How to make your own whip

Tossie Ferreira, a highly skilled craftsman from Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape, shared the secrets of making a 6-strand whip with us.

Place a tanned kudu hide on your workbench, and remove all the weak sections, such as the thigh and leg. Carefully cut the strands, one by one, starting at the neck of the whip, where the first third of the strand can be 4 mm wide, getting wider towards the middle section, to a maximum of 6 mm. At the thong part of the whip the width of the straps can be decreased to 3 mm.

The four cut strands (with a width of 3 mm and 4 mm each) are used to make the marrow of the whip, and need to be cut to the full expected length of the whip. The marrow is also cut from the tanned kudu hide. Moisten the straps once you have cut them.

Roll the 4 straps in one direction using a nylon plaster trowel so that the 4 straps that make up the marrow form a solid, single unit.

Use a splitter to evenly cut the straps on the meaty side thinner to ensure a well-finished final product. The splitter can be set so that the straps can be ‘peeled’ to any width you require.

This photograph illustrates how 1 mm of the cut strap can be ‘peeled’ on the meaty side.

Use a skiving knife to trim off the square edges on the meaty sides of the hide at an angle. This will ensure that the straps fit together snugly when the plaiting is being done.

The skiving knife.

Using the 6-strand-round technique, plait the strands around the marrow. Of the 3 straps on the left, 1 is plaited underneath and 2 over the straps on the right. 2 of the straps on the right are plaited under and 1 over the straps on the left. Pull the straps tight after you have completed each plait.

The ‘koeksuster’ splice (top) with which the whiplash and thong are joined. At the bottom you can see what the splice should look like once the straps have been moistened, rolled up and pulled tight.

Use an awl and waxed thread, or a thin strap, to sew the weave straps to the thong, using the same action as if you were stitching with a sewing-machine.

Once the whip has been plaited and the various sections joined together, moisten the leather again and lightly tap with a nylon hammer to remove any unevenness. Thereafter roll a trowel backwards and forwards over the whip to make it evenly round and compact.

The affixture between the whip and the handle. The strap (white leather) is placed around the handle and fastened with nylon thread or a strap.

After the 2 strap sections have been moistened thoroughly, the whip is fed through the strap of the handle and pulled tight.

The completed whip will initially be stiff as it has been moistened and dried a couple of times. To break it in, it has to be turned around a nylon reel a couple of times.

  • This article was written by Theuns Botha and first appeared in Farming SA.

share this