Category Archives: whip makers

Don’t Judge a Cowboy… by the color of his whip!

IMG_0204A 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.

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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 IMG_0583see 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.IMG_0609

Visit my online photo gallery for more examples of whips I’ve made. Stop by the store to buy one! Others may judge you by the color of the whip you order, but I won’t.

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Whipmaking and Paying Your Dues

How To Make Whips

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.


Truth in Advertising

Pinocchio 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.


“Rhett is hard to Get on the Phone…”

I recently saw a comment on Facebook similar to the title of this post, so I thought I should post a quick note about why that seems to be the case…Sunset_2007-1

During my career with Walmart Logistics, we had what was known as the “Sundown Rule,” meaning we were supposed to follow up with every request or question before the sun went down that business day. Now as a small business owner, I still try to hold to that rule, though sometimes I am unable to do so. With that, let me just say that if you’ve ever attempted to contact me and not received a timely reply, I apologize. Rest assured, such cases are the exception and not the rule.

Even friends and family members who have my cell number will tell you I’m hard to get on the phone. That’s normally because I’ve left my cell phone in the truck, it’s turned off, or the battery is dead.  For some reason, the last place they think to call me is the house phone, even though that’s where I am 95% of the time these days.

Some whipmakers don’t have a phone number listed for customers to call, but I have a business number that has been listed on my website for a long time. I want to be accessible. If you call during my normal business hours, I may or may not be able to pick up the phone depending on what’s going on. I could be in town getting supplies, or I may be outside turning something on the lathe. My answering machine is an el’ cheapo and it will simply pick up and say “please leave a message,” if you do and I can understand your number, I’ll do my level best to call you back as soon as possible.

Also, please understand that my business line gets a lot of  junk solicitation calls, so I don’t always answer it even if I’m here simply because I don’t want to deal with the scammers trying to get money out of me for some made-up charity for which they allege to be working.

It’s not as if I’m some recluse who doesn’t like to talk to strangers. Trust me, those who do get me on the phone will tell you that I’ll talk your arm off! In fact, I probably spend too much time on the phone. I’d probably increase my productivity by 20% if I didn’t allow phone calls.

What are the best ways to contact me?

  1. The absolute best way to contact me is to fill out the form on the Contact Page of Cowwhips.com. That will “automagically” send me an email with your request and I am normally very prompt in replying to these. I prefer this method.
  2. Phone: Calling during normal business hours. You may or may not get me, but I will return your call as soon as possible.

What are the not-so-best ways to contact me?

  1. Facebook is the worst! Though I spend too much time on Facebook, if you are not already “friends” with me on Facebook andsend a message to my personal account, I may or may not see it if Facebook sticks it in the “other” folder. Even on my Rhett Kelley Whipmaker page, it’s easy for me to miss it. Please avoid this method if at all possible.
  2. My Rhettswhips at Yahoo dot com email account: Though I’ve had it for over a decade, Yahoo still has a bad habit of thinking initial order inquiries are spam, and it sends them to the junk folder. I’ve found customer emails in that folder that were several weeks old. So at least for the initial attempt to reach me by email, this is not the best option.
  3. Snail Mail: Sometimes I go for a week or two without checking my PO box, so this is the really, really bad way to contact me.

I hope this somewhat helps to clear the air on why I am sometimes difficult to reach. I assure you that I’m not really trying to hide from my customers. This is basically a one man operation and I can’t afford to hire a secretary at this time.

[Late edit: I recently got a message from a customer asking me to fix a whip after he tried in vain for weeks to get a response from the whipmaker who originally made the whip. Yet, believe it or not, the whipmaker’s phone number and contact info is listed on his website. I’m doing my best to see that such is never said of me.]

[Another, even later edit: Another not-so-great way to contact me is by leaving a comment on my blog or on my Youtube videos. Please try one of the better methods listed above before posting a comment to get in touch with me as I may not see the blog comment right away]


Watch a Master Make a Bullwhip

Whipmaking master, Bernie Wojcicki of Em Brand Whips, has recently made his whipmaking DVD footage available for everyone to see on Youtube.

Bernie works with leather, but lots of the basic plaiting and construction techniques can be used with nylon. I purchased his DVDs a number of years ago and gleaned many things that helped me improve my nylon bullwhips.

Here is the first of the 3 videos on bullwhip making that Bernie has now made available:


Whipmakers All Around.

A few days ago I was at the feed store looking around. As I started to pull through the parking lot to leave, I saw a man walking toward the store with a traditional looking cow whip in hand. I asked him if he made it and he said he did. His name is Billy, he is originally from Okeechobee, Fl. As you might imagine, we struck up a conversation, introducing ourselves to one another and talking shop. He said he knew of Cowwhips.com me, but he had no idea I lived so close to him.

What’s ironic is that there are now 3 confirmed Florida-born whipmakers who have moved to this part of Georgia,  living within 35 miles of each other: Billy, and K.J. Smith, and myself. I’ve also recently learned of a lady whipmaker in Nunez, GA (also in my county), but I don’t know any background on her at this time.

So, including my son Cordell, that makes a grand total of 5 whipmakers located in the counties of Emanuel and Candler.

When it comes to whipmakers, this part of Georgia seems to attract us like a magnet.


Whip Maker Meme

Gotta laugh a little.
Whip Maker Meme