Bullwhip Strand Prep…

Bullwhip Strand Prep…

When I’m making a bullwhip and I’m preparing the strands for braiding I do several things.  I stretch them, pare them, stretch them, split them, then lube them.   That may seem like a lot of work (and it is), just to get the leather ready to braid…but that’s what helps give you a tightly plaited bullwhip.

One part of this process is full of debate among whipmakers and that’s the paring of the strand.  Paring is cutting off two (sometimes 4) of the corners down the entire lenght of the strand.   Generally there are two types of paring, cutting opposite corners (top left and bottom right or vice versa) or cutting both same side (cutting both the bottom corners).  Most whipmakers have one way they pare thier bullwhips and that’s the way they do it.

Personally I do most of my bullwhips paring the opposite corners.  In theory that makes the braid tighter like tongue and groove flooring, but I’m doing more and more with both flesh sides pared.   If you draw two circle on a piece of paper, one inside the other (about 2mm differnece in diameter) and measure their circumfrences you will see the circle inside the other is smaller.

When you pare opposite ends of a strand your strands will be about he same width when measured on the grain side and on the flesh side (don’t measure the angled part of the cut).  Now if you measure both sides of a strand with both flesh sides pared you will notice that the flesh side is smaller than the grain side.

So in theory that’s going to give you a better, tighter fit around the whip.   But then you have some other issues like the thin edges butted up against each other, that want to buckle like techtonic plates.



4 thoughts on “Bullwhip Strand Prep…

  1. Louie,
    this is such a big deal, yet it will never draw the attention of the person who bought the whip.

    I used to pare them all on the flesh side, mostly because I learned from Bernie, but also because I thought this would give a smoother finish, which sometimes it does. But I’ve personally found that the edges tend to ride up against each-other (like tectonic plates – EXCELLENT analogy BTW!), so I changed.

    These days (because I reserve the right to change my mind at a moment’s notice hehehe), I pare both flesh side for the 4-strand bellies, but do opposite sides for the overlay. I’ve gotten pretty good results this way and my paring has improved in the past year; practice, practice, practice as they say.

    About one side being shorter than the other (your circles example…), I’m not sure how pertinent that is, given that when the opposite corners are pared they overlap each-other and there isn’t any chance of a gape forming over time, which can happen (in theory) if you pare only the flesh side in the round of 6 strands or more (but obviously this doesn’t apply to a 4 strand round braid). In this, I really do differ to David Morgan’s teachings. What does he have to say about this?


    1. One of the nice things about most experienced whipmakers is that they know there are a lot of ways to do things and they have thier reasons for doing it one way. Early on I was talking to Joe Strain about paring and if one is better opposite or both flesh and he told that it’s more about the whipmaker “a whip will still braid if you don’t pare anything”.

      Morgan on the other hand is very firm about paring opposite ends, and he really lectured me one time when I brought in a whip that was pared on both flesh sides. His reason for doing opposite is because he believes over time the ends will ride up against each other and while they might not end up riding up on each other, it’s not a risk worth taking.

      As for the two circles, the even when braided (over some and under some) you will still have a smaller inner surface than outer…however this difference is probably soo small that you’d have to barely pare the strand to get it right.


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