As the popularity in nylon whips increases, more people are trying their hand at making them. Some are taking their time & learning to do things correctly, learning from more experienced whipmakers. Many others have a small amount of knowledge and, though I heartily support their desire in learning this craft, still many are putting the cart before the horse in terms of whipmaking. What I mean is, before they’ve settled on a sound construction method, they have a website up & running or are selling whips on ebay or other auction sites, touting their whips as comparable in quality as others who’ve been building whips for several years. Claims as this are usually not true. The purpose of this article isn’t to bash any other whipmaker, please understand, nor is it to criticize anyone else who’s undertaken the study & practice in the craft of whipmaking. This is simply a basic guide in knowing what to look for when shopping for a quality nylon whip.
Because of the rising number of people who are making & selling nylon bullwhips, snakewhips, signalwhips & cowwhips, a little research & knowledge of the product is needed. There are more options for people today when they want to buy a functional nylon whip. As with anything, the consumer should gird themselves with some knowledge of what a good nylon whip exudes. Here’s a guideline of 5 things to be considered when in the market for buying a good nylon whip.
- Plaiting> There are a couple different schools of thought when it comes to plaiting whips. One is plaiting loosely, the other is plaiting tightly. Loose plaiting is designed to give the whip a more broken-in feeling from the start, what some refer to as a whip which cracks “out-of-the-box.” I don’t subscribe to this philosophy of whipmaking. Loosely plaited nylon whips will generally not have as long of a lifespan as one that’s plaited tightly, this being my personal opinion. I also feel a looser plaited whip will stretch more with use than a tightly plaited whip will. This is an important factor in relation to a whip’s price. A higher priced whip should be of higher quality & last longer.
- Transition Area> Because nylon doesn’t have the same density & characteristics as leather, the transition zone on a nylon bullwhip requires more binding or rigidity incorporated into this area. The transition should be somewhat stiff for a few inches after the end of the handle. The reason being, this area on a bullwhip receives a good amount of stress when the whip is thrown. Some reinforcement, accomplished through binding & bolstering, is needed to help spread this stress beyond the end of the handle, minimizing a limp or broken appearance. This is the purpose of binding the transition area. If you’re looking at a snakewhip, then there are no worries about this, as they don’t generally have a handle & require no binding or reinforcement in the transition area. Snakewhips don’t have transition areas. Some whipmakers bind the transition to the point where this area becomes bulbous & causes a taper over the length of the handle when plaited over. On leather whips this is quite acceptable, as the leather strands can be cut on a taper & cover the handle without gaps in the plaiting. With nylon whips, this isn’t as clean-looking, can cause gaps in the plaiting and an ugly-looking whip.
- Solid Knot Foundation> This is a common problem among newer whipmakers. Failure to make the foundation for the heel knot secure & immovable will result in a “wobbly knot.” If the knot turns in the hand while handling the whip, then either the foundation isn’t attached securely or the knot itself is slipping on the foundation. Since this portion of the whip is crucial to how a whip is held, it’s important that it be secure & immovable.
- Solid Fall Hitch> This is another area of special importance on a nylon whip, and any whip, for that matter. This doesn’t relate to cowwhips, as traditional cowwhips are finished with a twisted portion & a single strand which is tied off in a secure fashion. The fall hitch method is used on quality leather whips, and has influenced many nylon whipmakers to finish their whips in the same fashion. The way the hitch is tied is important, no doubt, as with each half hitch that’s tied should be pulled tight. Yet the last few inches of plaiting before the fall hitch is equally crucial in maintaining the constant transfer of energy in the whip through to the cracker. The taper of a whip is a main factor in the transfer of energy throughout the length of a whip. The plaiting is an additional factor in moving that energy. If the last few inches before the fall hitch isn’t plaited very tightly, these strands can & will loosen with use. The force created from the initial action of a whip travels down its length, through the fall & ending at the tip of the cracker. Much stress is placed in the area just before the fall hitch. If the strands loosen to the point of being able to twist in one’s hand easily, feeling soft & squishy, this is a problem & should be corrected. This can happen to any whip over the course of its lifetime, and doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a poorly built whip. The end, or point of the whip, simply needs to be replaited & the fall reattached. However, if this area is not tight from the beginning, it will loosen up prematurely over time.
- Whip Should Crack Easily Without Muscle Power> There is of course a degree of muscle required to wield a whip. When we refer to “muscling a whip,” it means that excessive force is being used, overshadowing the technique that’s needed. A whip that’s built well, whether nylon, leather, rubber or whatever it’s made from, should take minimal effort on the part of the user in getting it to crack. A whip that’s too light in weight will require more force to impart a crack, and this is a problem that was created from the beginning in the whip’s construction. Building weight into a whip is an altogether separate subject in itself. Basically, if a whip cracks with relative ease, providing the user is practicing good technique, then it’s considered as a properly weighted whip.
There are several other points that can be made in choosing a good nylon whip. There are both cosmetic & functional points of importance. Whether the plaiting twists or is consistent, has gaps or mis-plaits is more cosmetic than anything. These show a whipmaker’s experience, yet don’t necessarily have an affect on the whip’s function. If a whip has lumps or bumps, inconsistencies in thickness or spongy areas, these have more to do with the inner construction of the whip, and should be dealt with earlier in the construction process. These things may in fact contribute to the whip’s performance and, in my opinion, are results of a lower quality whip.