulk you are dropping, however I am dropping 10 strands (or 5 drop points) in the last three feet of the bullwhip.

bullwhip 20 plait

For some reason I tied the transition knot before the lash has been finished.


I should be able to find time to finish the lash of this bullwhip today…but I need to make some falls before I can complete the lash.  So at some point today I’ll start cutting out falls.