Spring Steel Bullwhip Handles and Stock Whip Lashes

Spring Steel Bullwhip Handles and Stock Whip Lashes

Recently someone asked me about what I use for spring steel in the handles of some of my whips.  Now first of all the main reason I use spring steel instead of a spike in some bullwhips is that it gives me a thinner diameter handle.  Also since the spring steel rods are custom made it allows me to have them be any diameter I want.   When using a spike you have very limited choices, I think 3/8 inch is pretty much the only size you can easily find 8 – 12 inch spikes in.

The reason I use spring steel and not a plain ol’ steel rod you get at the hardware store is spring steel won’t bend permanently.  For example if you were to go to your local hardware store and take a thinner diameter steel rod and bend it, you’d never get it straight again.  Where spring steel will always go back to it’s original shape…unless you heat it to something like 600 degrees and bend it while it’s that hot.

Spring steel rods are more expensive than regular steel rods, but I like the advantage of it always retaining its shape.  For example if you made a bullwhip with a regular steel handle and someone stepped on the handle it could bend and you’ve have a broken bullwhip.  Now with spring steel you could jump on the handle and afterwards it’s still be straight (as long as you didn’t put so much weight that it would snap the steel, however you’d have the same problem with a regular steel rod).

Here are two examples of the spring steel rods that I’ve used:

Bullwhip handles

The top one is 8 inches long and just over 4mm thick and the bottom one is 12 inches long by just shy of 6mm thick.  Also I refer to these as “rods” because to me that’s what they are…but if I recall right within the spring steel industry these are technically wire.

Generally I don’t use spring steel in bullwhips with 8 inch handles, however I have a few spring steel rods in that length for projects where I want a slimmer handle.

Right now I’m working on a pair of stock whips.  These have 5.5 foot lashes and so far only the lashes are finished (still need to roll them).

stock whip

Today I’m  planning on making the half plait handles and hopefully the weather will hold out and I’ll get to take them to the park!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

11 thoughts on “Spring Steel Bullwhip Handles and Stock Whip Lashes

  1. I was talking to a local spring maker about it. He did say they were referred to as wire ( though

    I’ve never seen wire 6mm thick ) and he told me what I wanted was probably music wire ( said

    it was probably the hardest of the spring tempered grades ).

    He told me they come in bundles, so they’d need to be straightened after being cut. Is that

    what they had to do with yours?

    BTW the stock whips looks nice. I’m going to get into stock whips soon, but I’ve decided I’m

    not going to be asking a lot of questions. I know some very basic things about stock whips,

    and that’s what I’m going to build on. Hopefully I’ll rely less on what others tell me, and

    have a better appreciation for how people learned to make whips before the internet.

    But the spring steel, does that sound about right?

    Thanks! If you’re able, and don’t mind, could you email me? I’d get it sooner then here.

    1. My spring steel at it’s thickest and at 12 inches I can flex it slightly between my hands. I know my guy pulls it off a giant spool, straightens it and cuts it (know know the exact order he does it in). I pay something like a dollar and twenty five cents for the spring steel and just over two bucks for the labor when I order 36 of them.

      The are being using for whip handle so that don’t need to be some crazy industrial grade. But something that’s you can barely flex or not flex at all when you bend it between your hands. You can use a regular steel rod for a handle, but is something strange happens like the handle gets stepped on it will bend. I don’t think a regular rod’s shape would distort with normal use. David Morgan’s book Whips and Whipmaking has a section on rigid handles vs. handles with a bit of flex to them.

      Louie

  2. Ok thanks! That’s what I needed to know. The guy told me that a minimum order would be

    between $250 and $400. Time to start saving! I’ll probably get them 14″ long, for one because

    I have had someone ask me if it was possible to make a 13.5″ handle ( probably wanting a

    Delongis styled whip ) and also for the second half of a stockwhip handle, if I wanted to

    shave it down fairly fine towards the keeper.

    Thanks again!

    1. If you are doing a stock whip you want the rod to run the whole length (if you are steel lining the cane). Also if you think someone wants a 13.5 handle do some specifically in that length. When I order mine I get a dozen 8 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch for a total of 36 rods. Somehow I tend to run out of all three sizes about the same time. I think that when I notice I have a lot of one size left I tend to make whips with that size handle.

      I’ve thought about longer, but the person for me that wants a 13.5 are few and far between and I can do that in fiberglass. David Morgan’s fiberglass cores (http://www.davidmorgan.com/product_info.php?products_id=1143) come in 16 inch lengths and it’s very easy to cut them to 13.5 inches. Also they are easy to fill with lead to add weight!

      Louie

  3. For spring steel in small amounts you could try Amazon. I bought some small diameter 6ft rods for pennies to use in a stockwhip handle. My diamond tipped cutting wheels go right through them. I had a heck of a time drilling the rods through the cane. I haven’t used spring steel in handles yet. I have a lot of chrome plated steel in 8 inch lengths that I should use up first.

    1. Jeff,

      Are you sure you got spring steel and not “regular steel”? I just did a search and only steel showed up, not spring steel, however I didn’t dig super deep into it.

      Louie

  4. Look for steel music wire straightend. The company that sells it is http://www.smallparts.com/. I used this stuff for cane handles. It comes in various diameters and lengths. Small parts sells the stuff for hobbyists. I might get some of the .219 Diam in 18inch lengths for a bullwhip handle. It should be thick enough and short enought to not give too much of a flex if I cut it down to 8inch lengths.

    Jeff

    1. Jeff,

      The .219 or .25 should work great for a bullwhip handle. At just under $100 for 10 3 foot lengths it’s about $30 – $40 less than what I’m paying from my guy. So that’s a pretty good deal if you are cutting it yourself! I don’t know how involved I want to get in cutting spring steel, but next time I need more I might try cutting them myself. It would give me a lot more range in lengths.

      Louie

  5. Thanks for that link! It certainly is cheaper than what I would get at the couple people I called.

    I’ll get the .25″ ones , 10 36″ lengths as louie said is great for $91. Plus they offer free 2 day

    shipping on orders over $50.00

  6. Louie and JeremyM,
    One of the best tool purchases I made was a small bench grinder from Harbor Tools. It is really compact and has a buffer wheel also. Speed is variable up to 10,000 rpm. It also has a flex shaft attachment on the side for a dremel tip. I use a diamond tipped cutting wheel to cut through steel for handles. It goes through spring steel almost like butter. I can then use the grinder to smooth down the rough edges and also taper the end. I’ve tried cutting and grinding wheels in a power drill before but the bench grinder is so much easier.
    Cost is about $35. Savings in handle prep time is priceless.

    Jeff

  7. I have a small 5″ bench grinder that I use for smoothing off the tip of handles. Speed is fixed,

    and I’m not sure it can have a blade attached to it ( short on features I suppose ).

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