The Wax Debate

My fellow nylon whipmaker, Steven Huntress, of has just tackled the topic waxing nylon whips on his blog. Apparently, there’s some debate over the benefits of waxing nylon whips. To make this article make more sense, please visit Steve’s blog and read his article.

Let me start by saying this is in no way meant to start a blog debate or to attack Steven or his opinion on this topic. In the 18+ years I’ve made nylon whips, I’ve only had one person ask for an un-waxed whip. For me, the whole “debate” is really a non-issue. It’s only recently that I have become aware that such a debate exists. Let me also add that I actually know a number of great nylon plaiters, in addition to Steven, who do not wax their whips. I do not want to cause some sort of hard feelings with these guys over something that really is very trivial.

I’ll readily admit that one big reason why I wax my whips is simply because of tradition. Every whipmaker I ever knew in Florida waxed their whips, the guy who taught me waxed his whips, and every cow whip I ever handled was waxed as well. I’m not one to try and reinvent the wheel, so I’ve continued in that practice. I’ve always liked the feel of the whip after it had been waxed.

I will now post a response to some of Steven’s opinions on the points below. Please note: these points are not Steven’s opinions, but rather the points in which he interacts on his blog. Again, please read his article first so the following will make the most sense.

1.  An added coat of protection from moisture and the elements.

Steve and I generally agree in his response to this point, though to me, I feel it is reason enough to warrant the use of wax. Apart from tradition, this is a major reason why I wax my whips. While it is true that some of the initial wax will work it’s way out of the whip over time, once a whip has been dipped into wax, it’s there to stay. The only exception that I could see is if the wax is not hot enough to get inside and simply sticks to the outside of the whip.

While I think a re-waxing can’t hurt every now and then, there’s some nylon cow whips I’ve seen that have never been re-waxed and are working fine. I recently repaired the tail of a cow whip that was older than I am. Guess what? It still had wax in the nylon fibers and the owner said he had never re-waxed it.

2. Wax helps add weight and density to the whip.

This is true. Even another non-waxing nylon whipmaker I know agrees with me on this point. There’s lots of difference in the weight and feel of a whip that has been waxed and one that has not.  Some whipmakers overcome this by adding more weight or running the weight further down the thong of the non-waxed whip. Yes, some of the initial wax will work out with use, but as I have stated already, the wax never seems to fully leave. When I wax my whips, it totally permeates the whip and will always be in there.

As far as how my waxed whips are weighted, please consider what David Morgan wrote in an email exchange with me after having handled one of my nylon bullwhips a few years ago:

Mr Kelly,

I enjoyed seeing your nylon whip on Saturday. You seem to have handled the problem of the end of the whip being very light. Most I have seen are light in the point, and have to be cut back to get a crack out of them. Keep it up.

D W Morgan

3. Wax helps with the aerodynamics of a whip.

I  don’t know who came up with this idea, but Steven and I agree fully on this point.

4. It makes a whip look & feel more like a leather whip.

I agree with Steven’s response to this point, as far as the issue of how a nylon whip looks. Steven has bought one of my nylons on eBay, so I hope that “very sloppy looking” whip he refers to wasn’t one of mine.  He left good feedback on it, so maybe it wasn’t.

As far as making the whip “feel” more like a leather whip, I think that it true to some degree. Not that the nylon feels like actual leather in your hand, but feels more like a leather whip when being cracked. This observation is based on a comparison made between my pre-waxed and post-waxed nylons and the roohide EM Brand Whips I own. (Just for clarification: I am not saying that my waxed nylons feel just like leather whips when being cracked, but that they feel more like leather than they do when not waxed.)

5. Makes the whip more durable.

I tend to think this is true. When I used to bow hunt, we kept our bow strings waxed too. Here’s an article on why you wax bowstrings. Granted, this may be an apples to oranges comparison, but I think the same idea applies for nylon whips. This would also apply to point #1.

I agree with Steven about being careful not too get the wax too hot. I may be mistaken, but I saw online that the melting point of nylon starts around 374(F). The flash point of paraffin is about 395(F). If you use a double boiler, you never have to worry about getting it hot enough to do either as the temp only gets to around 212 degrees (F).

As far as hot wax damaging the fibers is concerned, I do not know. I have seen more evidence of what damage normal wear and tear can do to un-waxed nylon fibers than what hot wax is alleged to do. I state this because I have seen first hand how an un-waxed nylon fall will end up very fuzzy looking much more quickly than a waxed fall.

It is true that you don’t want to leave a waxed nylon on the seat of your car on a hot day. Unless you have leather seats, you’ll end up with a nice soaked in wax ring on your upholstery.

6. Helps a whip perform better with use.

In general, I have to agree with Steven’s reaction to this point. Hopefully all whips will work better with use if made well.

I do, however,  have a sneaking suspicion that I am the whipmaker he’s referring to in his point. I say this because there was a time when I honestly had never popped a nylon whip that wasn’t waxed. It seems like I remember stating that in an email or online somewhere too.

As I stated in point #4,  I have cracked some of my un-waxed nylons and I still prefer the feel of them after they’ve been waxed.  Call me superstitious or old fashioned, but I just like my nylon whips waxed.

Steven’s point here about whip maintenance is good. It is true that a nylon whip can go years with no maintenance at all and do just fine. I have a couple out in my shed to prove it.

Again, I write this article with the utmost respect and regard for Steven. He has made a great name for himself in the whip community and his opinions should be valued. I hope that my response is well taken.



About Rhett

6 responses to “The Wax Debate

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