#15 experiment – 3′ practice snake whip & economics

I wasn’t great about documenting these early on in the process & only post about interesting happenings, changes or techniques I’m playing around.

Since it’s been roughly 2 years since I did any of the 15-20 practice pieces or 30ish whips, so I’m some experiments and practice pieces.

Part 1 – Planning

Started on 8/11/2018

Lengths: 16″ belly / 8″ second belly / 24″ sheath with 24″ core

Widths: 1″ / 1.75″ / 3.5″ with half in belly rolled in to cylinder

All strands will be a quarter inch and I will use drops instead of gradually tapering. As it saves exponentially in the stranding time.

The belly lengths are not standard. To save leather as this is just a practice piece, I had to cut a short second belly as that width was optimal material-wise. Generally speaking for snake whips you get the best taper by having the shortest belly at the core and each level of braiding (belly or sheath) after wards is longer completely encasing the previous.

Lastly, as every round braider know, a percent of the length and width of the strands will be absorbed by the circumference of the whip. Basically the diagonal effect of the triangle shape created by the strands. A loosely braided whip will be highly unpredictable. A tightly braided whip – known as a ‘ribcracker’ due to strain on muscles of the stomach & back pulling the strands – will be most predictable, but varies based on if you tighten down every pass, every 8 / 4 / 2 / 1 strand(s). Additionally tightening upwards/outwards versus doing so and then pulling downwards to re-align the strands causes variation. I have heard of people only losing 20% of their length. My loss tends t be 30% to 50% of the length. I also add some for the top and then if I’m attaching a tail to the whip, I like to have another 6″ to allow some forgiveness if anything needs to be redone. Sometimes rather goof around with the math and risk my technique causing unpredictable loss, I just double the amount needed – especially when it’s less than 4′ long.

Three applications of leather rejuvenate (oils and animal fats) will be applied to all leather.

Part 2 – core & strand cutting

The materials cut & ready to be prepared.

Left to right: core, 1″ belly, 2″ belly, 4″ sheath



Part 3 – leather preparation

True leather core. 1/2″ piece by 24″ long.

Before treating it with rejuvenation fats / oils etc the core needs, I laid it out and cut the taper from 1/2″ on one to 1/4″ on the other end.

I adjusted the long end slightly to be about 1/8th of an inch for the last 6″ of the core as a 1/4″ looked to be too thick.

This piece was tied to the railing and then cased aka water sponged evenly and lightly across the surface to ensure it wasn’t too wet. Then I rolled the leather core into shape by holding the other end while using a second piece of leather wrapped around it perpendicularly to curl the leather core in to a rounded shape.



Once done rolling the leather core, I hit it with the leather rejuvenate and work it into the leather by flexing it a bunch & wiping the excess off by hand. Then left it for a few hours each time.

Part 4 – braiding

So each of the three layers also got treated with the rejuvenate at the times I did the core. When they were dry I decided to do practice run before dying the leather.


At this point I used some para cord to hold the leather to the core and anchor it on my hook for braiding. I use para cord as it doesn’t leave big marks on the leather and is easy to work the knot out when done. Many professionals use sinew or artificial sinew and tie a knot known as a whipping with a constrictor knot to start it.

I know some whip makers use individual strands cut completely free from the top to bottom & then tie it to the core. I find it wastes time. I leave them connected at the top, tie that off. Then do my braiding down and come back to cut the top of the strands free if necessary.

I repeat the process for both bellies. You can see the results below.

You can see the core with two bellies to it here and some massive gaping in the strands.

For most of my braiding – once the leather is on the core, I tend to tend to do a symmetrical round braid over one, under one pattern so the first pass holds the leather to the core even if the ties comes free.

From the photo you can see the massive gaping in the strands. The practice run paid dividends in that I realized I needed more width with the braiding to cover it properly. This is especially important for the sheath as if you are dying your own – the dye sometimes comes out different colors for various reason & you can avoid that by having dyed it all at the same time.

After the first pass, I switch from the over one, under one pattern to the standard whip braider/plaiter’s start or whip maker herringbone of over half the strands, under half the strands on each side … or as close as you can if it’s an odd number of strands due to drops etc.

Also of interest here, you can see I have wrapped a little piece of leather around the strands of each belly to hold the belly braiding tight – which means the whip will action better when swung to crack it. As I get closer to them, they are pulled off. Otherwise even if you tape them down etc, they will come free and stick out of the braiding – even if it takes years.

The outer sheath

So this is 10 strands. That means I’ve got an odd number on each side. I started the standard over 1, under 1 and after that pass moved to the herringbone over 2, under 3.

The back view here reveals some sort of flow near the middle, then the next 3 strands on the left are out of line. Each of the strands came off the mass strand cutter, so they should be the same size. I noticed though that they are slightly different sizes and one side of the braid seems to have more of the larger sizes.

In the bottom third of the back view you see the drop strand was pulled too tight without being anchored properly. The best way of anchoring times to be use another piece of leather or cloth to wrap around entire braiding just above the drop. Do it very securely to ensure the dropping strand is not freely moving when you tighten the other strands of the braid around it.

I dropped 2 strands within a half inch of each other. So that accounts for the other oddity on the back. As this is a practice run, I hope to fix that once I dye and do the final braiding.

From 5 strand herringbone to 4 strand herringbone pattern …


So obviously, that’s not how a drop should look. Here’s one method on how to method to drop a strand … Link. I selected the link because it’s short, not because it’s the best one ever.

This piece will be unwound and redone later after I dye it and some length adjustments.

Here is the link to the dyed and redone braid … Link.

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