Making a Shot Bag

Making a Shot Bag

The other day I was making a shot bag for a whip.  If you don’t know what a shot bag is, essentially it’s a bag that holds lead shot (hence the name shot bag) inside the whip.  My shot bags are made out of a  tapered strip of leather that is rolled into a tube.

This tube is then filled with fine lead shot.

lead shot for whip making

Mmm…margarita and lead!

Here’s a quick video of me filling up a shot bag:

The main reason that I use a shot bag is to add weight to a whip.  This is mostly used (by me) on whips that have no handles like signal whips or snake whips.


Ostrich Handle Bullwhip?

Ostrich Handle Bullwhip?

Recently in the mail I got a flyer from Tandy Leather Factory in the mail with their February sale items.  One thing that caught my eye was that they had Ostrich Leg Skins on sale.

Ostrich leg leather

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ve probably noticed that I love making whips with handles from unique leathers.  In the past I’ve made bullwhips with handles made from:

Shark Skin


Alligator Skin

bull whip for sale

and Sting Ray Skin

Kangaroo bullwhip

That got me thinking that making one from ostrich leg skin would be a fun project.  The description on Tandy’s website says the average size is about 5 x 22 inches.  That would give me enough leather for at least two handles, but more more likes in the ballpark of 4 handles!

Unfortunately I’ve got a few more things I want to do before I get around to making an ostrich handle bullwhip.


Bullwhips on my Vacation!

Bullwhips on my Vacation!

For the last 11 days I’ve been on vacation and sure enough I managed to run into a bunch of bullwhips along the way.  Whips are fairly common to see when you are visiting unfamiliar places, you just need to know where to look.  The first place I looked for whips were in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and found a really tiny three foot bullwhip:


The next batch of whips I found in a street market in Cabo San Lucas.

Mexican Bullwhips

Then I found some a whip, quirt and bosal in a museum in Cabo San Lucas.

Plaited rawhide

And then a couple of days later I was at Disneyland and got to see the whips they sell outside the Indiana Jones ride.

Indiana Jones Bullwhips

One thing that amazed me was that they sell these bullwhips to kids and there is no disclaimer of any kind with them.

Here’s a the Indiana Jones Role Play Set that comes with a bullwhip:

Indiana Jones Bullwhips

One thing I remember from my last visit to Disneyland (probably 4 or 5 years ago) was that at least one of the Indiana Jones’s on the ride used to hold one of the cheapo pitch whips they sell outside the ride.  Now all of the bullwhips they Indiana Jones has on the ride look much more screen accurate.  Unfortunately because of low lighting and the ride being bumpy I couldn’t get any pictures of the whip that Indiana Jones has on it.

Also during my vacation I made a new friend named Sideshow Bert.  Bert does juggling and stunts and one of the things that he features in his show is a bullwhip!  Here’s Sideshow Bert’s demo reel and at the 2:04 mark you can see parts of his bullwhip routine.

His bit with the “Visor Cam” is very funny and very original.  I think it’s a brilliant idea to show the audience another view of the newspaper trick!

Now that I’m back home and back to work all the orders of in stock whip will ship out today!


Bullwhip Study Group

Bullwhip Study Group

Last Sunday I stopped by the Bullwhip Study Group that’s held at the Seattle Wushu Center for about 15 minutes on my way to a show.  While I was there they were trying to use  a whip to flick a piece of paper in the air, the hit it again as it fell.  Here’s Gary and Restita working on it:

I managed to do this, but of course since I was recording with my camera I didn’t record myself doing it (I know I should have had someone else hold the camera).

After I left they were working on grabbing a water bottle:

The Bullwhip Study Group is every 3rd Sunday at the Seattle Wushu Center. They are a great group and if you are in the Seattle area they are worth a visit! For more info visit:


The Leather Lace Bullwhip Book Review

The Leather Lace Bullwhip Book Review

The other day I stumbled upon a book about bullwhip making called The Leather Lace Bullwhip on  Since I’m such a whip nerd I ordered a copy.

The Leather Lace Bullwhip

Here’s the description of the book:

Geared mainly to the leather hobbyist with some braiding experiance, This book will show you how to make a cowhide bullwhip in my unique way. Also contains tips and tricks of leather braiding and cutting lace.

I like the idea of this book which is making a bullwhip from lace of a uniform width, instead of cutting it at a taper.  Also for a bit of full disclosure I’ve read this book two times, but haven’t made the bullwhip in this book.  The main reason for not making this bullwhip (yet) is time, however I plan to try it in the future.

