In 2005 and 2006 I was lucky enough to win the
RM Williams AWPA Australian National Whip Cracking
Championships in the Open 35-50 yrs Division. 2005 and 2006 I
also won the City Muster Western Australian Mens Whip
Cracking Title. These
events are good fun but a lot of hours learning new skills and
practicing old ones is needed to get results. Hopefully the hints
below will help you maximize the effective use of your practice
time. These hints are based on my whip cracking
experiences not only in getting ready for competitions or performances,
but also in helping others master new techniques for the first
time. I suggest you try ideas that you think might help you out.
If it doesn't work for you, modify it. If it then doesn't work,
discard it. If it does work drop me a line and let me know of your
results and be quick to pass it on to any other whip cracker who
might benefit from it too.
cracking and especially your practices sessions are all about
endurance. That's one reason why I say "Can you
take more power out of your techniques?" If you go too
hard at your practice and don't give your muscles enough time to
recover you'll over-train. Over-training is the endurance athlete's enemy. You know your on the knife edge when you
find your grip on your whip handle is 'weird'. It feels not very
firm despite you gripping it the normal way. You'll go over the
edge when you practice again as if everything is just fine. What
you should have done is given yourself a week off, your whips
will still be there when you've recovered. The new routine you've
made big in-roads on will still be there too. If you ignore the
warning signs and keep on practicing, you'll over-train even more
and then you'll need a month off. The trick is not to bite
off more than you can chew.
off more than you can chew?
found the trick with my own practice is to keep 3 new techniques on boil
at any time. When one is
mastered, replace it with another. If
you can cope with more than 3 go for it. You'll know your trying
to force results when you get worn out much quicker than when
you perform techniques you've already mastered. You'll find
your definition of 'mastered' keeps evolving.
This means you'll re-visit skills you've sorted earlier and
find that there's still a huge amount to do. Also take on the skills
in Fundamental Whipcracking Techniques in
the order they present. They
are progressive and you won't
miss a step that makes you work too hard to get results later.
So how do you know when
you've really mastered a new skill?
You get clean cracks with no
effort at all - next to no
muscle power at all. But that's only 1/2 of the 'mastered'
equation - when you use the 'new' skill to combine with another
technique it should hold up
as you concentrate on the new skill. If it's execution
dilutes in any way it's not as instinctive and mastered as it
could be. The best habit to make strong in your practice is to
always ask yourself "Can I take more power out of the
mix?" If you do this, not only does your whip cracking become
effortless, but you focus on timing.
It's timing that gives loud cracks. Timing means your
crackers evaporate by the end of a practice session, but your
falls last forever. If you use muscle power the fall and plaited
point of your whip get overly stressed.
Focusing on timing by always trying to take muscle power out of
your whipcracking also helps you in learning new techniques. Your
quickly aware that you going down the dark side of the force and
are quicker to back off the muscle power and focus on
experimenting on where the whips must be positioned etc to
get cracks going off effortlessly. Effortless well timed whip
cracking is joy to watch. It lets you smoke a tough routine yet an
audience, fellow whip crackers, whipcracking judges, whomever,
think you're only in first gear. The truth is you are in first
a great idea to video your whip cracking performance.
You'll watch it later and and learn a lot. The acid test for how
well you've mastered a routine is to get out in front of a
crowd and perform it. Again, if it dilutes, it needs more
repetition to sort it. You'll also see in the video weird stuff
that you didn't know you were doing. If your practicing with
friends, they'll tell you but if your on your own then there
are other ways to get feedback and improve your form. Videoing
your practice sessions will help but it's usefulness is limited
because the feedback happens long after you've finished. Instant
feedback of a mirror is the only way to go. Martial artists and dancers
of all styles have used floor to ceiling mirrors to give instant
feedback for years. I use a big glass window of club house at
an oval I practice at regularly. I can watch my
reflection and change things up when I spot something that's
not working. The thing is I can watch for the error and see what
I'm doing and also see instantly how a change in technique affects
what's an error?
the Australian sport of whip cracking an error can come in many
forms. I did a little judging at the 2005 Championships and it's
hard enough to record errors you see in a routine, let alone
for someone inexperienced to
decide whether they've really nailed a new
technique or not. When you enter a whip cracking
competition you fill out a trick sheet. The trick sheet lists the
routines you'll perform and gives the head judge a place to write
the degree of difficulty (out of twenty in the Australian
Whipcrackers & Plaiters Association rules) and the competition
judges a place to mark deductions for different errors that
you might be guilty of. Maybe it will help you in your own
practice to keep a mental note of your errors in the same
way. After a practice session make a note to work on
improving on them next time, a hit-list. The most obvious
error is when you miss a crack, it might be muffled so the
volume between different cracks in the routine are inconsistent or
you mightn't be getting any noise at all! The off-timing of cracks
in a routine that has a specific rhythm are also errors. A
routine like "Mary had a little lamb" should sound like
the nursery rhyme, otherwise it's just a jumble of fast figure 8's
and cattleman's cracks and scores less. Double check that the given
routine you're working on is the exact combination of basic cracks
using. If not, you'll be scored down, even if what your doing is
executed perfectly. The game in performing a known routine is to get
it right. That also means not letting your whips touch, any body
hits or having any excessive ground hits. Watch your symmetry. If
the right hand performs it's half of the routine better than the
left then work more on the left's skills. The big error that's
fatal in a competition is a tangle.
