Many people ask me questions on how much electrical tape or sinew to use in building nylon whips. Truth is, there is no specific amount to use, no particular formula to follow. You have to work out for yourself how much or how little to use. This requires experimenting with various techniques over the course of building many whips. Below are just a few thoughts in regards to using tape & sinew. Tape is used for weight, sinew for stiffness. These sort of popped in my head the other day, so I thought I’d share them here.
Electrical tape adds weight & some stiffness. I use tape in the whips I build primarily for weight, not for adding stiffness. Though tape does add a bit of stiffness as a secondary benefit, I don’t rely on it for this. If I want more weight carried further down the length of the thong, in addition to plaiting the bellies longer, I’ll also tape further down the bellies. This helps add more weight toward the point of the whip.
The amount of tape that’s used, in regards to how many layers, will add more weight to the whip, as well as give it a slower action. There’s no way to create the amount of stiffness in a whip that’s achieved by the use of sinew. Simply wrapping more layers of tape on a whip will not necessarily make it stiffer, especially at the transition, that point where the handle ends & the core is attached. More layers of tape means a larger diameter over which will be plaited. I see many new whipmakers building 16 plait whips over a diameter that should have 18 or 20 strands covering it. This is seen by the gaps that form in the overlay. Gaps here & there in your bellies is one thing, but you don’t want to see them throughout the entire overlay. It looks shoddy.
Binding with sinew produces stiffness in the whip. Each belly of the whips I build are bound with sinew, no matter how many bellies a whip contains. The only exception to this is my Baby Bulls. Sinew produces more stiffness than tape alone, as well as not bulking up the diameter as much as tape. Using tape & sinew together, in my opinion, is better than using sinew alone. Thin waxed thread can also be used with the same success.
How far you extend the binding of the sinew on the whip bellies will determine the control your whip will have. On some models of whips, I extend the binding to the end of each plaited belly. I believe this has a couple of benefits: 1. it produces a stiffer whip for more control and, 2. produces “suspended weight,” for lack of a better way to explain it. I think the further binding can help to “push” more weight to the point of the whip, allowing the user less effort in the amount of energy needed to get the point of a whip moving. A limp rope, as compared to a thin but flexible stick of the same length, would require more effort & space to get the end moving. Both materials could be of the same weight, but the degree of stiffness makes a difference in how each of them responds to movement.
I believe the more sinew is used, & the further it’s extended in the bellies, will give the whip better control & a lighter feel to it. Whips with more tape will give a slower action, as well as a heavier feel to them. There are other materials which can be used to produce more stiffness. I’ve heard of people using shrink wrap & mule tape to give more stiffness in their whips.
Of course, I’m no physicist or scientist of any kind, so these are just some raw thoughts banging around inside my head. I’m sure there are terms used to better explain what I’m trying to describe here, but hopefully, I’ve made at least a little sense. Thanks for reading.