A word of advice for young, aspiring whip makers:
Category Archives: whip makers
I am honored to be among the 1st group of whipmakers included of the Whip Basics Ring of Trust.
In the following video, Robby Amper discusses why he created the group.
Just as I figured, Tuesday’s post A Plea for Integrity made some waves.
Judging from the number of views and visits to this blog, it was probably the first “semi-viral” thing I’ve ever posted here. I received a number of emails and Facebook messages asking about the identity of the whipmaker I wrote about in the article. Whip crackers wanted to make sure they did not (or do not) buy from the person and whipmakers were assuring me that they weren’t the ones doing anything unethical. Everyone was seemingly as upset as I was when I wrote it.
It would have been easier for me to have kept quiet, but I’ve often found that doing the the easy thing is seldom the same as doing the right thing. One major concern I had about writing that article was the possibility that it could hurt all of us who make synthetic whips. Another concern was that some might see the article as some tacit advertising campaign; that myself and Noreast Whips are the “safe guys” to buy from and all other should be viewed as suspect. I want to assure you that neither of those things was my goal.
The goal was to let folks know that there was an allegation of dishonesty in the ranks and maybe, hopefully, the offender would read it and decide to do the right thing from now on. By now, I’m certain the offender has seen the article and knows that someone out there is on to him. Judging by the reaction I’ve seen, the offender can rest assured that if his identity is revealed, it would almost certainly be a career-ender.
Thinking optimistically, perhaps it was just an isolated incident; a momentary lapse in judgement on the part of an individual trying something new.
We can only hope.
At this point, I want to call for calm within our whip making and whipcracking community. I believe that most of my peers are honest and committed to making the best products they can. As I look around at the craftsmen I know personally, I can’t imagine any of them being willing to sacrifice their name and integrity for a quick buck.
What I hope for most of all is that the plaiter in question –and any others who might be tempted to do the same– will realize that such dishonesty is not acceptable in this small community of craftsmen/women.
We don’t have government bureaucracies regulating whipmakers and telling us how we should do things or handling quality control. I’m a big believer in free markets, so I love that I get to make my living doing business in one of the freest, most unregulated markets on the planet. Being such a small niche market, I think chances are slim we’ll ever see much bureaucratic oversight, but I still think we have to police ourselves so someone else doesn’t have to do it for us. (I’d rather not see Obama create a Federal Bureau of Whipmaking Integrity.)
To the whip buyers reading this:
Here where I live, the Health Department inspects restaurants and gives them a grades either “A, B, C, or U” based on their findings. At times, we have driven by and saw a “B” or “C” placard on the window of restaurants where we have eaten in the past, occasionally even on ones we really like.
My wife’s reaction is to say “Oh, no! Gross! We better not go there.”
My reaction is different: I happen to be a Nationally Registered Food Safety Manager, so I know that once the inspector has come through, most of the problems are corrected on-sight. So in reality, it’s probably better to eat at an establishment the day after it gets a “B” or “C” and made corrections, rather than the day before it’s inspected and still has an “A” on the sign from the last inspection.
My point is this:
If I was in the market for a nylon whip, I would personally feel better about the integrity of the synthetic whip market today than 2 days ago. A few days ago, those who were may have been dishonest probably thought they were fooling everyone. Today, they’re not so sure. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone out there may be scared of their mind and is cleaning up their act!
As with all online shopping, you need to keep your guard up. There’s lots of great whipmakers on the web, as well as a few hucksters. I don’t want to see one bad apple ruin it for all of us.
I really wish I wasn’t having to write this article. But, as a whipmaker who has been selling whips online since 2001, I think there comes a time when someone has to “call a time-out” and address something that is allegedly going on within our small community.
Dishonesty in Our Midst
It has come to my attention that there’s a whipmaker selling nylon whips that is being less than honest in his product descriptions. This was discovered by someone who’s first experience with nylon was with a whip I made. The customer liked the whip and started ordering other styles from other vendors.