work more on your single handed form. Check that each
technique is moving correctly in the plane it should be in. If
it's not it's occupying too much airspace and up goes your
chance of tangles. Whips only can tangle if they occupy the same
airspace. So don't let them. The solution maybe as simple as
keeping one hand higher than the other in a given routine. Simple
things like correct fall length to minimise your whip bucking and,
again, occupying too much airspace. Using poly crackers
helps a great deal if your falls should accidentally touch. Watch
your reflection to make sure your whips are following paths that
won't let the whips touch. Try opening up a basic skill with
longer more open form - cramping a skill up in too tight a space
can throw things out of kilter. Keeping your skills in smooth
clean lines not only looks good but removes any 'extras' that can
get whips too close.
several planes around the body that you can crack any given
technique in. There's plenty of exceptions to the rule, but
essentially, for any given skill you should be able to perform it
by the side, in front, overhead, on your offside and maybe even
behind your back. For each of these planes, make sure they are
executed 90 degrees to each other otherwise the whips risk
tangling by invading airspace of the other whip in double handed
whip cracking. Imagine you've put your hand inside an imaginary
arm width glass partition that defines the given
plane - don't let the whip touch that glass!
of a given technique?
you practice ask yourself - "Can I do this by the side,
in front, overhead etc? Can I do the reverse of this crack in
all these different planes? Can I crack a pair of whips with
this technique in together time, staggered, balanced, each way
together, each way staggered or in offset staggered time?" If
you don't understand these questions treat yourself or borrow Fundamental
Whipcracking Techniques. For any given crack or routine, you
should practice all these above variations. It takes time, but
that's why the sport is so challenging and rewarding. The big
benefits comes later. You'll find you'll learn tough routines much
quicker than others because you have depth to your basic skills.
Think of tough challenging routines as words and basic cracks as
letters of the alphabet. There are still new routines to be made
up too, experimentation is the key.
with the natural curve or against it?
When I teach people to
crack a whip (substitute bullwhip here if it helps!!) I
show them how I do it if there's something obvious like a weird
hand grip etc. I say something along the lines of "Try
this, it works best for me but experiment as there are other
ways..." I don't think cracking with the natural curve or
against it is really a big deal. In my opinion it's nothing
compared with forming a strong habit of cracking your whips
effortlessly as possible in practice.
I personally rotate my
stock whips so their keepers are lined up in the same way and in
a certain position. This is similar to deciding on the
"with/against" the natural curve of the bullwhip. If
you don't consciously choose and hold the whip any old way
the whip might feel right or it might feel weird, just depends
on which way the natural curve of the whip is angled. The thing
is you have to choose for consistency's sake. There is
another school of thought. That is continually rotating the
bullwhip handle during practice sessions so the whip eventually
flexes evenly in every direction. If you find the whip has a
natural curve or memory in one direction, then extra attention
is paid to it to dilute it by more cracking against the curve.
The aim here is to break a new whip in so it's not important
what orientation the handle is held at.
In practice many routines
and basic cracks are symmetrical or the cracks are changing
direction/planes all over the place. A volley is a classical
example. For the forward crack you may be cracking against
the curve, but that means the back crack will be
with the natural memory of the bull whip. In this example it
doesn't matter at all that you cracked whip or against the
natural curve of the whip. My suggestion is try both, see what
feels best, then pick one way and stick with it. It's far more
important to pay attention to the amount of muscle power your
using in practice and keep on asking yourself " Can I
take more power out of this" If you do this your whips will
crack very loud, but effortlessly and there will be next to no
stress on your whip's fall, plaited point and handle/thong
Whipcracking Competition Scoring in Australia:
The Australian Whipcrackers and Plaiters
Association (AWPA) uses a ready
reckoner style trick sheet for scoring in Australian
whipcracking competitions. Cracks and basic routines are listed
down the left with the single and double handed variations
running across the top. To determine a score for a together time
changing planes Sydney Flash for instance, a competitor or judge
looks down the "Both Hands changing planes" column to where it
intersects the "Sydney Flash" row to get a score of 15 out of a
possible 20. The latest news is now, for future competitions,
less importance will now be placed on the MPA list as it's
called (short for Maximum Points Awarded).
In the past scoring at Australian whip cracking competitions was
subjective. Then came a brave Noel Cutler, former Australian
Whipcracking Champion, who was instrumental in getting a new
judging system off the ground. It was this new judging system
that embodied and embraced the MPA list. In 2000 the AWPA
Judge's sub-committee put together a complete guide to the new
judging system. It set out the
Accuracy and Freestyle criteria - how they were scored,
complete with how errors were deducted. The freestyle section
was divided into two sections. The first section was 10
routines, with 5 routines having to be chosen from the MPA list.
