A few days ago, I was digging through some old issues of the APWA journal and I found an advertisement I once ran in a failed attempt to break into the Australian market with my cow whips.
The ad contained one of my old sales lines: “Changing the way the world looks at nylon whips.” As I sat there thinking about line, I remembered how at the time, it was a pretty bold claim to make -especially in the world’s premier whip making journal. I didn’t use that line to be boastful, but I had decided to make it my goal to help change people’s minds about nylon whips.
Back when I started selling online in 2001, people didn’t seem to think much of nylon whips. I recall many debates as to nylon’s place in whipmaking and whipcracking. I encountered some real snobbish attitudes as well. I was even given some unsolicited advice -by a very rude no-name whipmaker – about why I needed to stop working with nylon and learn to make leather whips.
Florida cattlemen were the one gigantic exception to this rule. They figured out decades ago that when it comes to herding cattle in humid, swampy places, nothing beats a whip that won’t rot. By the time I started plaiting in the early 90’s, nylon whips dominated the Florida ranching scene. Most cracker cowboys would swear by nylon; it was unthinkable to use anything else. The rest of the planet wasn’t so convinced.
When I established my web presence, it was a lonely place to be as a nylon whipmaker. There were dozens of leather plaiters online, but as far as I know, I was probably the only nylon-only plaiter making a serious attempt to sell whips online. I got some good press and my whips became popular rather quickly. I recall going from no waiting list to a 7 month waiting list in a matter of months!
It didn’t take long for a few more nylon whip sites to pop up. I think Greg DeSaye was next and then Steve Koliski started up his site after that. Over the years I’ve seen more and more nylon whip sites pop up. I’ve seen plaiters come and go too. A few guys have made a name for themselves and are making great whips. It’s not so lonely anymore and I don’t get nearly as much flak from people about making nylon whips.
An interesting phenomenon I have noticed recently is how there are a number of leather plaiters who are now coming out with nylon whips. V. Tella, Tony Layzell, Lauren Wickline, and the gentleman at Floridacrackerbullwhips.com are some who’ve done so. I expect to see more before it’s over. Nine years ago, this would have been unthinkable. This is a great testimony to how nylon has become more and more acceptable among plaiters and buyers.
In an article I read recently, Steve Huntress was wise to point out that there will be more and more nylon whipmakers; that nylon is the future of whipmaking. I totally agree. I get emails on a regular basis from people wanting to learn how to make whips and wanting to know where to buy materials. Every year I assist a number of people who end up making and selling nylon whips; many who never even set up a website.
I’m not trying to be snobbish, but the biggest issue I see right now is that many people are jumping in and trying to make a buck off of rubbish. While there’s some good whips to be found on eBay, it is now littered with nylon whips that I would be ashamed to sell. We all get better with time and practice, so I’m hoping some of these people improve too -before too much damage is done.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, my old tag line used to be “changing the way the world looks at nylon whips.” I think there’s clear evidence that the whip cracking/making world does have a more favorable opinion of nylon than it did 10 years ago. Steve Huntress was gracious to write an article naming me along with Krist King as being two of the major proponents of nylon whipmaking. It makes me happy that that my goal ended up being more that mere words. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The other web based nylon plaiters who’ve produced quality whips over the years deserve some credit too. Today, guys like Steve Huntress and Ron Allen have picked up that torch and are now running with it. I’m just honored to have played a role in it.
Thanks for reading,
July 25th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
Rhett, My name is Robert Best. I am a whip maker from Lake Wales FL. I’m sure you have never heard of me because I only sell my whips by word of mouth, and have been for the past 15yrs. First I would like to tell you that your workmanship is excellent. After reading your opinions,I do agree with the concept you are trying to get across,but as far as trying to bring those two worlds together,for the time being is a stump that will just have to be plowed around. But however I do understand some of the prejudices that the austialian makers have. Because I myself learned how to make buckskin whips first, from dressing the hides to pulling them soft,to cutting all the string with my pocket knife and there is a deep sense of pride that comes about once you have finished such a project. But I think it will take some real chance happening before the nylon will be taken seriously in such arenas. Somthing else that you commented on was the ones out there simply trying to use whip making as a form of icome rather than taking pride in their work ,and agian that is why I say that it will take some real chance happening before the nylon is taken seriously. I applaud your efforts,and hope to be able to meet you some day. Respectively, Robert Best
July 25th, 2010 at 1:22 pm
Thanks for the reply. You know, your name does sound familiar to me. Sometimes people ask me if I know certain whipmakers, so maybe someone mentioned you to me in the past. The fellow who taught me sells word-of-mouth. I tried that here in GA, but people just aren’t into whips the way they are in FL. That’s what drove me to the internet.
Since I wrote this article, I’ve been able to get a number of more whips into Australia. One of my customers, a performer Down Under, tells me that he believes nylon will gain acceptance there because there are some real swampy places in Australia that nylon whips are perfectly suited for… Of course, Aussies are proud of their whips. They even have a stockman with a whip on their $10 bills!
I appreciate your input and kind words about my whips.
February 16th, 2021 at 12:59 am
At 74 years old I was using a nylon whip back in about 1990 in Idaho at a feedlot
February 16th, 2021 at 1:01 am
The whip was made by Chris King