Revised: Watch out Indiana Jones, we’re making a whip!

1) Whip fun
2) Over-all plan of this whip & materials
3) The walk through of the process and parts

See one of the whip competition formats here:

Competition for cracking the whip, striking or “cutting” targets and such!  The type of stuff that Indiana Jones grew up doing naturally!  Or so he would have us believe in the Temple of Doom!  I just want to pop off a few sonic booms now & then … If I were really to enter the competition for whip throwing or cracking, I would head over to David Morgan’s page for advice on how to choose or make my whip … you know … since he made all of Indiana Jones whips!  (Sport cracking link).

Note:  This is not a bull whip.  I have no handle on it.  I could easily make it a bull whip or an Australian Bull Whip by adding a handle!

Also, another change, I may just add an extra layer of leather “plaiting” or braiding around this as it stands.  This whip is done in standard diamond plait.

I have not decide to add a handle or forgo the handle and finish the back end.  All I need is to study up on making the fall & cracker.  The fall is important as it is what holds the cracker or popper.  Really what this means is this is the part of the whip that is replaced as it might drag on the ground or such.

The cracker or popper is the tiny little strings (not shown in pictures) that actually produce the sonic boom or whip crack people love.  
Here is the fast and dirty details that I read (link, link, wiki link).

Over all, I’m extremely happy with a test piece made from my first ultra thin weight leather.  It cracks decently even with my poorly make cracker and it snaps nicely even without a cracker on it!

This Zora hide was scrap remnants I got for cheap.  The top side is a very nice oil die.  The bottom side is on many chunks extremely dried out and in many pieces that I chose not to use flakes. I am told zora hide is mid range leather or just below premium.  I LOVE the feel of it and the smell.  After cutting the lace, I realized it is probably not strong enough or suited to making a whip.  I found out this is only because the scrap I bought up was the thinner parts of the hide.  I went and inspected several Zora hides and the full hides can be up to 3 times thicker than the stuff I have at home.  Obviously, whoever made the scrap kept the best parts.  I still did it for fun though!

This lace was cut from an 1 ounce or less Zora upholstery hide!  Total length to the end of the string, which is where the fall will attach, is 28″ – 34″.  I am not able to give reliable length to braid ratios as one strand broke just far enough in to the project that I decided not to go back and redo it, as it was a test project only.

In the below pictures I am going to critique my mistakes publicly.  Hopefully, this helps others out in doing their own.

The critique below is to talk about what is not mentioned in braiding.  I could not find good resources on how to drop strands etc & so I’m highlighting the things which might help others.  This should be used alongside a guide on whip making, not in place of it.  I know there are several good books out there for making whips, I have not delved deep enough into any of them to make recommendations.  I did spend time on numerous webpages of whip theory, one of the better ones being which uses a listing of what are basically forum entries.  The site is old school, but the materials are top notch with many of the famous whip makers weighing in on it.

Note:  If you are a beginner, looking to make your own whip, I can not  recommend enough that you head over to  Start out by searching for para cord whips.     I say this because 5 para cord whips cost me about ~$50 in material.   I had shopped carefully and used bare minimal in tools - as I did not care if the para cord looked fancy.

Note:  Further, my leather I selected is loose & soft, not stiff like a good leather whip should be initially.  This results in the throws having to be used like a dish rag (more effort to get the same effect) to quote a better whip thrower than I.  You definitely would not use such a limp whip for target practice or competitions - but they are fun still for starting out!
From left to right, the outer sheath, the core, the inner sheath.

Basic lace from zora hide scraps, non-beveled as it was too thin. Dimensions 3mm to 6mm wide, under 2 ounce leather weight. The right most leather lace is the inner sheath. It was 24″ long. There are 3 pairs (which fold to make 6 strands). The center piece with yellow artificial sinew wrapping is 2mm by 2mm oil die leather.  That strand which is 34″ long. It is attached to 16″ of lamp chain for weight. The left side is 32″ long and otherwise the same as the inner sheath lace in dimensions. There are 6 pairs (which fold to make 12 strands).

String / Lace / Strand / Plaits / Cord can be used interchangeably.  
Then Weaving / Braiding / Plaiting are roughly equal, expresses that you are intertwining pieces of leather or rope.  
The singular Braid / Plait usually refers to the finished product.

Some design mistakes:

I wanted a fast and dirty test whip for testing my thinner leather lace I started cutting.  In doing so, I’m using a metal lamp chain.  This particular one is regular steel, not stainless steel.  On whips that you want to last a long time, you need to avoid things that might rust and break the integrity of the whip.  For my purposes, this lamp chain is fine.  If building a whip to last a life time and pass on, I would use a different weight for the core of the whip.  There are many schools of thought here, I just want to let beginners know I purposefully used a cheap and quick method.

The core dimensions … a whip’s core should drop every 3rd or 4th of it’s total length.  This reduces the mass of the whip from the total at the handle.  The physics can be found at the top of the page to help explain possible reasons for this design aspect, “why whips crack” in google might be helpful in making your choice too.    In my whip, I have just the lamp chain and the strand that forms the core.

So, in summary, to follow my own advice, I would have needed two or three other pieces of that 2mm x 2mm leather.  The lengths would have been 32″, 24″, 16″, 8″.  Also, to add heft to the whip with the style of weight I used, I would have tied a matching length of lamp chain to the 24″, 16″ & 8″ pieces.  If I was doing the whip in thirds, I would have used 32″, 24″, 12″ with the matching lamp chain.