In the book Paul cuts his lace with Craftool Lace Maker.

lace maker

This tool will give you uniform lace and while it it possible to cut at a taper with this tool, the way the author uses lace you are stuck with using uniform widths.  One clever thing the author does is converts one of these Lace Maker’s into a very inexpensive splitter to thin down the lace.

The construction is fairly simple, it’s a core, plaited belly and overlay.   The belly is 8 plait and the overlay is 12 plait all in 2mm thick cowhide.

There are a few things that I have some issues with in this book.

  • Paring: The way the author pares without any protection on his hands in my opinion is a fairly dangerous way to teach it to a beginner.
  • Knot Tying: The instructions for tying the knots are in the appendix in the back of the book.  And it uses a coded system, but the author doesn’t really explain how the codes work.  I could understand the codes, but I think someone just starting out would cause a bit of frustration.
  • Incorrect Information: The author says to make a handle like an Indy Bullwhip, you do an U2 O2 U2 pattern. That is 100% wrong.  Indy bullwhips have a checkerboard handle.
  • More Incorrect Information: The author specifically says the pattern he uses on the handle what Ron Edwards calls a Birds Eye Plait.  The Birds Eye Plait that Ron Teaches in his books is different from what Paul teaches in this book.
  • Goat Rawhide?: In the shopping list for supplies the author tells you to buy some goat rawhide.  However that’s never mentioned again in the book.  Leather isn’t cheap, so buying something that’s not used in the project is very wasteful on the beginners wallet.
  • Internet References: In the beginning of the book the author says you can learn to use the Lace Maker on YouTube, but doesn’t give any specific site.  The author should have provided a direct URL.  The author in the appendix offers some other websites, but just the websites name and no direct URL’s so I have to search them. It would have taken all of a minute to type them out, if not for the ease of the reader, but for the sake of completeness.

You might be thinking that I’m nit picking when I mention things like crediting thing wrong.  However crediting is something that’s very important.  When you specifically cite something  you better be right!

Here’s an example of why crediting is important (a very nerdy example).  I’m involved in the world of soap bubble artists.  In a forum someone mentioned that they believe that crediting creators of different bubble tricks is very important and should be done even in a live performance.  Then his example was when he does the bubble carousel he credits it as being invented by Tom Noddy.  On the surface crediting is good, but only when it’s correct.  In Tom’s book he specifically says he learned it from someone else.  Now this person that wants credit to go to the right place is actually falsely giving credit to the wrong person.

I’m not saying Ron Edwards invented the Birds Eye Plait (he didn’t), but when you say it’s what in his book and are wrong you are making historical the waters murky.

One thing I like about the book is that the authors method is fairly simple.  It doesn’t use bolsters so it’s less intimidating for a beginner.  However if you intended to make more than one whip I would highly suggest learning how to make a bolster and incorporating it into your plan.  Also since there is no tapering the cutting out process is pretty easy.  But once again if you intend to make more than one whip in your life time you need to learn to cut at a taper.  Whether it’s simply using an Aussie Strander and turning the wheel a bit as you cut or learning to do it freehand.

I feel this book is intended more for someone that wants a leather working project and that’s just it.  They want to make one whip and then move on to the next thing, not for someone that actually wants to learn to make whips.

One big suggestion for this books author would be to have someone proof read and make the whip in the book that is his intended audience.  Someone that had some braiding experience, but never made a whip would have noticed a lot of things that weren’t very clear.  Also there are a lot of typos and missing letters in the text (i.e. the word USING being spelt USIN), which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s annoying because I paid for the whole book why not give me the last letter of the word?  I know times economically are tough, but adding in a G in the proper place doesn’t cut into profit margins to much.

So the big question is would I recommend this book?  Honestly I don’t know how I feel about it.  I guess I’d recommend it to someone that wants to make a whip, but not really progress any further than that one whip.  However if you want to try plaiting I’d recommend getting Ron Edwards book How To Make Whips and making the stock whip in that book, or a precut stock whip kit.  A 4 plait stock whip is a pretty simple project and you’ll get a feel for plaiting and see if you like it or not without getting involved in doing 8 and 12 plait patterns which can be very frustrating for a beginner.


Stock Whip Pair

Stock Whip Pair

Here’s the pair of stock whips that I started last week now that they are finished:

It’s amazing the different in the amount of energy your body saves once lead is put in the handles!  A bit of lead makes the whips much easier to hold on to.  Also I tried out these whips with kangaroo and with white hide falls (one on each lash) and cracked them on the same handles.