The customer ordered a 7ft nylon bullwhip from someone that advertised it as having 2 plaited bellies. Noticing something was amiss, the customer did what most would not, and opened it up and found that the whip had no plaited bellies at all! In fact, it contained what probably amounted to several rolls of wrapped black electrical tape!
For the record, I do not know who the offender is and I told the customer I didn’t want to know, at least for now.
I also know that the offender is apparently NOT a newbie; he’s part of the “varisity team.” I think this makes the allegations even more disappointing. I expect this sort of thing from the fly-by-nights and hucksters on eBay, but not from among the better known nylon plaiting establishment. Varsity whipmakers should have enough personal integrity to be honest in their descriptions and sell what they claim to sell. I honestly don’t have a problem with someone making whips with tape bellies, but they should describe and sell it as a wrapped tape belly -and price it accordingly! Don’t say it has “2 plaited bellies,” when in reality, it contains a dozen rolls of wrapped electrical tape!
(What I do know for certain, based on the information I received, was that it IS NOT Steve Huntress at Noreast Whips and that the whipmaker is based in the United States) [edited 10/15/2013 @ 3:24pm]
Those of us who have been around for a decade or more selling synthetic whips will recall a time when nylon was somewhat frowned upon in the whip cracking community. Many of us have worked very hard to produce the best product we can in order to get synthetic whips to the place they are today. And that’s the point, we did our best and we were honest in our dealings: that’s why we’re still around and nylon whips so widely used today!
If there are people within the whipmaking community deceiving their buyers and turning out garbage, it’s inevitably going to hurt those of us who have worked very hard to get where we are.. In fact, the customer who brought this to my attention said that if the tape-bellied bullwhip had been their first experience with nylon, she would have not bought any more synthetic whips! Think about that for a second my fellow synthetic whipmakers!
To the person who is guilty of this charge:
I don’t know who you are, but I realize you could be someone I know; maybe even someone I number among my friends in the whipmaking community. I sincerely hope you will make amends, or at the very least, make your descriptions match what you are really selling. You’re only going to end up hurting your own reputation as people figure out what you’re doing. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain from these deceitful practices.
You’re very lucky this customer is not willing to see you publicly thrashed. I believe you truly deserve to be called into account for this practice. I guarantee that if you continue to do this, it won’t be long before someone else finds out and exposes you. Do yourself a favor and do things right.
“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.” -Leviticus 19: 11(ESV)
“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God,…” Leviticus 19: 35-36 (ESV)
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” -Colossians 3: 23 (ESV)
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” -Proverbs 22: 1 (ESV)
I’m not sure why, but I’ve noted recently that a plain black bullwhip will garner many more “likes” and attention on Facebook than something more flashy looking. That being said, I’ve decided to start promoting my fancier work a bit more than in the past.
Whipmaker Tony Layzell in the U.K. was the man who was graciously helped me with learning a more simple way of doing the designs around four years ago. I’ve done this sort of work when requested in the past, but I never really advertised it much as I always preferred doing the simpler designs. My personality type likes “comfort zones,” so that’s where I tended to remain.
Now that I’m full time making whips, it does get somewhat dull doing the same old patterns all the time. I also figure my Facebook fans will eventually tire of seeing the same things over and over again when I post whip photos. I will be updating my main website soon to make these options easier to select without having to contact me to make a special request. Here are photos of a couple of recent examples:
A while back, I received an order from Fabian F. in Argentina for a set of my whipmaking DVDs.
Today I was pleased to receive an email with the following pictures asking for my opinion of his efforts using my DVDs.
My reply: “Most excellent!”
Your results may vary, but if you have an interest in making your own nylon Florida cow whip, consider ordering my whipmaking DVDs. This is one example of the many photos I have received from people who have used my DVDs to learn to make their own cow whips.
A while back, I was browsing some other whip websites and I happened across the statement that said that no “real cowboy/cowgirl” would dare carry a whip on their saddle that was any other color than black, tan, or brown. I thought I’d interact with that idea for a bit and demonstrate that, apart from being untrue, a case could be a made that “real” cowboys and cowgirls might actually be better off in some cases with a whip that was made in colors other than black, tan, and brown.
