The Purpose Of Knots

The knots are usually the last area of attention when building a whip, at least for me. I normally save the knot tying for the end. When the knots are tied, the whip’s all done. Knots give a whip a nice finished appearance. The type of knots tied onto a particular whip are usually at the whipmaker’s discretion, unless certain requests have been made by the customer. There is no real rule about what type of knot should go where, how many bights, parts or passes, etc. Whatever the whipmaker feels like tying at the moment, or has pre-determined, is the normal practice.

There have been times I’ve seen the cover knot, or transition knot on a bullwhip, as having gone beyond the end of the handle. An inexperienced whipmaker, whose whip is rather weak at the transition area, may decide to place a knot just past the end of the handle, in an effort to "stiffen" this portion. I’ve seen some whips where the whipmaker made a series of knots over the handle, extending beyond the transition zone, in an effort to make this area stronger. In my opinion, this serves no real purpose at all.

The purpose of a knot on a whip is for decorative appearances only. A knot cannot strengthen a weak area on a whip, only cover it up. If there is a question of whether the handle to thong transition will be strong enough to withstand the forces of cracking the whip, then this area has clearly been neglected during the construction process. Furthermore, if the weight of the whip itself can potentially cause the whip to break at the transition zone during use, then the construction of the whip is flawed. No object or structure, unable to support its own weight for its intended purpose, is worth its salt.

A building’s structure isn’t made stronger by the window moldings it features. Handlebars on a bicycle or motorcycle aren’t more rigid because of the handle grips it has. The wheel rims on a car aren’t stronger because of the hubcaps attached to them. A whip isn’t any stronger or more durable because of a certain type of knot that it features. Knots are for decoration, not durability; aesthetics not strength.

The construction process of a whip is one that needs to be well thought out. I’ve learned from past experience of potential problems when using different handle materials. A steel tubing I use in my Baby Bullwhips & some longer bulls, if cut beyond a certain length, can bend during the whip’s handling. This is a flaw I’ve since corrected. If someone knows that the handle of a whip can potentially break because the whip is very heavy, then that handle material cannot properly support the weight of the whip, and that is a flaw in the construction of the whip. No knot will lessen that flaw, nor strengthen its weakness. A knot is for appearance, for decoration, to give the whip a finished look. Anyone trying to strengthen a whip’s support or cover a known problem with the whip needs to rethink the construction of that whip.

~Steve.

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