Greasing Strands

Greasing Strands

Today I did some work on a Deluxe Budget Bullwhip and after I cut out the strands for the belly and overlay I gave them a coat of grease.  That got me thinking about why I think it’s important to grease a lot of leather.  Most veg tanned cowhide that you see in leather shop (like a Tandy) is pretty dry.

When you are using a dry hide you really need to put some grease into it and let it soak in…not just plaiting soap before braiding.  If you braid a really dry hide you can tear the fibers by plaiting too tightly.  However if you grease them would might normally tear on a dry hide hopefully the fibers will stretch or bend a bit and not break.  Also by putting more oils into the the whip you are making a the beginning you will increase the life of the whip…and make the users not have to put multiple coats of grease on their new whip before they use it.

Another advantage of grease is that when it softens the fibers on an internal layer, you are able to get the whip a little more dense by plaiting over the top of it.

Also by adding grease early on you are adding a bit a weight of the leather in the bullwhip, and that little bit over all the strands adds up.

So all those reasons are why I always grease up a dry hide or skin.


7 thoughts on “Greasing Strands

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more!

    I even used to pour molten leather dressing over each layer before the next one went on top! But I’ve since stopped this practice because it is too easy to get the leather dressing too hot and cook the leather when it is poured over it! Now I just use a lot of plaiting soap and give it plenty of time to soak in before I start working. Put it to you this way, when I plait a stitch, the grease comes out of the strand!

    It’s all about the preparation.


  2. Something I forgot to mention in my previous post about using melted leather dressing, another reason I stopped doing that is because the plaiting soap also has water in it and it needs time to evaporate, and if it is trapped inside the whip by the leather dressing, there is a possibility of mildew happening. I’m sure it’s a very small chance, but since the old timers never did this (or at least not as far as I know…), then I don’t see much reason to do it myself.


    1. I used to soak my falls in melted pecards, but it was overkill. Sure I got a nice dense fall, but it was too dense and greasy. I don’t do that anymore.

  3. Very Helpful advice Louie. My latest whip is from a drum stuffed hide. I’ve noticed it is much denser and stiff. Must be all those fats and grease worked into the hide during the tanning process. I also noticed I could pull harder on strands – harder than on a “dry” hide – without them breaking on me.

    1. Jeff,

      That extra pull you can get off a drum stuffed skin (or greased skin) in my opinion is what separates the men from the boys.


  4. Forgot to mention -with this 2tone whip from drum-stuffed hides – I cut the set for a 6 foot bullwhip (10 ft strands) and gave each strand a good stretch before plaiting. I am now at 6 1/2 feet and could probably get another foot plaited. I have enough filler strands from the bellies that are tapered and staggered lengths that will act as a core for the final 8 strands on the overlay.
    I’m liking these drum stuffed hides. Very little prep is needed and they are very forgiving. They cut easier and my blades last longer. As a downside they are a little stretchier than dry veg tanned hides. Also, according to Paul at MidwestWhips, the dry hides may soon be much harder to get – the supply is limited.

  5. Hey guys. About working dressing thoroughly into leather. I sometime read somewhere (an old book at, that “plaiting” soap, as we call it in the whipmaking trade is none other than leather dressing. The reason behind soap and water in the recipe instead of fat only, is that it (soap) creates an emulsion between fat and water. Water soaks in better, and brings the fat further into the leather, via soap.
    When the currier (leather dresser) would apply the leather dressing (plaiting soap in our case), it was to reinstitute the fats lost during the tanning process. In some cases, it was mandatory to soak the hide to make it pliable, to wash away tanning residues and to enhances the absorption of fat.
    What I’ve done, successfully in my opinion, is to soak dry (that is, not dressed) veg tanned cowhide (cores or sets), stretch it, and leave it to dry a bit in the shade. When it is moist, but not damp, I apply lots of leather dressing, even if they build up on the surface. If I did this in the morning, most certainly at night all the dressing will have been soaked up. After it is dry (from water) again, but dressed with fat, I apply more dressing to finish it off, or start plaiting the set, adding the plaiting soap as usual. The result is a heavy, densely dressed hide.

    All the best,


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