All whips stretch a bit over time, be they leather or nylon. I realize there are some other materials with which people build whips, including rubber, kevlar rope & webbing, poly rope & even hemp. There may even be some other materials which I’m unaware of people using these days. Some time ago, I came across an actual tutorial online by someone on how to make a duct tape bullwhip . So I’m sure there’s other stuff people have used. For purposes of this post, I’ll refer to leather & nylon as the most widely known & accepted whip-making materials of today.
There are ways to minimize the stretching in whips made of either material. When dealing with cowhide or kangaroo hide, the whipmaker pre-stretches each strand he/she has cut for the whip. Right away, this helps to eliminate some of the potential stretch. If the plaiter pulls very tightly while constructing the whip, this too will lessen overall stretching. Nylon cannot be pre-stretched. The only method I know of to reduce stretch in a nylon whip is to pull very tightly during the plaiting process. Following are just some observations of mine regarding stretching in nylon whips & reducing this action.
Most stretching that happens in a nylon whip over time is caused by loose plaiting. As I said before, the only cure I know of is to pull tighter. As the strands are pulled tight they will stretch a little, even springing back some. This means that each strand that’s worked throughout the length of the whip needs to be pulled tight every time. Sounds basic, I know, but without doing this, a whip will have an inconsistent appearance in the plaiting.
There have been customers of Noreast Whips who’ve commented on how their nylon whips don’t stretch much at all over time. To me, this is a big compliment. As I plait the overlay, approaching the end of the whip, I’m pulling very tight each time. The strands in the last few feet of the whip even appear a little narrower than at the beginning of the whip. What allows this to happen is the portion of the whip which is being plaited over. As I plait over the bellies of the whip, the strands don’t seem to stretch as much. I believe this is due to the solidness of the bellies, if that makes sense. As the plaiting travels beyond the end of the bellies, what’s being plaited over are the remaining core strands. These are more compressed by the plaiting over them & not as dense as the bellies.
Pulling the core taught now & then helps reduce stretch. Throughout the first 1/3 to maybe even half the length of the whip, this won’t be possible. But at some point, while plaiting the whip’s overlay, the core should be pulled every so often. Once it’s pulled, it’ll spring back some, so keep doing this every few inches or so. Doing this over & over will allow for tighter plaiting, reduce stretch & help create more stiffness in the whip.
The point of the whip should be hard as stone. If you’re pulling tight with consistent force, the thong of the whip should feel hard, not spongy, all the way to the whip’s point. There should be no twisting & separation of strands. The fall hitch should be tied as tightly as possible. The ends of the strands should be melted to prevent fraying. I’ve seen some nylon whips where the maker didn’t melt the strand ends after the fall hitch. What happens if this isn’t done is a constant fraying of the nylon. It’ll fray right up to the fall hitch & can cause premature failure of the fall hitch. As most whipcrackers know, this portion of the whip receives much stress, therefore, needs to be constructed as solidly as possible.
One last thing that should be done on the fall hitch is to tuck the last strand underneath the other strands before it. Some people like to run it through the eye of the fall & cut it. This is a good practice, but what I feel is a little better is to run the last strand underneath at least one other strand, then up through the eye of the fall, cut it & melt it. This makes for a very tight & solid fall hitch, one that won’t come undone with repeated whipcracking. Not all nylon feels the same. Some has a coarse texture, some has a smoother texture which doesn’t hold a knot as tightly as it should. This is a characteristic of nylon, as there are many manufacturers of this product, & not all manufacturers are the same. After using several different distributors of paracord, I’ve noticed differences in the knit & texture of the cord.
I hope this post has helped some of you understand how to reduce stretch in building a nylon whip. Many people email me with questions such as this, and I hope I’ve helped out a little here. I appreciate all who continue to read the blog & show an interest in Noreast Whips & building nylon whips.
~Thanks for reading, Steve.