Through my whipmaking adventures, I’ve noted that there’s actually quite a bit of diversity among the cowboys and cowgirls of America. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors and so do the horses, equipment, and tack that they use. Whips are no different. Suggesting that a “real cowboy” won’t use whips that are only certain colors is just as silly as saying cowboys won’t drive Dodge trucks, wear yellow shirts, eat Krystal burgers, or ride an American Paint Horse.
One big reason why a “real cowboy” might consider ordering a whip in colors other than black, tan, and brown is because whips get lost. About a decade ago, I had a “real” Florida cowboy call and order a solid hot pink whip. His old whip had fallen off his saddle and he wasn’t able to find it. He said he knew he would get laughed at by some of his peers, but he wanted his whip easy to see if it happened to fall off his saddle again.
Indeed, I could probably take my wife out to a nice dinner if I had a dollar for every story cowboys have told me about losing whips while working cows. The earth tone whips often blend in so well that they cannot find them if they backtrack searching. Having a whip that won’t blend in can help with that problem. So in reality, real cowboys ought to seriously consider buying whips with lots of bright colors.
So while I’ll grant that lots of working cowboys do order whips in earth tones, I’m also happy to cater to the ones who want them in other colors and patterns. I’d also like for the reader to note that all the whips pictured in on this post are examples of whips I’ve made for “real cowboys” who derive most (or all) of their income from working with cattle.
When I started making whips, we didn’t have the internet and there were precious few people who would help you with anything. Today there’s a wealth of information about whipmaking in print and online. You have the APWA journals, Youtube, a couple of DVDs, books, and ebook tutorials on how to do just about anything related to whipmaking.
It wasn’t much more than a decade ago that I was still very secretive about how I made whips. You wouldn’t get anything out of me. I was so bad I wouldn’t even tell where I bought my nylon cord! I wasn’t the only one. With a few notable exceptions, you’d generally be hard pressed to find someone willing to teach you anything about making whips, especially nylon whips. Guys saw people wanting to learn as future competition and didn’t care to have any of that. In order to learn, you needed to earn a guy’s trust, become his friend, etc..
I want to say up front that I really don’t mind helping people. I help people because a few people have helped me. No man is an island unto himself. I think it’s good to pay it forward, and I often do. Yet, a couple of us whipmakers have noticed a troubling trend emerging.
In spite of all the information that’s available, a small minority of would-be whipmakers are just not willing to invest much in trying to learn the craft for themselves. Instead of taking the information that’s out there and learn from it, they’d rather fill up a whipmaker’s email inbox with questions about minutiae of the craft that demonstrate, in some cases, that they were not even paying attention to the resources they had. At times the emails can get down right demanding and eat up precious time for the whipmaker trying to answer them all.
Previous generations used to see the trial and error of learning as sort of “paying their dues.” They took the time to learn and practice until they got it right. They may or may not have had a mentor to help; they just set their mind to it and did it. I’m afraid my generation and the younger ones have come up in a culture of instant gratification and some have no desire to pay dues or invest the time it takes to become proficient at a craft.
In whipmaking, as in other crafts, there’s many things you learn from experience that cannot be transmitted magically in an email or over the phone. There’s no copy and paste method for developing certain skills. It’s just not going to happen overnight. You will still need a measure of talent and lots of patience to succeed.
Probably the one of the most talented students of my tutorial DVDs has been Jeremiah Lee of Dixiewhips.com. He bought my cow whip DVDs and within a year was making the kind of whips you see on his site right now. Yet, his whipmaking questions to me were relatively few and far between. He invested time, money, and sweat in learning the craft and the results have been simply stunning.
