How To Make Whips
Leathersmith's whip guide
I got really into making whips back in 1998. Although this book arrived later in my whip hobby, in a short period of time, it really allowed my skills to skyrocket. It leaves no detail, big or small to the imagination. Mr. Edwards is a gifted craftsman, and his illustrations are only displaced when you see the real deal. He breaks down the various kinds of leather and their advantages and disadvantages for whipmaking, which saved me money and helped me choose the correct leather, sizes, and use up the best parts for the different pieces which make a whip. I even remember going as an 18 year-old to the tannery, and old men would be amazed at the way I chose the leather and knew what I wanted! The book teaches you pretty much every single term on whipmaking, which, in a way, also initiates you into the secrets of whipmaking.
It begins small (easy), and ends up big (complex). In this way, you grow little by little and a step at a time, growing in experience, knowledge and quality. There’s some insight into the lives of a few well known whipmakers, which makes you feel at home and part of the trade. The book’s versatile, too in that it not only focuses on a certain type of whip, but goes into many of the most popular. The book was clearly conceived in order to make you independent: you learn how to make your own tools, how to prepare your workplace, etc. This gives you a sense of responsibility, respect and control in this craft. And even once you’ve learned the craft of whips, this book can still serve as a great reference guide for future projects, since it contains a good amount of plaiting patterns and designs. I no longer make whips, which is truly a pity, but I’m now trying to get back into many of the crafts I did when I was younger, because they really fulfill me.
The only other books I’d recommend would be David Morgan’s Whips & Whipmaking. It teaches you about whips and history. Though there is a section on making a whip, at the time I went deep into the hobby, the edition available had a lack of images which made the book a bit difficult to use for practical purposes. A few years ago, a new edition came out with much more material, but I have not seen it yet. I should add that Mr. Morgan was always kind to lend me his advice and feedback every time I asked by email. Also, I believe it was actually Mr. Morgan who brought Bushcraft 9 to the U.S. after I told him I was working with it (mine was flown straight from Australia). From my own experience, I learned whipmaking takes perseverance… lots of it.
— Aldo Zamudio
How To Make Whips
1999, 166 pages
Available from Amazon
Choosing the Leather
When choosing a side, it is best to avoid thick leather — try and get it around 2.5 to 3mm thick, and also make sure that it is not soft and spongy. Leather that is cut from the belly part of the hide is often very weak and will break easily when cut into strands.
On the other hand, thick leather is hard to plait well, and needs to be skived down. so, the aim is to go for leather that can be plaited nicely and that remains strong even in the thinnest sections.
Cut a narrow strip from the leather you are thinking about using, taper it down to a thin point, and then see how easily it breaks. If the break has a loose, hairy look about it, then the leather at that part of the hide is not good enough for whipmaking.
The section nearest the backbone is the best part of the hide, but sometimes this is a bit thick and may be better used for reins and similar jobs. The tanner divides the hide along the backbone before tanning, and the result is called a side. Leather is bought by the side.
Styles of Whip
There is no such thing as one correct length, width, or shape for a 4-strand whip. Some people want long thick whips, others want shorter, lighter whips. Both styles are equally correct and neither is better than the other; it is just a question of the intended use for the whip.
Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:04/25/08