Category Archives: Whip Care

Taipan’s Review of My Whipmaking DVDs

For years, “Taipan” of DallasDogSled.com has maintained one of the only cow whip tutorials on the web. I have referred countless people to his site for information on making whips and it has been a help to many. Recently Taipan got a copy of my Florida Cow Whip Tutorial DVDs. The following is his assessment of my production:

 

 

Supersonic Synthetics

A review of Rhett’s Cow Whip tutorial

Tony Layzell’s review of Rhett’s Cow Whip tutorial says “If your looking to improve your current whip making ability, looking to make a whip for the first time or like me just a collector then click the banner, visit Rhett and buy the DVD set off him, I can’t recommend them high enough, a really comprehensive, educational, value for money purchase I think…..”

I cannot agree more.  I have watched the DVD’s more than a couple of times and want to add my recommendation that any aspiring whip maker get this DVD to put in their toolbox.

He starts off the DVD talking a bit about the history of the Cow Whip and even a bit about the Cow Cavalry which brought a smile to this old troopers face.  I can never get enough history so I would have liked to have seen a bit more but I am happy that he put me on the track to learn more about the ancestry and use of the Cow Whip.  It is fun to know that you are making your own version of what was probably the first kind of whip ever to reach the American continent.

I was a bit disappointed with the production value of the DVD.  Rhett has talked about the difficulty he experienced with producing the DVD and I certainly would have done no better.  That said, making a video is much like making a whip.  Function first and the video does a great job of teaching how to make a whip.  The lighting is good enough so that, usually, the details are easy to see.  Focus was sometimes a problem but it is not even enough of one to require more than a couple of rewinds.

The audio is good and Rhett has a pleasant voice that is easy to understand.  There is a bit of background echo since he was not in a sound studio but it is not a distraction.  Okay, the birds had their say about the process but I have birds too and they can be heard in the background of most of the videos I have made.

Rhett repeatedly says that “Whatever works for you” and “If it works for you” that is the way to do it and this video shows his way.  I have my way and you will have your way to do things.  When we learn from one another it is more tools in the toolbox and I am very appreciative of learning from one of the best whip makers there is.

Learning to plait is an individual skill that is not really covered in this presentation.  He shows how he does it without going into detail.  Watching his hands fly is a joy to see.

He covers his method of dropping strands very well and I am going to try his method next time I sit down at my vice to make a new whip.  He hangs his whip from a door jam and plaits “from the hook” in the way of the old timers.  I am not that good so to prevent my whips from looking like a candy cane I need the crutch of the vice.

I was thrilled with the way he made his tapering twist.  I will probably still call it the twisted fall without meaning any disrespect to him.  I will try this method too since I have always hated the necessity of using what he called “Machines and different do-dads”.  His method is so much easier than the way I had been doing it.  I hope my hands are strong enough to complete the process.

I will probably not tie off the end of the whip as he does but knowing the process is a huge help when it comes time to replace the fall on an well used whip.  I have some that are going on 10 years old including the old “Garden Hose” whip.  One day I will need to make a repair and this is yet another great tool in the box.

Speaking of extras he spent a good bit of time explaining how to splice in a strand.  This is a great part of the DVD which I rewound more than once to 14:23.  He even dropped a stitch at 17 minutes and I have done that more times that I can count.  It was great that he showed how to recognize and correct that common problem in whip making.

The use of the lacing needle is an important part of making what he calls Synthetic and Supersonic and which I am going to steal for the title of this review.  His way seems quick and easy but again I am still going to cut my strands at an angle with a hot knife to thread my needles.  “If it works for you” that is the way to do it.

As for the wax, again I think he has convinced me that it is worth the effort so I am going to give it another try.  I was not happy with the result the first couple of times I did it early on in my whip making so I quit.  I will have to report later on the result.

His handle is beautiful.  Mine never look so good and my method is somewhat dangerous if not downright crazy.  I do like the shape he has made and his method of finishing it has changed my mind completely on the way I will do things in the future.  This alone was worth the price of the DVD just in savings of money spent at Home Depot.

