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Whipmaking – The Progression

So I have already moved the whip making forwards and started using leather shot bags and bolsters in the core of my whips, moving on from the lead weighted core I developed over the past few years.

It has been an amazingly steep learning curve, just from changing one thing.

My new leather splitter has arrived as well – who would have thought shaving off 0.25mm of leather would make so much difference to the thickness of a whip?

Now comes an even bigger learning curve…  I have been making whips “wrong” for 4 years! Well, not “wrong” exactly… read on and you’ll find out.

When I started making whips I used a ball chain core which made the whips very thin. To get a decent 16 plait I would add an extra belly to give it some bulk and taper, meaning my 16 plait whips had two plaited bellies. As I progressed onto lead weighted whips I just adjusted the strands of weight down to achieve the desired diameter and taper, giving a nice weight and feel in the hand.

So I move onto using shot bags and apply the same formula:  shot bag core, 8 plait belly, 12 plait belly, 16 plait overlay. The whips are turning out a bit chunkier than I was previously making them –  not a huge difference, just about 25mm (+/- a few mm)  in diameter but they are quite chunky, very much an American style whip.  The trouble being that if I wanted to slim down the whips a little, I’d have to make the shot bag narrower and if I did this too much, I couldn’t get the lead shot down the whip far enough to be effective, leaving me with a quandary!

Also I could never work out why it takes me so long to make a 6 footer 16 plait when other whip makers are doing them in half the time when our speeds are comparable on a 12 plait. Mystery!

After a couple of conversations with a couple of the UK’s top whipmakers, I have come to the decision I have been making them “wrong”… now when I say wrong, I mean I am doing more work than necessary. There is no need for the second belly with a 16 plait shot bag whip as there is enough weight and taper built into it,  so effectively I have been over engineering them and doing far more work than most if not all whipmakers are doing in synthetic whips with a shot bag core. This also means that comparatively I have been underselling my 16 plait work compared to the amount of work other makers are putting into theirs (about 100 foot of extra cord plaiting or 2-3 hours).

So I redesigned my 16 plait bullwhip last night and proceeded to make a single belly 16 plait 6 foot and wow! What can I say? It was a real eureka moment. Not only is the whip sleeker (about 22mm at the handle), it is more responsive and has some real life to it. My heavier ‘American Style’ whips with the two bellies are great for targeting but this is a totally different animal.

When I first started making whips someone said to me “you never stop learning”. This is just so true! You never do… you never stop learning, evolving and making a better whip, trying construction methods, trying new dimensions and materials keep trying to push the envelope.

So, this is the MKVI bullwhip 16 plait 6 foot

Thats the head scratching over with until the next time I find something I want to change/improve/modify.

Oh, and for all you lovers of big heavy American style whips, do not fear! I am not doing away with the old faithful 2 belly 16 plait. It will be available still but priced more in line with the amount of work involved in it.
– Daz