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.
Recently I put together a Stock Whip Kit that comes with precut leather so that a beginner can make their own stock whip. I really haven’t promoted it yet, and have already sold a bunch of them! This provides you with all the materials you need to make your own stock whip along with a DVD that teaches you how to plait it and put it all together!
I’ve got these in stock and for sale at $70 plus shipping. However I’m out of town from 1/28/12 to 2/8/12, so if you order during that time you’ll have to wait until 2/9/12 for me to ship it. Because you’ll have to wait for me to get home before I can ship I’m going to knock 15% off of the Stock Whip Kits while I’m away! That means you can get your own Stock Whip Kit for only $59.50 plus shipping. This is a killer deal and only lasts until I get back home on 2/8/12 after that they go back up to $70.
So if you’ve been following my little blog you’ve noticed that recently I’ve been expanding from bullwhips to also include stock whips. I’ve always made more than just bullwhips it’s just that I’ve been focusing a bit on really learning more about stock whips lately. One thing that makes a stock whip a stock whip is the stock of course. In Australia it seems that most whip makers use Toheti Cane for the stock and that is also true for most whip makers in the USA. The makers in the USA import it from Australia.
I’d thought about using Rattan Cane for stock whip handles in the past, but never really did much investigation. Recently Jeff Roseborough turned me onto a website that sells 24 inch Rattan Cane lengths for $2.10 – $3.15 each (depending on quantity). These are a tad long for stock whip handle with most stock whip handles being in the 20 – 21 inch range, but could be any length.
I picked up a few of these to try them out. In fact I used Rattan Cane for this stock whip:
The main difference I notice between Rattan Cane and Toheti Cane is that Rattan seem to have just a bit more flex to it than Toheti Cane. Also after looking at both I suspect that both types of cane might be the same thing grown in different places so have different names or are very closely related in the vine family.
Here’s a visual side by side comparison of the Toheti and Rattan Canes:
Another thing I notice is that the Rattan Cane was much easier to shape the keeper end than the Toheti Cane was. I think that’s because the Toheti Cane is a bit more dense which is also probably why it’s has less flex to it.
The skin on the Toheti Cane also a bit harder. However having a firmer skin doesn’t really matter much, I think the Toheti Cane’s skin might repel moisture a bit better, but that’s just a guess.
Another factor is price. Rattan Cane much more easily available in the USA than Toheti Cane is. Rattan Cane at retail is $3.15 and Toheti at retail $4.95 or about $1.80 more. But then you have to figure in shipping with one coming from the USA and one from Australia. The shipping on the Toheti Cane is about double the Rattan Cane.
What all that means to the end product of the stock whip…not much. Because both types of cane are natural products and no two will be exactly the same you’ll probably find some Rattan Cane with the same or less flex than Toheti Cane. For me I think I’m going to use the Rattan Cane for yard whips (cowhide leather stock whips) and the Toheti Cane for nicer kangaroo stock whips. Going with a Toheti Cane handle for the price of a kangaroo stock whip is a drop in the bucket where on a cheaper whip it makes a bit more difference in the margin.
Maybe I’ll offer a choice on cheaper yard whips where someone could upgrade to a Toheti Cane handle from the Rattan Cane for an extra few bucks.
Last night I performed at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA as part of an arts festival. This historic theater was built in 1918 and pretty much any Vaudeville act working on the Pantages Circuit performed at this theater.
Here’s my daughter, Miss Ella and I onstage working the bullwhip:
Right after this picture was taken I crack the bullwhip and Ella say, “It’s past my bed time” and then runs off stage.
This week has been a very busy week for me between performing, shipping out orders and squeezing in some family time. The 16 plait bullwhip has the overlay cut out, but no strand prep has happened.
And the nice thing about that is because it’s a two tone bullwhip I actually cut out two complete sets, so once the first one is finished I can make another one pretty quick!
Yesterday I started work on a pair of 4 plait cowhide bullwhips. I normally don’t make these bullwhips to order, you have to get them when I have them in stock. I do this for two reasons:
1. I don’t make a lot of money on them and I don’t want to be backed up making these for not a lot of profit.
2. They aren’t particularly challenging to make, so they aren’t fun for me to make!
However the person I’m making these for called and wanted two of them and I had one in stock. So I figured why not make two of them as a pair to make it more interesting. So I agreed and right now I have the plaiting completed one of them and the other is about 3/4 of the way finished.
I should have time to finish them and ship them out today (hopefully) and then I can get back to work on the 16 plait bullwhip.
Right now I’m having a little sale on all IN STOCK whips! From now until Tuesday morning 11/29/11 I’ve knocked 20% off all whips (bullwhips, snake whips, etc) that I have IN STOCK. Of course all of my IN STOCK whips are ready to ship out and if they are for delivery in the USA they will make it to you by Chirstmas!
Yesterday finished working on the bullwhip with the alligator handle. However I did the knots with a second color interweave and I’m not sure that I like it, so I might be redoing them.
The work that was done yesterday was finishing plaiting the point:
This bullwhip is a 12 plait bullwhip and since it has an exotic leather handle I decided to give it a finer point than a usual 6 plait point and went with an 8 plait point. Also I started doing a couple of newish things to this bullwhip and one old thing.
The old thing that I did was something that I used to do a long time ago and for some reason stopped. What I’m going again is a little bit before strand drops I’m starting to taper the strands that will be dropped a little bit. That seems to ease the lace into the drop a little bit better.
The two new things that I’m doing are:
Different Angles of Paring: The lace that makes up this bullwhip starts out at the handle pared at an angle, but as you move toward the point the lace ends up more square. My thinking on this is that when you use a whip if it’s pared at an angle the lace at that thinner spot is more susceptible to abrasion damage which can turn into a torn or broken lace on the thinner point strands. By having them more square they should hold up to that a bit better. However since the first half of the whip doesn’t normally contact the ground abrasive damage isn’t really an issue.
Splitting By Hand: I’ve come up with my own technique for splitting lace by hand (no splitter). I’ll make a little video of this some day, but it’s pretty easy and right now it’s fun to do…we’ll see if I keep it up once the novelty has worn off!
Yesterday I also put the knots on the bullwhip. Here’s the transition knot before the interweave:
and after the interweave:
And here’s the heel knot foundation ready for a knot:
And here’s the finished heel knot:
Part of my “not sure if I like it” I think may come from the unbalanced look of the knots. I need to do them in one solid color, add more red to the heel knot, or less red to the transition knot.
Here’s a full view of the whip:
I still need to roll and shellac it after I come to a decision as to whether or not I like the knots. The more I look a them the more I’m OK with them…but still not positive!