After trying it with both types of falls I was surprised to find out that I preferred a kangaroo fall over the whitehide.  Keep  in mind this is on a pair of stock whips which quite often have a finer point than a bullwhip.  Here’s the two stock whips being test cracked once I put a kangaroo fall on the second lash:


Bullwhip Actually Used as a Weapon?!

Bullwhip Actually Used as a Weapon?!

Within bullwhip circles there’s a lot of debate as to whether or not bullwhips would make effective weapons.  There aren’t a lot of instances where someone has chosen a bullwhip as an offensive weapon before an engaging someone.   However I just found news report where someone picked a bullwhip as their weapon of choice:

Late Wednesday night, a duo of self-styled gangsters barged into a Super 8 Motel room wielding a bull whip and knives, according to police. The room’s occupant managed to grab a baseball bat and shove the men out of the room, but not before they reportedly said they were “there to enforce for his gang” and collect a $400 debt.

Arrest reports identify the two suspected perpetrators as Kirk Virgil Worthen, 24, and Clayton Wade Ames, 27. The reports state that they were trying to collect the debt because they believed the man in the motel room was “snitching.”

At some point, the man in the motel room called police and when officers arrived they found Worthen and Ames in the motel parking lot. Officers searched the men’s vehicles and reportedly found a knife under Ames’s seat. Worthen also had an empty knife holder, the reports state, and officers located knives and a bull whip in a nearby Dumpster.

Worthen and Ames were booked on one count of aggravated robbery each. Bail was set at $15,000, cash-only, for both men.

Above is from the Hearld Extra.

Just because someone picked a bullwhip as a weapon doesn’t mean it was a good choice.  Based on the report above they were fought off by a baseball bat.  That shows that two people armed with knives and a bullwhip with the advantage of surprise were no match for one person with a baseball bat.  When you think of it a baseball bat is basically a club or the most primitive weapon ever!

I also question how smart the attackers were because they picked a bullwhip to use in a hotel room.  Hotel rooms are very small and I seriously doubt they were bringing a 3 foot signal whip, but probably an 8 foot or so heavy bullwhip from at tack store.   Having cracked whips in a hotel room I know from experience that they aren’t the ideal place for anything over4 feet long.

So next time you’re out enforcing for your gang pick a more effective weapon like a baseball bat and help the sport bullwhip community continue to move the public’s perception of whips from weapons and lifestyle cracking to the actual sport of bullwhip cracking.



Whip Cracking During Snowpocalypse

Whip Cracking During Snowpocalypse

The last couple of days here in the Seattle we’ve gotten (for us) a lot of snow.  I think our city normally averages something like 5ish inches a year and in one day we got about 9 inches of snow!  Add that to the topography of the region which is mostly hills and you get a slippery mess!

However I saw the silver lining and took this as a chance to test of the little tub of Fiebing’s Snowproof Leather Dressing that I bought a little while ago.

fiebings snowproof dressing

Also this is a chance for me to point out that you can take kangaroo bullwhips  and use them in the rain and snow.  There’s this general misconception that if you take you kangaroo whips outside in the rain you’ll ruin them. That’s simply not true.

What is true is that if you do take your whips outside in the rain or snow you will need to maintain them properly and it’s not that hard to do.  A coat of dressing before you take them out will help block the moisture from getting into your whip while you are cracking.  When you are finished cracking your whips you dry them off and give them another light coat of dressing.

That’s it, it’s not to hard.

Now back to my use of the Fiebing’s Snowproof Leather Dressing.  This stuff feels a bit more like Pecard Leather Dressing than the Fiebing’s Aussie Dressing does however it felt like it penetrated into my whips easier than Pecard’s does.  It didn’t take as much friction / heat to get it apply it, so that’s a plus.

I put a coat on my whips and took them out in the snow:

One thing I noticed was that my whips didn’t really get wet!  After cracking them in the snow they ended up very cold, but not wet.  I gave them a rub down with a towel anyway and another light coat of dressing.

I expected the falls of the whips at the very least to pick up some moisture but they never felt like they picked up any additional water weight while cracking.   Keep in mind that snow is a lot different from rain, where snow is basically a solid unlike rain which is a liquid.

If I was to go out and crack my whips in the snow again I would use Fiebing’s Snowproof again!