Note:  I am going to refer to the whip with vertical orientation.  This is because I want too.  And I place my whip on a ring attached by sinew to a clamp on my table.  Top will be the end where the whip is thickest and the handle will go eventually.  Down will be the Bottom / End / 
Cracker / Fall.

In making the core,

  1. I used a simple half hitch in artificial sinew from Tandys Leather to hold the leather strand to the lamp chain.
  2. I then did a wrapping loop from that constrictor knot down the length of the chain and leather strand.
  3. When I got to the end, I went around 6 or 8 times and worked my way back up the rope.
  4. I then looped around a few times at the top and looped all the way back down.
  5. At the bottom or the end of the whip that would be “cracking”, I went a half inch farther than before and wrapped 8 loops around that point.
  6. After which, I returned back to the top looping every centimeter again.
  7. At the top, I tied a half hitch to hold it in place.
  8. Then I tied a constrictor below the half hitch to hold the wrap at the top.
Note: I learned to wrap while building towers and they claimed the 
quality of their wrapping, among other aspects was the reason their work with the antenna attachments was considered the best in the country and other companies came to train with them.  I believe it is an industry 
standard now for being part of the National Tower Association.  Since it worked so well when the winds were whipping around at 100mph, I thought it would be a good technique here.  Time will tell, but be aware, I 
reserve the right to change my opinion and practice if people comment with good points.

This is the beginning of the inner sheath. Note my core here is just a single strand with some lamp chain for weight.

This is my inner sheath before braiding / plaiting.  Three pairs (6 strands / plaits) attached to the core.  Note in the above photo my core Standard cores would have 3 or 4 lengths of leather with the weighting.  I have 3 wraps here holding it to the core with a half hitch here.  That is just to anchor it before I create the permanent attaching knots.

This is the simple core (a single 2mm x 2mm length of oil die leather attached to 1.5′ lamp chain with artificial sinew). Then I wrapped most of it in a sheath of 3 pairs (which fold 6 strands/plaits) black zora leather.

I placed a constrictor knot next to or on top of the half hitch (which was over the 3 loop wrap).  I placed a second constrictor knot next towards the end where the handle will be located.  What is hard to see here is that there are “whipping knots” over the constrictor knots I tied.  To be honest, I’m not sure if the whipping knots could be or should be created off the sinew as the constrictor knot.  Whipping knots are good for securing loose ends on the sinew since the waxed sinew tends to slip when you have too much strand left over or covering ugly knots.

Beginning of the outside of the whip. Diamond braid zora leather here. Artificial sinew tied at the top.

Notice how sloppy the braid pattern is here.  This is the first pass.  As I began the next pass the leather braiding / plaiting corrects itself.  You need to keep uniform tightness on it, but otherwise each step or “pass” of the leather braiding / plaiting will work to hold the previous and reinforce it.

The first drop going from 6 pairs (which fold to form 12 strands/plaits), down to 5 pairs. This was the one close to the handle.  I used two constrictor knots and then wrapped them a few times, before I did two or three half hitches to tidy the ends.

Above, I had torn off a strand from my outer sheath ….near handle.  Corrected it by ending another strand to make it uniform & kept going.  It was not intentional, just a piece of the lace I selected was thin in one part and thicker leather on either end.  I will have to be more selective on how thin the leather I’m working can go, especially when cutting my own lace – which was the point of this project.  To cut and use my own lace.

From this experience, I will most likely pull back my braiding some and tie it off or clamp it before I try to secure the 2 dropped strands permanently to the body of the whip.  This would have allowed me to play with the tension and take out some of the uneven flow of the braid better than tying off sinew and cutting it repeatedly, which risks slashing my already thin leather in addition to take horrible amounts of time.  I have several of these (link), which work well for other things.  Then I have three of these “two inch spring clamps“, but they were all in use at the time.  I will have to get more, as for thin leather, for key chains, dog leashes etc, they are just about perfect to hold the end of your string / strand / rope etc without damaging it.

Finished body length, 24″ but two are off in the curve where my hand holds it.  The last piece of the core coming out is 28″ when tied in a knot to hold the fall & 34″ untied.

In the picture above, notice the bottom section near the 6” mark.  This is my 3rd drop.  It highlights where my dropped strand technique needs some work with the thinner materials.  They are much less forgiving than using a full grain hide.  I am looking for more clamps with rubber ends, as I only have three and they were all in use at the time.

image of whip
Finished body, awaiting handle and cracker/popper.

I have some other goofiness in the picture above too … The second drop in the picture above is at the 10″ mark on the left.  This is pretty obvious.

Also, in other spots where the braiding is uneven and pushed itself there are some uneven chunks.  Most of this is due to the uneven cuts when I made the lace!  The lace cuts were bad, because I am new to using Zora hide and the pieces I selected had uneven thickness or weight, which created odd pulls and the leather flexed differently.  Less obviously, my pulling on the leather to tighten it was not even either.  Then there are the chunks from transitioning to 6 strand to 4 strands.

I am happy to report this design snaps and basically cracks by itself.  When I add a quickly done cracker, it is not shotgun loud, but loud enough inside, but I’m still putzing around with making more effective crackers.

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