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Strand Overlap / Widely Cut Strands

August 16, 2009

OverlappingStrandsComparisonThe comparison picture to the left shows two different whips with many similarities but two big differences.  Both whips are made in the “Indy Whip” style, both have strands beveled on opposite corners, both are saddle tan, and both are 12 plait whips.  The main difference between the two is the width of the strands and the amount that the strands overlap (two things that tend to go hand-in-hand).

Please let me first preface this conversation by saying that I don’t think that either whip is necessarily quantitatively “better” than the other – they are simply different, and their respective future owners each decided for their own personal reasons to request the different styles of braiding.

Strands cut overly wide and braided to overlap each other (such as in the whip on the top) is often what people think of when they think of Indiana Jones style whips.  David Morgan’s whips, especially his more modern ones, tend to use this style of braiding, and many people view the overall result as more “rugged” looking. Although the difference is pretty small, it also does take a little bit more strength on the whipmaker’s part to pull overlapping strands as tight as they need to be.

I’ve also heard the argument that the wider the strands, the more durable the whip will be.  Well, it is true that if a whip has very skinny strands and one strand is nicked badly by a stray pebble hiding in your backyard grass, it’s more likely to break through the whole strand.  If the strand had been twice as wide, you may just end up with a deep nick on one half of your strand, and the whole strand will not be immediately compromised.  This is all technically true.  However, in the last 1/3 to 1/4 of the whip, which is the portion of the whip most likely to encounter those rogue pebbles, strand width doesn’t vary nearly as much between the two styles of braiding.  Also, lower plait counts and smaller strands (which are found near the point of whips) by design tend to discourage the ability to make the strands overlap toward the point of a whip, and when it is possible, the percentage of difference is much smaller than it can potentially be in the first half of the whip.

The whip on the bottom in the picture above has strands cut somewhat thinner (though still technically thicker than absolutely necessary) and they’re braided to lay in smoothly next to one another instead of overlapping so much.  The finished result is a whip that is smoother when you run your hand down it, and that visually appears more “refined” than rugged.  This style also requires a little more experience and skill on the part of the whipmaker to execute, because there is less leeway when it comes to keeping the strands from gapping – each strand has to sit in at the perfect angle, and the perfect distance from its fellow strands.FingernailThumbnailGaps

The only tangible potential drawback to this braiding style is that even a well-made whip can end up with tiny gaps over time.  When brand-new, a perfectly braided whip with strands that lay in smoothly alongside their neighbors will probably have a handful of hairline gaps.  Over time, these hairline gaps will probably turn into fingernail sliver sized gaps.  Over to the right is a picture of a well-used whip made by a highly skilled whipmaker that’s at least five years old, and it has these “fingernail” gaps visible when the whip is coiled for just that reason.  This picture is only of the worst of all the miniature gaps, and they are only visible when the thong is bent into its natural coil.

So long as the whip was built well and braided tightly to begin with, these miniature gaps really are a purely cosmetic detail, and most people would probably never even notice them honestly, but I thought they were worth mentioning because they are a likely part of long-term ownership of a whip that is braided in this style – especially if the leather it was braided from was on the thicker side.

So in the end, this is a choice you have when you’re looking into buying a whip.  Some whipmakers specialize in or only do one of the two styles, some whipmakers tend to lean toward one side or the other with some flexibility, and some are open to and capable of doing either style proficiently.  A whip made in either style has the capability to be equally as durable and well-performing, so it’s really all about the visual “finish” on the whip.

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