Today’s been a busy day for me, I did two shows, put an alternator in my car, rode bikes with my daughter and finished the overlay of a beginners bullwhip! I actually cut out all the layer, did the strand prep and plaited the overlay of the bullwhip.
In the picture above you can see that I’ve got the bullwhip hanging from a hook that’s at the top of the doorframe. On the left side of the picture you can see where I normally plait my bullwhips, and that hook is lower.
What I do when I plait my bullwhips is that I braid on the lower hook, then once the whip is 6 feet long, I move it to the higher hook and keep braiding (for bullwhips longer than 6 feet).
I should be able to find time to finish this bullwhip tomorrow. I need to tie the knots and attach the fall.
Earlier today I finished making an 8 foot beginners bullwhip:
Here’s a picture of the beginning of the knot:
And with the interweave finished:
Tomorrow I’m hoping to get some work in on another Beginners bullwhip.
When you are starting out making bullwhips don’t expect to make a perfect bullwhip your first time out. Your first bullwhip may look good to your eyes, but you need to try to look at your whips critically. I know I’m my worst critic when it comes to my bullwhips.
It helps if you have a bullwhip made by an acomplished bullwhip maker to compare your work to. For example I’ve always been amazed at how smooth Joe Strain’s strand drops are. It took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to get smooth out my strand drops, they aren’t as perfect as Joe’s, but they are coming along.
They only way to get good is to make a lot of bullwhips, you’ll learn a lot with each whip you make. It’s also a good idea to have specific goals when you making every whip. For example if you make a whip that has a lot of kinks in it, you next whip you should focus on taking out the kinks. It will probably take several whips to come up with a plan on how to fix the problem, then more whips to more fully develop your plan, and finally more whips to perfect your plan.
In my opinion roohide is easier to cut than cowhide, so you’ll figure it out faster with kangaroo. when I first started making whips I used to cut with the RM williams strander and got prettygood at it, but then I started visiting David Morgan and he encourage me to give up the strander. I tried practicing with cowhide and never got good results…then I started visiting Joe Strain and he told me to stop wasting my time with cowhide and start freehand cutting with kangaroo. Joe told me, “You’ll mangle your first hide” I think I mangled 2 hides…I was soo pissed at Joe’s advice…until it clicked and I was able to semi compently cut freehand. It will take many more hides after you get the knack to get good at it.
The main way you’ll mess up when learning to cut free hand with either cowhide or roohide is cutting your strands too thin. So try to error on the side of wider than thinner, and cut wide at the stretchy parts of the roo. What David Morgan taught me to do with my hides is to trim off the outside (uneven, jagged edge) then pull around the perimeter of the hide to find the stretchy spots. By locating the stretchy spots and giving them a bit of a prestretch they are easier to see, and be ready for them when you get to them.
Also something that I’ve done in the past (but I got a very firm lecture from david morgan when he heard I was wasting this much leather) was to cut my strands very wide initially. Then stretch the strands and then taper them by paring. This was a safe way for me to cut before I got good at recognising and adjusting to the stretchy parts. Now I pretty much taper as I cut, and even out strands when I pare them.
Hope that helps anyone starting out with freehand cutting kangaroo for bullwhip making.
Today I got an email from someone trying to make a bullwhip. They had a couple of questions:
- I was wondering what you cut your strands with?
I cut most of my strands free hand. I have used (and still on occasion use) a strand cutter. I don’t like the R.M. Williams strand cutter, but I do like the Dene Williams Strand Cutter and the David Morgan’s Strand cutter.
The reason I keep going back to freehand cutting is that it’s much faster to do, and easier to switch from strand to strand.
- Thinking of going with cowhide till I get better(at cutting)?
Personally I’d advise against practicing freehand cutting on cowhide if you intend on making kangaroo whips. There are several reasons for this. First kangaroo and cowhide cut differently and secondly when it comes to braiding you will break more cowhide strands than kangaroo.
Of course the main exception to the rule is if you are making a cowhide whip that is less than 8 plait. The thicker strands will generally hold up to braiding tightly better than super thin strands.
Also forget about the notion that cowhide is cheaper than kangaroo. Yes some is, but if you intend on making kangaroo whips in the future, you’ll probably be practicing with a veg tanned kip or cowhide that’s fairly thin. Cowhide and kip hides have a lot of waste that you end up cutting off and throwing away. After you cut out the unusable hide the cost of a roo hide isn’t that much more.
Another thing to consider when using cowhide instead of kangaroo is that most veg tanned cowhides that I’ve seen at my local Tandy Leather Factory are fairly dry, compared a veg tanned, drum stuffed kangaroo hide. So the greasing up of the hide for braiding might be a bit more work.
That’s just my opinion on the learning to cut hides.
Here’s a picture of a 9 foot 4 plait cowhide whip that I’m shipping out to it’s new owner: