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Tutorial: How to Make a Leather Fall

February 26, 2010

Another tutorial video we’ve received several requests for is How to Make a Leather Fall.  We hope that the method we show is simple enough and easy enough to follow that more whipcrackers will feel confident about making not just their own poppers, but also replacement falls for themselves when necessary.  If you have any questions about the method we show, what leather is good for making falls, or about the strips of fall leather that we offer on our Whip Accessories page, please leave us a comment.


Tutorial: How to Make a Popper / Cracker

February 23, 2010

For quite a while now, we have had several people asking for a video tutorial on how to make replacement poppers or crackers for whips.  We finally managed to find the time to put together this video demonstrating a few different ways of making the same basic, standard 100% nylon poppers that we make.  The thread used in this tutorial is available from MidWestWhips on the Whip Accessories page, and is the standard thread that many professional whipmakers use for their poppers.  Feel free to also experiment with other materials, other popper lengths, and different diameters.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful, and please leave us a comment if you have any questions.  Methods for attaching the popper to your fall can be found on the post titled Attaching or Replacing Your Popper/Cracker.

The Historic Edward H. Cooley Collection of Whips

February 23, 2010

For those in whip history or collecting old whips, MidWestWhips is honored to have been chosen to broker the sale of an incredible collection of whips from the 1950’s and 60’s from the Edward H. Cooley Collection. The web pages for the whips is now live at:

The collection includes a variety of 28 whips by Cecil Henderson, Zairs, Austral Enterprises (David Morgan), and more…

Even if you aren’t interested in bidding or purchasing any of the whips from the collection, you may be interested in having a look at the pictures which include whips that range from 4 plait all the way up to fancy 2 tone 36 plait with patterns and name braiding. There is also a bullneck (no “swing belly” swell) stockwhip, and a 24 plait bullwhip that is plaited entirely in checkerboard!  We have also put up scans of some documents from the collection including letters from 1956 written by Cecil Henderson in response to Cooley, old Austral Enterprises (David Morgan) Catalogs from the 1960’s, and more.

If anyone has any questions about the whips or the collection, please feel free to send an email to

Easy Braiding Soap Recipe

February 15, 2010


Braiding soap (or something that serves the same purpose) is a necessary part of leather whipmaking.  It conditions and strengthens the leather, and serves as a lubricant so that when you pull a strand tight, it slides over and under the other strands and pulls tight clear up into what you’ve already braided.

This is one of the simplest and most basic recipes, and all of the ingredients are either already in your kitchen or can be easily and inexpensively purchased at your local supermarket.  For more recipes (often requiring specialty fats you’d need to request from a kind local butcher), check out the forum on the Australian Plaiters and Whipmakers Association site.

You will need:

  1. A pot, a spoon, and your stove
  2. A cheese grater
  3. One (standard size) 4.5oz bar of pure Ivory soap
  4. One and a half cups of water
  5. One pound of lard
  6. A sturdy container with a lid that seals (to store your braiding soap in after you’ve made it)

1. Grate the bar of soap into the pot with the water slowly, over medium to medium low heat, while stirring often.  Bring the water to a low boil then back down again several times while stirring in order to dissolve the soap as completely as possible into the water.

2. Add the lard and stir it in until it is creamy and there are no lumps left.  Be careful at this step to not let the solution boil.

3. Carefully pour the mixture into your storage container.  Continue stirring your plaiting soap about once every half hour until it starts to cool enough that it becomes difficult to stir.  Then seal the lid on, and wait overnight for the mixture to become firm.  When you are not using your braiding soap, always keep the lid on.

Again, this is just one of the simpler recipes, but it does work quite well and the ingredients are readily available, so it’s a good one to start with.  Some whipmakers use these same ingredients but in slightly different quantities, some use a similar formula but with different animal fats or soaps, some add other ingredients to achieve a particular scent, and some even have completely unique recipes.  Check out the Australian Plaiters and Whipmakers Association site for a few examples of other braiding soap formulas too.  Feel free to experiment with some ideas of your own as well, and leave us a comment if you have any questions or make any interesting discoveries!

SASS & WWPAS Convention 2009

December 13, 2009

WWPASSASS & WWPAS.  These are two acronyms which might make you chuckle if you try to read them out loud like words, but they stand for Single Action Shooting Society and Wild West Performing Arts Society.  SASS was formed in 1987, and works to preserve and promote specifically the history of competitive shooting in the Old West.

This year, as we understand it, the organizers of the annual SASS Indoor World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting in Las Vegas decided to expand their convention to include what they’re calling the Wild West Performing Arts Society (WWPAS).  WWPAS is a group for “western performers dedicated to preserving and promoting the western arts of trick roping, whip cracking, fancy gun handling, trick riding, knife & tomahawk throwing, native dancing, stage combat/stunts, and other heritage arts of the American West.”