In conclusion, do yourself a big favor and buy the DVD.  You will save enough time and money to recoup the investment many times over.  That said this not the most important thing you will gain from this DVD.  Most aspiring whip makers fail and quit.  There are half finished whips balled up and put in storage all over Texas for sure and surly more across the country and even world.  Rhett’s presentation teaches you to relax and make creating your own Supersonic Synthetic fun and not a chore.  Put Ben Dehart’s song “Cow Hunter Dreams” on in the stereo and enjoy what you are creating.

Mark

If you would like to purchase a copy for the discounted price of $67.00, please email me at rhettswhips @ Yahoo.com


Toheti Cane: Durable Material or Brittle Junk?

The dreaded scenario goes something like this:

You’re at a whip practice and inadvertently leave your whip bag on the ground. Some very inattentive person comes walking up, doesn’t see your bag lying there, and steps right on it. Simultaneously, you hear a loud “crack,” but it doesn’t come from the popper of the Noreast nylon bullwhip you were just volleying, rather, it comes from inside your whip bag, from a toheti cane handle snapping in two like an old crusty chopstick. You resist the urge to yell at the idiot who just stepped on your bag, but you also want to kick yourself for being foolish enough to leave the bag lying on the ground in the first place. You regret not opting for a fiberglass handle on your nylon stockwhip. When you get home, you promptly fire off an angry email to that Rhett Kelley guy who made the whip…

This humorous, very exaggerated scenario demonstrates what I’ve read online about toheti cane whip handles becoming brittle over time and breaking if tread upon inside of a whip bag. What I want to do is examine the claims I’ve seen on the web that stockwhip handles made of toheti are prone to breakage. To be specific, I want to look at the probability of breakage with half plaited, unskinned cane handle. Now as a matter of personal opinion, I’ve always liked the looks of a half-plait cane handle whip and I believe they make an excellent handle for a stockwhip. However, this is not a discussion of what’s “best” or the most aesthetically pleasing. Such discussions are subjective, based largely on personal opinion, and of no real value to me.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do have a dog in this fight. I use a variety of materials on for my stockwhip handles, but cane is my favorite and seems to be preferred my diverse customer base. In the age of the internet, people do lots of research and form opinions based upon what they read. In light of some of the claims out there, some may shy away from my half-plait cane handles as a result of reading that cane can become brittle and break if it is tread upon.

When I started making stockwhips, it wasn’t long before I got some cane to use. I didn’t know what to expect before I got it, but I had read that compared to hardwood, toheti cane was preferred by Aussie stockmen because it was less apt to break, splinter, and injure a rider if he/she fell from a horse onto the handle of the whip.

Cane Cross Section

When my first cane shipment arrived, I was amazed at how light and durable it seemed. Sometimes the cane needs to be straightened a bit, and again, I was amazed at how even when place it over my knee and applied all the pressure I could muster, it would not break! It reminded me somewhat of one of those black plastic combs we carried in our back pocket in grade school. A look here at the cross section reveals that the cane is nothing like either bamboo or hardwood. In my estimation, this is what makes it so tough and flexible.

Before writing this article, I contacted and consulted with a number of my whipmaking friends Down Under. Having just over a year’s experience using the material, I didn’t want to make claims about anything based off of my limited experience alone. Each agreed that perhaps a shaved down, full plait cane handle might be subject to break if not steel lined, but that the chances of an unskinned, half-plait cane breaking from someone stepping on it is virtually nill.

One of my Aussie friends -who is a renowned whipmaker with decades of experience- tells me that only on extremely rare occasions has he seen a piece of toheti cane that would break easily. He theorizes that it was probably as a result of someone harvesting an already dead piece of cane and putting it into a bundle. No doubt, this can probably happen from time to time, but any alert whipmaker with a pulse could probably spot it and cull it out before making a handle from it. He also told me that he recently had a redhide stockwhip come in for repairs; he made the whip over 25 years ago and the handle “was still as good as new.”

