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How to Tell What Plait Number a Whip Is

July 25, 2009

First of all, when someone says a whip is a certain plait count, they’re talking about the number of strands a whip is braided with at its widest point.  A whip that starts its braiding with 16 strands at the beginning will probably end up at its thinnest point being braided with only 6-8 strands.  That whip would be called a 16 plait whip, even though only probably half or less of the whip is actually 16 plait.  As the whip thins, the whipmaker will “drop” strands into the whip’s core, underneath the overlay, so that the whip can taper down to a smaller diameter.

So in order to discover how what plait count any particular whip is, try to measure it as close to the largest diameter section of the whip as you can.

Method #1

SeamsFind the spot on the whip with the largest diameter that has the strands meeting each other in “V” shapes, as shown in the picture.  What you want to be able to do is count how many “seams” run down the length of the whip at the point you choose to measure.  Pictured to the left, I have identified two seams on this whip with the two arrows.  If you flip this whip over, you’ll find two more seams, for a total of four.  The majority of standard whips are braided to have four seams, so this is pretty common.

StrandsFollow

Then, pick one visible strand.  I have chosen one strand in the picture on the right and highlighted that strand in green.  Now this is the slightly tricky part.  Look at the strands spiraling in the opposite direction from the strand you have chosen, and count how many of those strands go underneath that single visible piece of strand.  On the picture to the right, there are three strands going the opposite direction that go underneath my green highlighted strand.

Now to know what the plait count is, simply multiply the number of seams by the number of strands going under your chosen strand.  In this whip, that would be 4 (seams) multiplied by 3 (strands).  4×3=12.  This is a 12 plait whip.  The vast majority of whips will have four seams near the beginning, so you can usually even just skip the counting the seams step and assume you’ll multiply the “under” strands you count by 4.

The only time this method doesn’t work perfectly is when the plait count of your whip isn’t one of the standard plait counts most whipmakers work with.  Generally, whipmakers will use a standard plait count though, so most of the time this won’t be an issue.

Method #2

This method only works if your whip has a checkerboard (or single diamond) pattern at its thickest part, closest to the butt/handle knot.  In some ways this method is trickier than the previous one, and in some ways it’s simpler.  If your whip has both a regular braided portion and a checkerboard portion, you can use both methods to double check your calculations.

diamondcountingstrategyFirst, pick one square of the checkerboard and hold your finger or something else on it to mark it.  Then, using a zig-zag motion as pictured in the diagram to the left, count the number of squares included in that zig-zag around the entire circumference of the whip.  This number is your plait count.

Just as an added bit of information, the plait count on stockwhips is often referred to by two numbers with an “x” in between the numbers.  In these cases, the first number usually describes the plait count of the handle, and the second number usually describes the plait count of the thong.  However, this rule isn’t always set in stone.  You can be fairly certain though, that if you see two different numbers with an “x” between them, the larger number will be the plait count of the handle and the lower number will be the plait count of the thong.

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