In addition to paracord, various other synthetic materials have been & are currently utilized for whipmaking, such as dacron (polyester) & kevlar, to name a couple. I’ve even seen whips constructed from duct tape. In all honesty, if you’re interested in learning to plait whips, even if it’s just one for yourself, don’t waste your time & money making a whip from duct tape. For just a little more money, you can buy paracord & build a real, working whip. The majority of whips I build are nylon paracord, close to 1000 whips in total. Polyester whips are still growing in popularity, & for good reason. The narrower cut strands provide whips with a higher plait count, resulting in smoother rollout & increased performance. Kevlar is the next material that I’ll venture into, hoping to settle on a design suitable for a quality firewhip.
Some whipmakers are ever searching for newer synthetic materials to further push the envelope. Recently, I was sent some samples of a polyester material that was in a ribbon like form. After doing a few simple tests, my conclusion was that it was unfit as a material for whipmaking. The tests I performed were a simple stretch test, a water immersion test & a breakage test. The stretch test simply deformed the ribbon material, reducing its width by almost fifty percent. After several minutes, it was clear that the material would not return to its original shape. Strike one. Immersing this material in water quickly soaked it, which added weight & gave it a sloppy feel. That was strike two. The final test was the ultimate for me, as I wrapped one end of the ribbon around the jaws of my bench vise, the other around one of my hands & pulled as hard as possible. The ribbon snapped in my hands. I’ve broken cowhide, buffalo hide & kangaroo hide, but never paracord! Strike three for the weak, misshapen polyester ribbon. Another observance made on this poly ribbon was the thickness of the material. It was very thin, & in my opinion, would not put up with the abuse given it by most whipcrackers. Nylon is pretty durable, yet does wear, as proven by some repairs I’ve made over the years.
So, what’s the best synthetic material to use for whipmaking? To this point, my vote is still for nylon paracord. Dacron has many benefits & is showing itself to be an extremely sought after material in whipmaking, but it hasn’t been used as much as nylon. So I think more time is needed in judging its durability. If you’re a budding whipmaker, the best & easiest material to work with for whipmaking & honing your plaiting skills, is nylon paracord. Leave the duct tape for its other 1000 or so uses. Below I’ve listed a couple of sources for 550 paracord, which is mostly what I use in Noreast Whips whip construction.
Thanks for reading,