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.
Yesterday I cooked up a new batch of plaiting soap…well altered a batch that I had made a little while ago. I had heard that some people use plaiting soap that’s just a paste of soap and water (no fat or lard). I made a batch and tried it out, what I didn’t like about it was that it was slick right after you applied it, but then it quickly got very tacky feeling. However the soap paste didn’t discolor the whip at all when I got to the point of the bullwhip.
So yesterday I took the soap paste and added some water and lard and cooked it up.
One thing I’ve learned when mixing up plaiting soap is after it’s cooked together and it is cooling the water/soap/lard wants to seperate. So about halfway through the cooling process you need to mix it up, then mix it again when it’s almost solid.
With the batch of of soap paste I did a little experiment, I cut a fall and let it sit in the paste overnight. It softened up the fall and gave it a nice smooth texture. I might try soaking some falls in the plaiting soap with lard and see what that does.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with how I make my bullwhip falls. A lot of people have commented to me when they’ve seen pictures of me making falls that they were surprised at how much goes into making a fall.
At it’s most basic level a fall is a piece of tapered leather. However after talking to David Morgan and Joe Strain about falls I’ve realized that there is much more to a bullwhip fall.
One of my experiments turned out a nice fall. What I did was cut the fall, then pared off the corners. Then I oiled it and rounded it. After than I have it a coat of braiding soap and rounded it again. It’s made a nice round and smooth fall. Now I’ll have to see how it holds up.