So, last weekend (the weekend of December 6th), we headed in to Las Vegas, NV to check out the action at the convention, meet some fellow western performers and craftspeople, and – of course – crack some whips!  The WWPAS addition to this annual SASS convention was new, and not many people knew about it far enough ahead of time to be able to make the trip if they lived too far away, but there was still a nice sized crowd of people performing and practicing their favorite western arts, all in varying degrees of costume.

Whipcracking Room at the SASS/WWPAS Convention 2009

Just a few of the people who are in some way a part of the world of whips who were in attendance include (in no particular order): Pistol Packin’ Paula, Anthony and Mary Delongis, Judy Taylor, Mark Allen, Jack Dagger, Brett Copes (Whipboy), Ben Esseling, Shelby Bond (Cowboy Max), John Leonetti, and of course us (Paul Nolan and Lauren Wickline from MidWestWhips).

There were a lot more people too if you count western arts folks who don’t use whips, and several hundred more if you count all of the SASS people there dressed to the gills in period-accurate wild west gear.  I’d imagine that even more people (including whips people) from other regions of the country will find a way to make it out next year, because I think we all really did have a good time.  There was a separate large room with a very tall ceiling for us all to crack whips in (so we didn’t bother everyone else at the convention with all the noise), and a lot of people took advantage of getting to check out each others’ whips, swap stories, and trade whipcracking tips and tricks.

We definitely plan on going back again next year, and we’ll post about it beforehand here on The Whip Blog so that hopefully even more people will have the opportunity to attend.  I don’t know for sure what the organizers’ plan is for next year, but at least this year there was no cost to attend, and no membership required.  If you’d like to see some more pictures from the WWPAS portion of the convention, click here to check out the photos John Leonetti took while we were there.

Tutorial: How to Tie a New Fall Hitch (4 Plait Point)

November 16, 2009

RSZ4PlaitFall21Tying a fall hitch from scratch as this tutorial shows is generally only necessary if you’re a whipmaker who is finishing a whip or if you are a whip owner whose whip has loose or broken strands at its point.  If you are a whip owner who needs a fall replaced but the fall hitch and the strands just before the fall hitch at the point are intact and still tightly and smoothly sitting in next to each other, there is a MUCH easier way to replace your fall.  We plan to very soon also post a shorter tutorial for that easier method, but since we had this particular whip in for a fall replacement and full point repair just recently, now seemed as good a time as any to go ahead and create the tutorial for a full re-tying of a fall hitch.

Many people choose to send their whip to a professional whipmaker for this type of repair, so if you don’t feel comfortable with or want to try it yourself, don’t feel bad.  Most whipmakers (ourselves included) are happy to perform this whip repair fairly inexpensively.  The majority of the whips out there today end in either a 4 plait (common for cowhide whips), 6 plait (common on various kangaroo whips and Indy whips), or 8 plait (common on higher plait kangaroo whips) point.  This tutorial is only specifically for 4 plait points, although the basic concept behind this particular method of creating a fall hitch can be applied to re-tying fall hitches on 6 or 8 plait points too.

Also, please forgive the large number of pictures/steps.  It’s not as easy as replacing a popper, but it’s actually not as complicated as the number of steps implies either – we just wanted to try to be as clear as possible with the instructions.  On that note, if you have any problems re-tying your hitch using these instructions, please leave us a comment and let us know where you ran into trouble.

The numbers of the steps are in white in the corners of the thumbnail files below.  Please click on the thumbnails in order to view the larger image files with instructions for each step printed directly on the images.

Update 1/6/11: Click here to see a video by Joseph Strain demonstrating this same basic hitching technique on a six plait point.

Queen Mary Indy Gear Summit 2009

November 11, 2009

Just this past weekend we attended the 8th Annual Indy Gear Summit onboard the Queen Mary, and we thought it would be fun to share some of the pictures we took while we were there.  The Indy Gear Summit is basically a gathering of fans of the Indiana Jones movies and members of the Indy Gear forum called Club Obi Wan.  Click here to see our blog post about Indy Gear’s forum, and for a link to visit there yourself if you’d like.  Also if you register on the forum (it’s free), you’ll be able to click on the “scrapbooking” section to see a topic that includes a bunch more pictures taken by other photographers from the summit.

These pictures include the “special mission” that many of us went on for fun (and it was great fun!), cracking all sorts of whips (bullock whips, PH hybrid nylon whips, Indy whips from many different whipmakers, etc.), Anthony Delongis, a few pictures of us and some whip friends and other friends we met there, some pics of the class we taught on basic whips repairs like making poppers and replacing falls, and of course plenty of Indy Gear members dressed in their best Indiana Jones outfits.  We had a wonderful time, and met a tremendous amount of really great people.  Many thanks to the moderators at Indy Gear, our fellow Indy vendors, the organizers of the summit, and of course all 50+ people who showed up to share an amazing weekend with their fellow Indy fans!