Category Archives: whip handles

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:


5ft Bullwhip: Chocolate with Olivewood Handle

I have a 5ft woody bull on eBay. I do not anticipate taking any new orders for another month or two, so this is one of the few chances you will have to get a RK whip unless you’re already on my waiting list.

Click on whip photo to see the eBay listing!

Thanks!

Rhett


Exotic Laminate Handles Now Available!

I have partnered with a supplier in Florida for some very nice exotic laminate turning stock. Below is a photo of a handle I turned from one of the pieces I obtained. The woods used in this handle are padauk in the center, then maple, and limoncillo wood on the outer layer. The handle is 14.75″ long and weighs in at just 4.5 ounces. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

If you would like see about getting a custom laminate handle made, send me an email! rhettswhips @ yahoo.com


New Exotics Coming Soon!

I have a new shipment of exotic wood coming in and I am adding a few new species to my line-up! You don’t have to order an entire whip to get an exotic handle. I would be happy to make you a nice, new exotic handle for a cow whip you already own. If you are interested, feel free to email me at rhettswhips @ yahoo.com.

Honey Mesquite:

Zebrawood:

Padauk:

Thanks!

Rhett


Nylon Whips: Opinions Have Changed

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,

Rhett

www.cowwhips.com


Exotic Handles: A Popular Option

Cow Whip with Bocote Handle

Probably one of the hottest things I have going right now is the exotic woods that I now offer as a handle option on my tried and true line of Florida cow whips. In the past month, almost every cow whip ordered has been ordered with an exotic handle. I’m really kicking myself for not doing this years ago.

The various species of ebony that I offer have been very popular, with cocobolo and bocote running not far behind. Though the exotic wood option is more expensive (depending on the wood), the fact that my cow whips are still among the best priced on the internet make them a great value even with the exotic handle. And as always, each handle is crafted by your’s truly.

If you haven’t already, please visit the exotic handle gallery above and check out some of my latest handles. By the way, if you already have a good cow whip, I would be happy to turn you a custom exotic handle for it: you don’t have to buy an entire whip to get one of these handles.  For order inquiries and pricing, call me or email me. My contact info is listed here.

As I turn more types of wood, I will be adding pictures. I have a new Argentine Lignum Vitae blank that I am just itching to put on a whip. I’ll post a picture of it once I get it turned.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Rhett

P.S. Don’t forget that the prices of my bullwhips and snakewhips have just been lowered. Read all about that here.

www.cowwhips.com


New Stockwhip from Simon Martin

Recently, as part of a swap between myself and Simon Martin, I became the proud ower of a new 6ft, 4 plait Aussie Stockwhip made by Simon Martin himself. As you may know, Simon works exclusively with kangaroo leather, so I was elated when he agreed to make this whip for me. I already have a fancy roohide stockwhip, but I’ve always wanted an authentic work whip. Simon really made me a nice one and I have enjoyed cracking it. Here’s some pics:

My new whip!

A roohide keeper with a grapevine pattern:

The Handle is covered in black kangaroo leather also:   

Thanks for everything Simon!


Stratabond Handles

Here’s some handles I made this past weekend from a wood product known as stratabond. I have a feeling these handles will be a big hit.


While I’m Away…

My internet access will be limited (or none) for the rest of the week, so I want to post a couple last minute items.

I am now selling handmade nylon crackers on my order page at Cowwhips.com. I am offering them in black, pink, orange, and white. A pack of 10 crackers is $9.99 with postage included…

Here’s my latest exotic handle; it’s made from cocobolo wood. This is the natural color of the wood, no stain was used… I have a couple more pics of this whip and the handle posted in the Gallery.

cocobolo handle

cocobolo handle

Have a great week!

-Rhett


Exotic Cow Whip Handles!

7ft Cow Whip w/ Bocote Handle

7ft Cow Whip w/ Bocote Handle

After years of making handles from ash and other domestic wood, I have decided to get into making handles from exotic wood. I plan to offer these handles in a variety of wood types that may be found at websites such as Rockler.com.

Friday I made my first exotic handle and it’s made from bocote. The grain in this piece is simply amazing to look upon.  I shaped the handle in the same manner as most of my others, but I didn’t cut grip lines into it.

Bocote Cow Whip Handle

Bocote Cow Whip Handle

Keep in mind that the handle above has not been stained at all! That’s the natural color of bocote. The only thing I have put on it is beeswax.

The price for exotic  handles will vary depending upon the cost of the wood desired by the customer. I will do my best to keep the cost as low as possible by selecting quality suppliers who sell at reasonable prices.

Stay tuned for more exotic wood handle photos to be posted here. I am going to be making one from cocobolo and African blackwood in the near future.