Yesterday I started a bit of work on two bullwhips. They both are 7 foot 12 plait kangaroo bulllwhips. I’m making them as a matched pair even though they are going to two different people. The main reason I’m making them as a matched pair is more for fun and to make it a bit more challenge on my end.
Here’s some pictures of me making a four foot four plait bullwhip in kip:
This four foot bullwhip shipped out a few days ago. I do have two more of these in the works. I’ve got the cores and bellies cut out.
Yesterday I managed to case some of the kangaroo rawhide and cut it into strips. A year or so ago I was messing around with rawhide, but now I have a much better understanding of the process of preparing rawhide. That comes from having more leather experience, having read more (and understanding more of what I’d previously read) and talking to several experienced rawhide braiders.
I made a couple of key fobs, and one of them has rawhide in a knot:
Yesterday I also bought a side of rawhide and cut out a strip for a bosal core. It’s been drying overnight and I think it came out pretty good for my first try:
To make this core I punched a hole in each end of the rawhide strip and hung one end over my plaiting hook. I put a hook into my drill and put the hook through the hole in the other end of the rawhide. Then I used the drill to twist the rawhide. I left the drill hanging over the edge of a chair to keep tension on the twisted rawhide. Every now and then I gave the rawhide a extra twist to tighten it up.
Having made this core, it’s given me an idea for making a bullwhip core. I could split down 8-12 inches of it and have that part cover a spring steel core Then twist it around the spring steet and then extend out as the core of the whip. I might have to give that a try.
Today I made a 4 plait snakewhip from cowhide. It turned out to be a pretty beefy snakewhip,which was what I was going for. This snake was inspired by an older cowboy snakewhip that I had recently seen a picture of and this is what I imagined what it’s be like in person.
Since this snakewhip is a “budget” one, I didn’t use a plaited belly in it, just bolsters. The cowhide I used on it was heavy, so that more than makes up for the lost weight from a plaited belly.
I’ve been doing some thing about the right way to make a bullwhip and in my opinion there is no right way. There are: Bad Ways, Good ways and Better Ways.
An example of a bad way using a handle foundation that can’t take stress, like a very weak wood.
A good way to make a bullwhip would be to use leather inside instead of something like nylon rope. One of the things that leather does that non-porous materials is that it will hold leather dressing and add more density to the whip.
A better way would be to use a plaited belly inside the bullwhip. That will give more durablilty to the whip over just leather filler. also it will make a more dense whip that transfers energy better.
A lot goes into a bullwhip maker’s decision to how they make their bullwhips. For example adding a plaited belly is usually more time consuming than making a bullwhip with just leather filler inside, so if a bullwhip is made with just just filler and nothing plaited inside, the whip maker probably picked a faster method.
Sometimes doing things a better way isn’t the best way to do it for the project. For example you could resize every strand every couple of inches and measure the andle of the braid ever couple of inches while plaiting to give the bullwhip’s overlay plaiting at exactly the same angle. Is it worth the time spent…probably not.
Are two bellies better than one? Not always. For example in my current batch of budget bullwhips I use one plaited belly. If I added a second one the whip would be very thick due to the thickness of the hide that I use for them. When I make budget bullwhips out of very heavy leather I use leather filler (core and bolsters) with no plaited leather because the overlay is heavy enough and to balance out the whip I’d need to add a ton of lead to the handle.
So using the right technique for the job and the goals of the project is better than getting bogged down with a specific RIGHT and WRONG way to make a bullwhip.
Last night I started work on a bullwhip with a 16 inch handle. I used a 16 inch fibreglass handle foundation that I got from David Morgan.
Compared to the tradtional spike, these are very light. The main reason that I picked this fibre glass handle for this bulwhip is that I’m planning on doing the handle as 24 plait and wanted a longer handle to do more patterns on. The fibreglass handle is hollow, so I filled it with lead shot to add a bit of weight to it.
Also the from my expereince in the past it’s hard to get the core nice and tight around this handle because it’s thin. So I put a bit of glue on the handle then wrapped the core with sinew very tightly. Hopefully that will give me a very firm foundation to put everything on top of.
The fibreglass foundation also tapers a bit, so I split my core to be a bit thinner at the butt and thicker towards the transition. I also plan on doing that with the bolsters so that when the overlay goes on the handle won’t taper.
I could leave a bit of taper to the handle, but since I’m planning on a 24 plait handle with some patterns, I don’t want to deal with having to taper the strands. Also because this handle is thinner than a spike handle foundation, I’m plaiting the bellies over the handle. That will bulk it up a bit giving me more surface area on the finished whip…and my 24 plait strands will be a bit thicker and easier to work with.
Later today I’ll probably cut out and attach the inner bolster.
Yesterday I was about to cut out a core for a 6 foot bullwhip from a side of kip, when I had an idea. In my head I want to have the core of my bullwhips as desnse as possible. That’s why I my cores (currently) are more than just a tapered piece of kip, then flare out then taper to a point. That’s gives me a firm core off the handle foundation which will hopefully make the transition last longer.
If you’ve never handled kip before it’s a the leather from a teenage cow and it’s very flexible compared to a grown up cow’s hide. Because kip if fairly flexible you can really get it into a tight dense core. The problem I”ve run into in the past when using cowhide for the core is that because it’s a bit heavier it’s also less bendy, and hard to get a tight core from.
Not too long ago I found a really neat cowhide that’s been split down fairly thin, so it’s not much thicker than a side of kip. I’m using this in the core of the bullwhip, but I’m rolling it differently. Usually I have the core (and bolsters) grain side of the leather out. The reason for that is becuase it makes it easier to braid over. If you have two layers of the whip with the flesh sides touching it like pulling against sandpaper (muhc harder than it needs to be). However you can roll the core much tighter with the flesh side out.
Now my problem is how to get a tight belly over the top of the inside out core. The easiest and probably the best solution will be to apply dressing to the core, let it soak in then grease it again right before braiding. Since I’ll only be braiding a short distance, I’m hoping it won’t kill my hands braiding this way.
Personally I think that using a matched pair of bullwhips doesn’t really give you any advantage over two similar bullwhips. What I mean by similar are two whips that crack the same (so not one aussie bullwhip and one swivel handle american bullwhip).
Generally two bullwhips made with the same recipe by the same bullwhip maker will handle the same. A matched pair has a little more work in it than just two whips made the same time, like being split to the same thickness, bellies braided to exactly the same length, etc.
Personally I think that having everything exactly the same in a whip doesn’t make much sense because your right and left arms work differently and one millimeter here or there wont’ make much of a difference. For example my right arm cracks harder than my left, but my left does more precision cracking…and while my right arm learns to do new cracks faster than my left, it’s my left that generally learns to do things better!
So that said, do both of my arms need exactly the same thing…nope!
Now that I’m finished with my anti-matched pair rant, as a whipmaker I like the idea of a matched pair. It adds another level to the challenge of whip making. Right now I’m making a matched pair of 6 foot bullwhips. I’ve got the two bellies cut out and the cores attached to handles. I still need to do the lace prep for the bellies and hopefully I’ll be able do some braiding today.
Today I started making a 6 foot Indy bullwhip (morgan style). I’ve cut out the the kangaroo sets for the bullwhip (2 belly’s and overlay) and I have cut out the core. I managed to find time to plait the core as well.
Also here’s me giving an 8 foot 16 plait bullwhip some test cracks: