Some tips on choosing your first whip.

Considering buying your first whip? Well congratulations and welcome to the club, I am not a whip maker and as such I am free to give an opinion that is unbiased. The number one rule is no matter what kind of whip you want, snake whip, bullwhip, stock whip, or cow whip it should be a "quality whip". You get what you pay for. A cheap whip might be inviting to someone wanting to learn how to throw whips inexpensively. There are alternatives to spending $400 on a whip but in the long run you will always have a good whip with a high resale value. Kangaroo hide is the best material for a whip. It’s the most expensive, and pound for pound one of the strongest materials that can combine strength and beauty. Avoid whips with gaps in the braiding, and lumps in the body of the whip, a good roo hide whip will be consistent.

First let's look over some of the different materials you'll need to be familiar with when you are choosing a whip.

Rawhide is very tough material that has been used for years. Many working whips are made from this because of cost. The biggest caution about raw hide whips is what’s inside them, many cheap rawhide whips have rope cores or something less durable. There are a few reputable raw hide whip makers so remember ask questions.

White hide ( alum tanned raw hide) very tough and stiff needs constant use to remain supple. this type of hide is catching on in the states and so far it's pretty good for rough and tumble whip work.

Nylon ( para cord ) is tough and durable. Its lighter than leather whips and needs to be weighted to keep it flying straight. Nylon will get hairy if you use it on concrete or around rocks. Some come with a lot of wax some come with no wax. If the whip throws well with a lot of wax on it, it will be light when the wax wears off and may not throw so well. Nylon whips are an out growth of nylon florida cow whips, nylon is a great material for making outdoor whips. Many a bush has given its leaves to these whips and I am sure many more will fall before its all over. Nylon is a moderate beginner material, the up side is you can throw them rain or shine, snow will not affect them and you can toss them into the pool to clean them. There’s not really a down side except to say that the falls on the whips are a bit stiff and at times lifeless ( well not if you smack your self with them) there have been great improvements in nylon whips in the last 2 years and they are approaching leather whips in throw ability. The really good news is they are about the same cost as raw hide.

Latigo leather/ red hide factory processed and tanned. Whips made from this look a bit better than raw hide. These whips will last for years if treated properly. Do not over lube this kind of whip as the fibers stretch easily. A lot of red hide whips are made well and a lot are cheaply constructed, one should be careful and ask what's inside, it should be all leather. Perhaps I am biased. I say only buy a red hide whip if you have to. They can and do look nice they wear well when properly treated, but they can contain some chrome dyes that are definitely a health hazard, ( a sweaty palm will absorb some dyes). If they are over lubed they will stretch and break down at the transition from handle to whip body.

What Plait number is good?
Plait is the number of strands that are braided together, many whips are 16p and 12 p the more strands the longer it takes to make a whip and ergo the more expensive the whip will be. There are lots of opinions as to what # is best, I think the best info I can give you is to not discuss what is best, but rather the difference in cost. Expect to pay at least $25 for every plait over 8 . Just because a whip maker spends less time braiding the leather and less time cutting it, dose nothing to affect the whip, a good whip maker will always put his craft into every thing he makes and an 8 plait whip from a good whip maker will be better than a 16 plait from a poor whip maker.

Ways to save money on your first whip.
If you have been borrowing your buddies 16p $350, 5' bullwhip and love the way it throws ask him who made it. Contact the whip maker and tell him you have thrown a whip he made tell him the size and # of plaits ask him to make you the same whip in 8p in a single color. Remember you will be getting the same roo hide , made with the same workmanship. Again, a good whip maker that has made thousands of whips will follow the same good habits of making your 8 p whip as he does with a 16p.

If you opt out for red hide or raw hide
that’s ok there are some great beginner whips out there that will cost a bit less in raw hide than roo. Search out a whip that the laces lie flat and are not boxy, if a raw hide whip maker splits and bevels the laces you will get a smooth whip that cuts the air nicely. What is splitting? Splitting is cutting all the laces the same thickness ( not width). Beveling is when the edges get cut at a 45 degree angle so they lay flat together and slightly overlap. Beware of Mexican style whips, they may have a core that’s made out of rope or something less hardy. I would also not buy a whip with a swiveling handle for a first whip. Many whip makers excel at red hide whips but remember to request skiving and beveling.

What's a good length?
My first whip was a 5', 8p bullwhip, I had thrown some raw hide whips and some roo hide whips and found that roo hide was a lot more predictable. Why 5'? Well the tendency of new whip thrower is to rush the throwing motion and hesitate on the transition from back to forwards, a long whip of 8'-10' requires a long wait between tossing the whip back and bringing it forwards. You will find different lengths meet different needs, no matter what your final use will be learning to throw a whip will come first. Remember the dangerous end will be 5' for the whip 16"-20" for the fall and 4"-8" for the popper away from you with a 5' whip this will give you roughly 6 1⁄2' of distance. Whips shorter than 5' tend to be very fast and tend to recoil right back at you a 5' will hit the ground if you follow thru and kill off some of the energy.

Anyway, I hope you have a happy whip buying experience, don’t buy out of desperation ( well if a great whip maker is in town and he has what you want then buy it but don’t buy a 10' bullwhip in pink and blue just because its his last one, order what you really want and just wait) oops sorry traveling whip maker types.

Author Paul Keith


© 2006 Victor Tella

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