Is Whipmaking Easy?

From time time, when someone I’m speaking with learns that I make whips for a living, this question is raised:  “Have you ever made a whip that didn’t crack?” The answer is always “no”. With the exception of the first ‘whip’ I made when I was a boy, which really wasn’t a whip, but rather a length of rope with a knot in one end to serve as the heel knot, every whip I’ve made has been able to produce a crack. The rope-whip was used more as a rope than a whip, swinging from tree branches & the garage roof. Looking back, those times hold fond memories for me, a precursor to the niche which now serves as my full-time job. The truth is, anyone can make a whip. Yet to produce a consistent product time after time, in both looks & functionality…this isn’t something that everyone can do. To illustrate:  if you’ve ever seen a picture of the longest whip ever made, one by Guinness World Record Holder Adam Winrich, then you know what I mean. Adam’s ‘whip’ was simply a bunch of rope of varying thicknesses taped together, exceeding 200 ft in length. Yep, it cracked.

Can anyone make a whip? The answer is yes & no. If you have two functional hands, patience, determination & the ability to follow a set of instructions, then you can build a functional whip. If you don’t have much patience or like to work with your hands, if you aren’t attentive to details, then you probably cannot make a whip. The first functional whip I made, as crude as it was, still cracked. The seams weren’t straight, the plaiting wasn’t consistently tight throughout its length, the lumps & bumps that appeared probably resembled that of a dog’s hind leg more than a whip. Still, it cracked! I was thrilled that I was able to build something on my own that worked. I didn’t have any books, videos, emails or advice from any well-known whipmakers to help me in my quest. Some of those things were available, though I didn’t know it then, but mostly I just winged it!

Today, I’m still thrilled about making whips, experimenting with methods & modifying construction techniques. I also receive a lot of enjoyment & satisfaction from helping others in their whipmaking goals. The Make A Real Nylon Whip Ebook has achieved some success, & emails from newbie-whipmakers find their way to my inbox week to week. I’m happy to answer questions regarding nylon whipmaking. Many people are genuinely excited about taking up a new hobby such as whipmaking, & it’s nice when some of them achieve a level where they can even earn some extra money from selling their whips. Now, I don’t want to dowse anyone’s fire with what I’m about to say. Anyone can make a whip. Yet to produce something that’s consistent time after time, as well as improving in both aesthetics & functionality, isn’t something that everyone can do. Lately, some statements that I’ve heard & read online are giving people the impression that whipmaking is easy; that braiding/plaiting is a simple & easy activity that anyone can do. These statements I feel minimize the skill & craftmanship that’s required in whipmaking.

To learn the simple mechanics of braiding/plaiting is something most people can do. That’s attainable knowledge. Most people can understand how to do the simple under 1 over 1 sequence of the chessplait pattern. Yet to take that knowledge & actually perform the techniques properly, keeping the seams straight, attaining consistent tension throughout the length being plaited, dropping strands, eliminating any lumps or bumps throughout the work…these aren’t easy things to do. Every week I receive whipmaking questions, such as how to weight the core properly, cutting strand lengths for a particular whip length, knot-tying, dropping strands, etc. Some people who ask these questions are simply looking for a recipe to follow, a step by step guide to get from point A to point B, allowing them to build a functional whip. Yet there is so much to learn about whipmaking from the actual process itself. I can truthfully say that I’ve learned as much, if not more, about whipmaking from my own personal experience, from that actual process of whipmaking, than I have from any book, video, email or discussion from any other whipmaker. Anyone can bake a cake, but not everyone can make a cake like The Cake Boss!

Whipmaking involves both science & art. Science deals with physics, rules, equations & givens. It can be taught by another & gleaned from verbal & written word. The art of whipmaking is what lies betweens the steps in the building process, what isn’t spoken or written. It’s what is learned on one’s own. Could you build a whip? Maybe yes, maybe no.

~Steve,

Noreast Whips.

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