Most nylon whipmakers that I know of, when cutting the lengths of the strands for plaiting, take the length of the whip & double that number. For instance, on a 6 foot whip, the strands will be 12 feet long for the overlay before plaiting. This is a very general guideline & works fine. It’s a safe way to be sure that you’ll have enough cord to finish the desired length of the whip. If you’re building just one whip & want to make sure you don’t cut your strands too short, this method is probably the best to use. But if you want to make several whips, with the intention of selling whips at some point, then over time you may want to try an alternate method of calculating strand lengths.

For myself, if I use this method of calculating the length of the strands, then there’s a lot of waste left over. Some of the nylon left over can be used for braiding handle straps, making falls, bracelets, etc. Many nylon whipmakers do use most of the cord they have left over. I’ve found with my own practice that there’s still much waste left over. The less cord I use the less money I waste in the end. Any money that’s saved is money that’s earned.

My method for using less nylon, & saving money in the process, is to figure out where I want to drop strands as I’m plaiting. If you can predetermine just where the strands will be dropped, then you can figure the strand lengths for each related drop point. For instance, if I know that I’ll be dropping a couple strands at the three foot mark, then I’ll cut those two strands at six feet. If there’s another drop at four feet, I’ll cut those strands at eight feet, and so on. The point of my whip, or the end where the fall hitch is tied, will end in four strands. These four strands are the only strands that I cut at twice the length of the finished whip. So, these four strands will be cut at 12 feet, or even a little less.

The overlay on a 6 ft, 16 plait bullwhip requires approximately 148 total feet of cord. These are calculations based on my construction methods, and vary from whipmaker to whipmaker. If I’d cut all 16 strands at 12 feet, which is twice the length of the whip, then I would have used 192 feet of nylon cord. Using the alternate method of predetermining where the strand drops will be, I use a total of 148 feet, saving 44 feet of nylon. That 44 feet will do an 8 plait belly for a Baby Bull or Baby Snake, and that’s only nylon used in the overlay of the whip. There are two plaited bellies in a 16 plait whip where the same method can be applied. Nylon that’s saved is nylon which can be used for another whip.

I hope this helps give you an idea of a way to save some nylon & some money as well. Of course, figuring just where your strand drops will be is another matter, one I’ll talk about in another post. This is another advantage of nylon in whipmaking, as all the strands are the same size, making it much easier to determine where to drop strands.

~Thanks for reading,

Steve.

Hello Steve, I just read you article on on stran lengths for whips. That’s good. Doubling the leingth of the whip. My problem is knowing where to start dropping strands for each belly. 4′ – 12′ whip with 2 bellies and a overlay. With overlays that has 16, 18, & 24 plat. If you have these calculated. I would be glad to accommodate you for them. My wife and started making whips as a hobby and enjoying doing it.

Thanks, Mike & Gay Lott

Hi Mike & Gay,

Thanks for the comment & glad to hear you’re building whips. Where to drop strands on nylon whips is determined basically by the taper of the whip & the change in the diameter over which is being plaited. As the core or belly you’re plaiting over becomes smaller in diameter, then your plaiting will start to get crowded & bunch up. You want to drop strands before this is apparent, but not too early, or then you’ll have gaps.

With most nylon that I use, as the diameter drops to roughly .050-.060 of an inch smaller, that’s where I drop two strands. I usually drop two strands at a time, except when I drop one strand going from 6 to 5 and 5 to 4. Some people drop one at a time, some two, it’s your preference & what works for you. A set of cheap calipers will help with measuring.

Where strands are dropped varies from builder to builder, as each of us uses different tension when pulling the strands. For yourself, use that .050-.060 of an inch as a guideline to start with, or just keep an eye on the plaiting to make sure it’s not bunching up too much. If you find yourself having to pull much harder in order to stretch the strands and keep the plaiting neat, then it may be time to drop strands. Practice plaiting & dropping, observe your results & adjust from there. Hope that helps. Good luck folks!

~Steve H.

Noreast Whips.