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 Crafts: Make a whip

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Paddyindublin
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Join date : 2009-09-16
Age : 31
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PostSubject: Crafts: Make a whip   Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:57 pm

Make a whip

I'm going to say it even if I don't have to... whips are for instruction or steering a horse drawn buggie – not for cruelty. There used to be a very good craft of making whips years ago, with the lack of farming it's mostly gone – but if you've a horse and want to make a whip – then here's how.

I know I don't have to say it, but I will just in case. Whips are for instruction not cruelty.

Some Hints on Whipmaking

.
Style of Whip
There is no such thing as one correct length, width, or shape for a 4 strand whip, some people want long thick whips, others want shorter, lighter whips. Both styles are equally correct and neither is better than the other, it is just a question of what the user wants them for.

Use your intuition on animals and how you relate to them, people who want a whip for cracking will require a different style to those who want one for working a horse, and people who work horses in the yard will want a different style of whip to those who work from horses on the roads.

Types of Leather
If you do not have a full side of leather to work with then you should go to a saddler and buy a wide strap the full length of the hide. 50mm wide should give you enough for a whip, the fall, and still leave enough left over to do a half-plaited handle.

Redhide is the usual leather for the basic whip, but you can also use greenhide, or any other strong leather. Redhide is a properly tanned greasy leather which has been heavily oiled during the tanning process. It is red in colour.
Greenhide is simply made by pegging out a fresh hide, covering it with a layer of salt and leaving it to dry for a few days. This is greenhide as it is known in my part of the world.

Rawhide is the skin as it comes off the beast, dried without salting. Both greenhide and rawhide become hard when dry and have to be oiled and worked a lot to keep them flexible. Because they are raw meat they can also provide food for dogs and mice. Early polar explorers used rawhide for their dog harness, one reason being that when things got tough they could chew this for some nourishment.

Chrome tanned leather. Some people (including a few writers) confuse greenhide with chrome tanned leather. Chrome leather is light grey in colour but when cut the inside is blue-green, hence the confusion. This leather can be used for whips, but is not highly regarded (as from experience it's not very good even with a very tame horse)

Bark tanned leather (also called vegetable tanned). Bark tanned leather can be used for whips as long as it is well oiled, strong and flexible. Old saddler's catalogues list whips made from kip and similar bark tanned leather.

Choosing the Leather
When choosing a side it is best to avoid thick leather, try and get it around 2.5 to 3mm thick, and also make sure that it is not soft and spongy. Leather that is cut from the belly part of the hide is often very weak and will break easily when cut into thin strands. On the other hand thick leather is hard to plait well, and needs to be skived down, so the aim is to go for leather that can be plaited nicely and remains strong even in the thinnest sections.

Cut a narrow strip from the leather you are thinking about using, taper it down to a thin point and then see how easily it breaks. If the break has a loose, hairy look about it then the leather at that part of the hide is not good enough for whipmaking.

The sections that have been under the animal's armpits are often weak (think about it... it makes sense lol) but the leather 100mm above this may be quite strong. Leather that can be stretched is usually not suitable. If you pull a strap of redhide and one section of it changes colour to a pale shade of pink and then goes back to red when you let go it means that the strap has a weak section of leather at that point. This can sometimes still be used, but not if it occurs where the fine strands are to be cut.

These soft sections of leather need not be wasted, after all you probably paid good money for it. They can be used for the belly of a whip, and can often be used for the plaiting on the handle as this does not need the strength that the thong will need.

Points to Watch
These are the parts of a side that you should look at when choosing one. The section nearest the backbone is the best part of the hide, but sometimes this is a bit thick and may be better used for reins and similar jobs. The tanner divides the hide along the backbone before tanning and the result is called a side. Leather is bought by the side.

On one end you will sometimes find a wrinkled section, and this may be of uneven thickness. This may be no problem at all if used for the start of the whip, but can cause problems if you try and cut thin strands out of it.

The belly can sometimes be used for whips as long as the leather is sound, but just watch out for that section that was under the armpits.

There are two ways of cutting out the leather for a whip. For a long whip the cut will run along the straight side and then curve down. However professional whipmakers only cut like this when they have an order for a long whip, because each whip cut out shortens the length of the side and so makes the cutting out of the next one that much more difficult.

Professional whipmakers, with few exceptions, cut straight across the length of the side as shown. In this way they can get the maximum number of whips from the side with the minimum amount of waste. Because of the irregular shape of the side each whip will be a different length.

All the thin, weak parts of the belly are discarded before marking out begins. Some whipmakers then use a straight edge to get a line before marking out the first whip.

Others simply follow the general shape of the leather. Many years ago when I first saw this done by a local saddler I was very surprised, but the old fellow said that it saved a lot of leather and made no difference to the final job.
 
Buying a Strip of Leather
This is a useful method for the beginner who wants to make a whip but does not have the money or need to purchase a full side of leather. Leather shops will not usually cut out fancy shapes except for fancy prices, but they will sell a 50mm strip cut the full length of the side, and this is what the beginner should start with. Such a strip will provide the leather for the whole whip, including the thong, the fall, and enough to do a bit of a plait on the handle.

Ask for redhide and try and make sure that it comes from the upper part of the side and not from the weak belly section. The stretch test is the easiest way to check on a strip of leather. Give it a pull and if sections change from red to pink and get narrow then the leather has too much stretch.

4 Plait Basic Whip
The most common whip for everyday use is the 4 plait. This can be made with the keeper and belly in one piece, or with the belly added as a separate piece. For your first whip I would suggest one with the belly added, as this is the type made today by professional whipmakers.
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