Bullwhip - How heavy is too heavy?

The weight of a bullwhip or any whip for that matter is mostly determined by how much stuff is on the inside, ie: how many bellies, bolsters or fillers. The less stuff the the thinner the whip and the lighter it will be. There is a limit however as to what is too thin or too thick. In the case of a bullwhip, thinner lighter whips tend to be really fast and very good for multiple cracks like that seen in competition whip cracking routines. While this works very well for bullwhips that are shorter say between 3-6 feet it begins to be detrimental the longer the whip gets, as the added weight of the thong on longer whips that are too thin will start to put too much stress on the junction at the handle causing them to wear out quickly. For this reason I have found it important to slightly beef up the inside of longer whips say 8 feet and over to prevent premature wear at the junction.

While heavy bullwhips do not lend them selves to fast movement they do tend to be more accurate than a lighter bullwhip. This is because the tip of a lighter whip will tend to float in the air and is more susceptible to friction caused by the influence of air and wind, while a heavier whip is less susceptible to these influences and will tend to stay on track. It has been my experience that if one wanted to use a bullwhip primarily for target work then heavier is better. That is why people that do a lot of target work tend to like the tip of the thong to be a bit heavier. There is a limit though as to how heavy a whip can be for a few reasons. Obviously if it is too heavy it will be impossible to throw for any length of time no matter how well balanced it is. Also, if the tip of the whip is very heavy it will usually be thicker and it will not transfer energy well, making it harder to crack. In addition whips with very heavy tips tend to feel as though they are going to pull out of your hand when they crack which makes accurate control difficult. Through trial and error I have discovered a very efficient way to weight a bullwhip so that it rolls out very straight and is ideal for target work without adding weight to the thong or changing the taper.

As you learned in the last article a whip's taper is of primary importance to it's function. All that being said In the case of a bullwhip one could also add lead shot to the core to give it more weight but this is usually only seen on the lower end whips as it tends to cause the junction between the handle and the thong to break down rather quickly.

All of this changes a bit when you get into signalwhips and snakewhips as the weight of these types of whips is primarily due to how much lead is in the shot bag. In case you don't know signalwhips and snakewhips have tapered bags filled with lead shot as their core. The reason for this is because they lack the leverage of a solid handle and need to make up for it by adding mass to the whip to make it crack efficiently. However the ideas about the taper still hold true for these types of whips.

Oh, and one more thing just so you know. Whips are normally measured by the plaited leather as that is where all the work is and plaiting is what the whip maker is charging you for. That and his expertise. So if you want to know how to measure any whip, measure the parts that are plaited. The only exceptions to this are bullwhips with a wooden or non plaited handles, stock whips and Florida cow whips. In the case of a bullwhip with a wooden or non-plaited handle you would measure from the butt end of the handle to the fall's keeper knot. For stock whips and Florida Cow whips you measure just the thong.



© 2006 Victor Tella

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