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Whip FAQ


Over the years you get asked many questions about whips, their construction and performance. Below I have listed some of the common questions and given a brief explanation. Please feel welcome to add your question or ask for further details from the list below.

1. I can't decide between an 8' Bullwhip or Stockwhip. How do I compare the lengths ?

2. Lead weighting and Shot Loaded - What do they mean?

3. You refer to a "Balanced Handle" - What does that mean?

4. What benefits do I get from a multi layered whip ?

5. What is the difference with the number of plaits in a whip - is 16 plait better than 12 ?

6. Why do you recommend Kangaroo leather ?

7. How long should a high quality whip last ?

8. The whip sound you have on the web site sounds very loud, did you turn up the recording volume or something ?

9. I want a whip for target work, what length should I look for ?

10. I can't decide between a Stockwhip or a Bullwhip, which one is best ?

11. Why are whips used with stock handling, doesn't it hurt the animals ?

12. What does the term "Plaiting" mean ?


1. I can't decide between an 8' Bullwhip or Stockwhip. How do I compare the lengths ?

Bullwhips and Stockwhips have their length measured differently. A Bullwhip is measured from the butt of the handle to the Fall join where as a Stockwhip is measured by its thong length to the Fall join, NOT including the handle. To compare the two more accurately then you should look at the total reach (without Fall) of each whip in question - For example: A 6' Stockwhip has a total length of around 8' when you include the handle, so you would compare this with an 8' Bullwhip.

2. Lead weighting and Shot Loaded - What do they mean?

Lead weighted and Shot loaded whips are two very different techniques used by professional whipmakers for various effects on a whips characteristics. Shot loading is a method of adding weight to light whips to help in windy work environments, where as lead weighting is the next level of whip construction used by only the best Australian whipmakers to provide superior balance to the whips roll out characteristics. This method allows a whipmaker to refine the weight taper as well as the ability to adjust the whips weight for specific whip users requirements.

3. You refer to a "Balanced Handle" - What does that mean?

Balancing a whips handle is a traditional method used by professional Australian whipmakers. Its purpose is to balance the end weight of the handle to the weighting of the whip thong, this gives a tremendous boost to the "feeling" of the whip tail when the whip is used by reducing the perceived throwing weight while maintaining a good weight and balance within the thong. My whips offer the option of a fully balanced handle which also has its length fine tuned for perfect balance.

4. What benefits do I get from a multi layered whip ?

Layering in a whip refers to how many layers of leather are used in the whip body construction. Cheap and nasty whips will only have a piece of rope for the belly and a four plait outer making a two layer whip, a professional quality whip will have up to 6 layers of Kangaroo leather preferably with some layers made of specially tanned leather all finishing at critical points of the whips belly. The purpose of layering is to build in a controlled roll out and to sustain this control throughout the whips life, poor quality whips will turn to a "Jelly" feel once broken in.

5. What is the difference with the number of plaits in a whip - is 16 plait better than 12 ?

A good 12 plaiter is considered to be at the beginning of the professional quality whip spectrum, but don't be fooled by a fat whip with wide strands as these usually have an equivilent flexibility factor of a good eight plaiter. Check out my page on "Buying a whip" to see how the flexibility factor is calculated. Basically, if all things are equal between two whips then the number of plaits on the outer layer will have an impact on a whips performance by the fact that the thinner the strands, the more of them, the more flexible a whip will be. Appearance is usually improved also. However, if you intend to use a whip within a working environment then I recommend sticking to a 12 or 16 plaiter as these will have finishing strands strong enough and thick enough to handle rough use, where as a 20 + plaiter will have thin finishing strands which could easily break from nicks and or cuts.

6. Why do you recommend Kangaroo leather ?

Many different materials and leathers have been used for making whips, but the one leather that stands out for flexibility and strength is properly tanned Kangaroo leather. The qualities of this leather was first discovered in the late 1700's when Australia was first explored by Europeans and has been used in Australian made whips since the early 1800's. I have found (as most of Australia's best whipmakers have used) that South Australian Wattle Bark tanned Kangaroo to be the best for whips as its long life expectancy, flexibility, scuff resistance and strength stand out above the rest, Veg tanned (memoza) is good too, but try to avoid Chrome tanned leather as it tends to fatigue quickly in comparison. Bovine leather no matter how it is tanned is not suitable for a good quality whip as it is just not strong enough when properly tapered and it is very dependant on maintaining the correct level of oil within the leather. I don't make any Cowhide whips these days as it is impossible to guarantee them.

7. How long should a high quality whip last ?

It depends on what environment your whip is used in, for example many Stockmen we supply use a whip on a daily basis for both yard work and for long droves on horse back, they would expect a whip to last at least five years. Casual use in a farm environment usually would mean 20 plus years from a well cared for whip, it is a tradition for a whip to be handed from father to son. Proper care is very important for the longevity of your whip and this requires basic common sense as in don't use them around gravel, cement and any sharp objects as this can cause damage that will shorten the life expectancy. You should also expect regular replacement of the Fall as this leather is abused the most, depending on working environment a good fall should last at least 5 years of recreational use and once a year for daily use in rough conditions.

8. The whip sound you have on the web site sounds very loud, did you turn up the recording volume or something ?

No ! That whip sound (wip4.au/wav) is from a normal 6' Stockwhip doing an anticlockwise full overhead turn then cracked with a forward throw. When I break in a series of whips I always wear ear plugs as the ringing in the ear can get very painful after a while.

9. I want a whip for target work, what length should I look for ?

Depends on the size of the target and whether you are using people with your stunts. Basically the smaller the target the shorter the whip ie. Cutting cigarettes out of people mouths etc. a 6' to 7' Bullwhip is common, for tree leaves etc, then 8' to 12' in a Bullwhip is about right and a 7' to 8' Stockwhip are fine. The important thing here is the whips roll out must have some control built in for best performance, particularly for lengths over 6'.

10. I can't decide between a Stockwhip or a Bullwhip, which one is best ?

Each one has their own distinct style and handling characteristics and for general recreational use either one is suitable. An exception to this is my experience with supplying working whips where the Stockwhip is by far the preferred choice when working from horseback with cattle and horses as the long handle gives you more room to swing away from the horse you are riding as well as providing a club like device when in close quarters. For target work at lengths shorter than 7', I find a tight roll out Bullwhip easier to maintain accuracy.

11. Why are whips used with stock handling, doesn't it hurt the animals ?

NEVER hit any live animal with the full force of your whip. From all the years that I have seen cattle been worked, moved, droved I have never seen a Stockman hit an animal with anger, only occasionally will a wild young MICKEY bull receive a soft slap on the rump. The fact is, that a whip at full speed WILL rip even a bullocks hide apart, so don't even think about it. Large animals like cattle respond to the sound of the whip cracking and it is only this sound that will competently control them, it is a truly exciting site to see a couple of Stockmen with a large head of cattle being guided and controlled just by the well placed crack of a whip.

12. What does the term "Plaiting" mean ?

Plaiting (pronounced "Platting" as in "Batting") is a term used in Australia as a way of differentiating a particular method of braiding as braiding is referred to a method of plaiting horse hair or plaiting leather onto a solid piece of leather such as a belt, usually with the aid of a needle. In some countries both terms are quite interchangable, but don't talk to an Australian whipmaker and ask him to braid a whip as they might get offended, also plaiting is usually associated with working with Kangaroo leather and Braiding with Cowhide or other material. While "plaiting" refers to the method, "Plait" usually refers to the number of strands used ie. a 12 plait whip or a 16 plait belt.


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Copyright©1996, 1997 - Matt Welsby. Last changes August 1997