In conclusion, I want to offer up this bit of advice:
If you’re an aspiring whip maker, glean what you can from the resources that are out there, but don’t think you can avoid paying your dues. Ask questions if you need to, but don’t wear out your welcome. There’s some skills you will have to develop yourself no matter how many emails you send or what resource you obtain. Most of all, don’t be scared sit under the tutelage of those two time honored teachers known as Trial and Error. It will make you a better whipmaker in the end.
The internet whip market is really one of the freest markets there is today. People can freely buy and sell all over the planet. Every whipmaker is free to market his or her wares in whatever way they see fit and charge whatever price the market will bear.
Thankfully, there’s no Federal or U.N. Whip Agency overseeing what we make or how we make it. In having such a free market, I think we have to police ourselves so others won’t have to.
With that idea in mind, I want to touch on the topic of truth in advertising.
For now, I’m withholding names to protect the guilty, but I’m hoping a few whip buyers will read this and be more alert. Better still, maybe the guilty sellers out there will read this and have a change of heart.
I recently started keeping a small inventory of items on eBay. I hoped perhaps it would get me more established in a market I’ve not really taken advantage of over the years. To me, eBay is a real mixed bag when it comes to whips. Over the years I’ve seen hucksters succeed there, while a few really good whipmakers couldn’t seem to make a go of it. You’ve got some great stuff being sold right along side of rubbish, and unfortunately, lots of people can’t seem to tell the difference.
There’s nothing at all wrong with “talking up a product.” In marketing, sellers are supposed to do that. No whipmaker in their right mind is going to advertise a whip with a line like “Eh, they’re okay. I guess.” I could nick-pick about claims I see about whips sounding like cannons, but I think (hope) most customers recognize such things as the hyperbole that they are.
What I’m talking about are those who make claims that are plainly false in order to deceive unsuspecting customers. That’s what really irks me!
I’ve watched one eBay whip seller for a while. He’s on the 3rd seller I.D. that I know of… In a recent listing with his new seller I.D., he states that he’s new to selling whips eBay, which is flatly untrue. In addition to that, he can’t seem to figure out when he started making whips. At one point the date was coincidentally the same year as I started making whips. In another place, it says that he’s been making whips for “going on a decade.”
So which is it? 22 years or less than 10?? 1991? or 2003-2004?
I don’t expect someone to know the exact day they started a new hobby or craft, but there’s something fishy if they can’t decide which decade they started.
Another inconsistency I’ve seen is great swelling claims of having made “[insert random number] thousand” of nylon whips on one listing and then another “[insert random number] thousand” of nylon whips on another listing. An unsuspecting customer may not think anything of this, but it sets off all sorts of warning flags for me.
A while back I did some math with the claims I saw on one eBay listing. If I recall correctly, it came out that in order to support the claim, he had to be making something like 750 whips per year in order for it to be possible! That’s 2 whips per day. While I won’t say that’s totally impossible, I’d say it’s highly improbable. From other information I’m aware of, I’m almost certain our unscrupulous seller just picked a large, random number in order to fool people about his experience.
The most prolific whipmaker I know of in the USA is Krist King. He has many retail outlets selling his nylon whips and they are literally everywhere. He tells me he produces an average of 12 or 13 whips per week, depending on what kind he’s making. I believe that claim because I’ve seen evidence of it over the years. With the particular eBay seller I have in mind, I’ve seen no evidence to support the outrageous claims that have been made.
Personally, I see nothing to be gained from making boastful claims of having made “[insert random number] thousand” whips or something when I know it’s not true. I’d rather be known for quality instead of quantity anyway.
I don’t understand why some people can’t just be real. What’s wrong with being honest about your experience and doing your best to make a good product? Why not be proud of what you’ve actually accomplished instead of trying to deceive people into thinking you’re something you’re not?
In closing, I hope whip buyers will take time to evaluate some of the claims they see. Compare listings and see if the seller is being consistent in the stories he or she is telling. If a seller won’t put his real name on his product, that should be a red flag right there.
If you see claims of thousands of whips having been made in a certain period of time, break out a calculator and see if the numbers look realistic. There’s far too many good sellers out there for you to be doing business with shysters.