Tag Archive for nylon whipmaking

Weighting A Nylon Whip

The weight within a whip is crucial in how that whip performs. When many people think of weight within a whip, they believe it is comprised within the whip’s core. This is true to a degree, but not the complete idea in weighting a whip. What I’m referring to here isn’t the static weight of a whip, or what a whip weighs in pounds, ounces or grams. I’m referring to the individual components of weight within a whip, or separate parts of a whip that help give a whip its weight. The core of a whip does provide some of the weight in a well-built nylon whip, but not all of it. I’ve broken down the basic weighting of a whip into four sections: the core, the butt, the thong (main portion) of a whip & the point or end of a whip.

  1. The core> The core of a nylon whip is what is commonly believed to give a nylon whip its weight. This is partly true. The core of many nylon whips is a strand of paracord packed with steel shot or bbs. Many nylon whipmakers use this, some use electrical cord, ball chain, also known as beaded chain, strips of lead, rubber, steel or aluminum cable and even nylon rope. I’ve used all of these with good success. Different models of whips I build require different core materials. The core should not only help provide weight in the whip, but should also be flexible. One suggestion I make to others when building their own nylon whips is to use one type of core material for the particular whip that they’re building. Whichever material is being used, use that material only on that whip & don’t mix materials. Using more than one core material within a whip can cause potential problems in the whip’s construction. As with many physical products, less moving parts means less potential breakdowns. A whip is much the same, as it is simple in its construction, but very dynamic in its action. In a bullwhip, the handle is also considered as part of the core. The type of material used for the handle will make a significant difference as to how much weight the core contains. Handle materials which I use are steel tubing, solid steel rod, aluminum & even composite materials. So, the core provides the main weight in a nylon whip.
  2. The butt (heel) of the whip> Many nylon whipmakers use lead strips added to the butt, or heel portion, of a whip for added weight to the handle & help balance out the whip’s overall weight. The amount of lead added will determine the amount of weight added. The point of construction where the lead is added may also make a difference. Some people like to add a large portion of lead to the base of the handle before any plaiting or bolstering is done to the whip. Some choose to add the lead to the whip once the plaited overlay is complete. Some don’t use any lead in the construction at all. It’s a matter of preference.
  3. The thong (main portion) of the whip> The plaited thong itself makes up a good portion of the weight within a nylon whip, especially in how the whip tapers. Because the paracord strands in a nylon whip are a consistent width, the taper is achieved mostly by dropping strands into the core while plaiting. The taper of a whip is also subjective to the whipmaker. Some taper the whip a little slower, while some taper it faster. A slower taper means that the main thong retains its thickest diameter for a further distance, while a faster taper is just the opposite. A slower taper in a nylon whip will retain more weight throughout its length, whereas a faster taper means the whip will retain less weight in the thong.
  4. The point of a whip> The point of a whip is the end of a whip, where the plaiting stops. On a bullwhip, snakewhip or stockwhip, the point culminates in the fall hitch, or the place where the fall is tied onto the whip. Some nylon whipmakers end their whips in an 8-strand point, some in a 6-strand point, while most finish their whips in a 4-strand point. The number of strands the whip ends in determines the thickness of the point itself and, ultimately, the weight of the point. This is another overlooked area in whip construction when referring to weighting a whip. Most nylon whips are finished with a single strand of paracord for the fall. The point of the whip should be as close as possible to the measurement of the single strand. Throughout the ongoing taper of the whip, energy is traveling along, building & pushing its way to the end of the whip. This energy travels through the fall & is released at the end of the cracker. This energy travels in much the same manner as water when it passes through an ever tightening channel. When water is forced from a channel of one diameter into a channel of a smaller diameter, an amazing action takes place. Because water cannot be compressed in order to pass through the smaller channel, it must increase its speed, therefore, increasing its own force. This is similar to the energy created within a whip. As energy travels the length of a whip, the shrinking diameter of the thong pushes the energy along, increasing its force. When it reaches the end of the thong, or the point of the whip, it needs to pass through the fall in a consistent manner. This is why the fall & point of the whip should not vary greatly in diameter. If they do, it will affect the whip’s handling and cause an undesirable action. A whip should flow smoothly & freely without jerking & bouncing.

Although a whip is simple in its design & construction, a properly weighted whip will feel alive in one’s hands. Its dynamic is founded on its simplicity. There’s much more that can be written on this subject, as this article has only briefly discussed its importance. Yet hopefully it has given you a small understanding of what goes into the weighting of a nylon whip.

Tips For Tighter Plaiting

The basic methods of plaiting or braiding can be learned pretty quickly, even by someone who’s never been exposed to the process. Becoming a good plaiter or braider will take some time, and many of the subtle intricacies & techniques used by the best plaiters of today are gained through years of practice. The experience of the plaiter/braider is usually indicated by the tightness of the braid, as well as the straightness & overall consistency in appearance. Following are some simple tips on developing tighter plaiting in whipmaking, with emphasis on working with nylon whips.  

  1. Proper Core Diameter> Before any plaiting is even started, the diameter of the core or that which is being plaited over, will determine the number of strands that will cover it. With leather this isn’t an issue, as the strands in a leather whip are cut to whatever size they need to be cut. The paracord used in nylon whipmaking is a predetermined width. Many nylon whips have an eight plait first belly. If an eight plait belly is to be fashioned, then the diameter of the core must accept eight strands comfortably. The whipmaker must know how large the core’s diameter can be to accept those eight strands. If the diameter exceeds this size, gaps will form during the plaiting of the belly. This means more strands would need to be added to prevent gaps from forming.
  2. Pull With Consistent Force> It’s important to pull with consistent & even force with both hands while plaiting to achieve a straight & tight braid. If one hand pulls more than the other, the seams in the plaiting will migrate & twist, creating an undesirable appearance. In addition to twisting seams, gaps will form because of this inconsistent technique. The portion of the whip that’s facing the whipmaker, or the top side, should mirror the under side. With twisting seams, portions of the plaiting will appear tighter than others, resulting in discrepancies.
  3. Focus On 3 Inches At A Time> It’s easy to let the mind wander while plaiting. For experienced whipmakers, much of the time spent plaiting is mixed with thoughts of other things. This is fine when one’s technique has been honed over a long time, but when just starting out, a plaiter must stay focused & work at being consistent with his/her technique. Concentrate on a small section at a time, such as three inches. If the plaiting is uneven or doesn’t appear tight enough, go back & redo that section.
  4. Pull Core Now & Then> As one is plaiting, it helps from time to time to pull the core strands straight out as they’re being plaited over. This helps stretch the core a bit now & then, contributing to tighter plaiting.
  5. Envision How The Whip Should Look> Picturing in your mind how the whip will look when it’s finished helps keep one’s focus while plaiting. Envision the taper & shape, the evenness & tightness of the finished plaited project.

More is learned from the actual practice of plaiting than can be from word of mouth or reading from a book. It’s a tactile acquisition, a physical learning. The process & techniques can be described by one to another, but the learning is in the actual doing. Through mistakes technique is polished & through constant practice consistency is achieved. Strive to make a better product with each attempt.