I did a bit of experimenting with a very thin and very ugly piece of cane that I culled out of a shipment I received about a year ago. This piece has been left out under the shed and exposed to the elements in ways I hope my whips never are. I put it through a series of tests and got my son to catch the clips on video. I hope this demonstrates that there’s not much to worry about as far as breakage when you buy an unskinned, half-plait cane handle:


Cow Whip Repair

A nylon cow whip is a pretty tough critter, but sometimes cowboys can be tougher. This week, I had a whip sent to me by a cowboy in Yukon, OK. His old whip needed a new tail (aka tapering twist). I don’t know who originally made it, but it was up to me to fix it anyway. Some might think a whip in this shape is beyond repair, but really it’s not.

This is how older cow whips look when they’re sent in by cowboys who’ve used them hard for many years. As you can see here, the tapered twist is long gone. The nylon that remains is in very poor shape and will need to be replaced as well.

Before I cut it off, the owner had rigged up the end with a popper so he could still use it. Cowboys will normally rig and re-rig until there’s no other choice but to call in a professional.

I suspect this whip started out as a sparkling white, but there’s not much hope it will ever get cleaned, so I will repair it in tan nylon so it will somewhat match the rest of the whip. Often when I tear into an old whip, there will be dust and dirt that has worked into the plaits. Sometimes they even smell like things you find in a stockyard!

When I received it, the whip was less than 9ft long. I unplaited it back to about 7ft, in the middle of the section where the thong was at an 8 plait. I do this because I will begin re-plaiting the whip and gradually change out old material for new. It would be mistake to try to do a bunch of splicing at one spot; the idea is for the repair/transition to be as unnoticeable as possible. If the owner receives his old whip and it works as well -or better- than when it was new, I feel I have succeeded in making a good repair.

It’s always interesting to do this kind of work on whips made by other people because you can see how different plaiters have their own techniques. Blending my ways with theirs is sometimes a challenge. I found that the person who made this whip used yellow tape in the bellies of his whips. Other than that, no major problems while working on this one.

Here’s the finished product! The tapering twist has been restored. Not only was the twist restored, but from the 7ft mark forward, new material begins to replace old so that by the time the thong is back to a 4 plait, there is nothing but new material being plaited. The whip now measures 11ft long and the repair is not all that noticeable to the untrained eye.

A repair like this is normally runs $35-$50, depending on how much trouble I encounter. For some cowboys, this really beats buying a whole new whip. Normally, I’m able to repair every whip that’s sent to me. The majority of the cow whip repairs I do are on whips made by other plaiters and sent in by cowboys who use them on the ranch everyday.

[Update 01/29/2010: Mission Accomplished! The owner of this whip called me a couple of days ago and said he was very pleased with the repair and that his whip was just like new.]

If you have an old cow whip that needs a new tail, give me a call at (912)-685-6759 or email me at rhettswhips@yahoo.com.

-Rhett

www.cowwhips.com


Fall Change Video

Okay yall, I’ve finally made it into the 21st century and uploaded my first video on Youtube! This one is how to put on a nylon paracord fall onto the end of the thong of one of my cow whips.  Enjoy!


Paypal Problems

crackersI’m back from the theology conference in Orlando and I have learned that the Paypal button for my nylon crackers is not working correctly. Please bear with me as I hash it out with Paypal and try to get it fixed within a couple of days.

In the meantime, if you want to purchase some crackers, just log into Paypal and send $9.99 to rhettswhips @ yahoo .com and I’ll get 10 of them sent out to you ASAP.


The Wax Debate

My fellow nylon whipmaker, Steven Huntress, of Neawhips.com 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.

-Rhett


Buy The New Bullwhip Book

bullwhip-book

If I decide to post an “FAQ” page on Cowwhips.com, near the top of that list of frequently asked questions would be this:

“What resource do you recommend that will help me learn to crack a whip?”

My answer to this question always begins with, The New Bullwhip Book by Andrew Conway.

Andrew’s book is full of interesting facts about whips, whip care information, and step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to crack whips. There’s simply no better manual available if you’re interested in learning about whips and how to crack them.