This requirement was later relaxed. The second section was the 1
minute freestyle - continuous cracking, put together however you
The MPA list scores you on a given crack, old or new routine
based on one big assumption - that you performed it flawlessly.
See Whip Cracking Hints for a
thorough discussion on getting your act together as far as
reducing errors go. That's not what we are discussing here. It's
the value of the MPA list to any whipcracker bent on acquiring
new skills that I want to point out. Always keep in mind the
errors and pitfalls to progress as set out in Whip Cracking
Hints. But look at the MPA list as a "Can I do this?" hit-list.
Start at the Cattleman's Crack and test yourself with all the
single handed variations. If you can do all of them, move on
into the double handed variations and so on. Remember these are
the building block basic cracks and routines that the
competition standard routines are developed from. If you don't
have anyone to show you these skills, treat yourself to a
coaching video that does and you'll be on your way.
The MPA list embodies a mind set. That mind set is what you're
applying to the skills you've already mastered and new ones
you'll eventually attempt…
Can I do it with left and right hands?
Can I do it in different planes?
Can I do it in changing planes?
Can do it with both hands, in different planes and in changing
Can I do it in together time, staggered, balanced, offset
staggered, each way together, or each way staggered?
The reduced reliance on the MPA list for judging will affect the
competitors very little. They'll still compete with their best
routines, polished with practice so they look great and don't
miss a crack. And after the competition dust settles the
competitor who does it the best will still walk away with the
number one spot in his or her division. Looking at the MPA list
as a mind set that can help you progress your whipcracking will
always be useful. It re-defines what you call 'mastered' doesn't
it and that's it's real value.
Whip Colour choice:
This article discusses
kangaroo hide colours, not
only what's available but also how the effect of braiding techniques
change the appearance of a whip. Hopefully this article will make
you more aware of what is possible and let your choice on what you
want your whip to look like more informed.
Taking a quick tour of this website and quickly
you see a huge range of colours used in whip making. Hold your
pointer over any whip pictured and the image title will tell you
exactly what colour shade(s) were used to make that whip with.
Choosing colours is a personal thing and everyone has a different
slant on what colours suit them. There are classic examples, like
if your an Indiana Jones fan - then natural tan for your American
bull whip is the only way to go. Most northern hemisphere whip
crackers prefer their whips to be black, totally black in
many cases. But in Australia tan whips with little or no colour
highlights are the most requested and a black whip is rarely seen.
Kangaroo hide comes in most colours. Saddle
tan is the mid range shade of tan. Brandy tan is near black, especially
in indoor lighting and gives a softer mix with the above colours
as well as natural tan...the light/pale shade of tan. Black mixes
well with red, purple, jade green and saddle tan. But there's also
gold (gold foil covering black roohide). It's very hard wearing
and long lasting. It can look a bit gaudy with red but very regal
with purple and fantastic with jade green. White also mixes well
with black. My personal favourite is jade green and saddle tan. I
did a pair of stockwhips recently in jade green and red and they
turned out stunning...I had reservations on this colour mix (and
voiced them) but I couldn't have been more wrong in the end.
That's pretty well the way it is - always go with what
appeals to your eye as I've found that there are very few
colours that don't mix well. If you have corsets or outfits that
the whips need to compliment, it's a good idea to send your whip
maker an image of the colours. They should be able to get colours
quite close to meet most of these challenges.
Take a look at this pink and black whip pictured. The effect of the colour mix is accentuated by the braiding
pattern employed. It's an old braiding pattern and one that I've
used a lot of to make a striking looking whip. I call it 'tiger
plait' but it will be known by other names. The same whip would
look a lot more formal if plaited in a traditional 2-tone
herringbone. Another braiding pattern is 'Running
V's, a less
formal braiding style. Notice the effect of wider 8-plait strands,
compared to the finer 16-plait strands, on the appearance of the
two whips you see in these links. Strand width changes the look of
a whip too. Neatness of the braiding makes a huge difference. A
lot of the effect of the colour and braiding pattern used are lost
if the braiding is not neat. Straight braiding seams - the strands
form four seams were they cross over on a standard herringbone
plait you'll see on practically every whip - these have to be
straight for the whip to look neat. Neatness is also affected by
the amount of preparation in the whip foundations and also the
thickness and preparation of the overlay leathers used too.
The American Whip Artist:
The influence of the Australian Whip by
In the late 1970's the Bucheimer Leather Company of Frederick,
Maryland discontinued it's distinctive line of bullwhips. For
this particular handler, it was a black time.
My first "quality" whip was an eight-foot black
revolutionary-handled affair I'd acquired at age 12. And now, so
many years later, I hardly knew where to turn next. It was a
story I was not alone in recounting, for gradually there came an
increasing decline in the manufacture of what some Aussies may
laughingly refer to as "the better American whip".
Simultaneously there arose a dreadful wave of attempts to
duplicate the Bucheimer style; needless to say, all were
inferior. This is not to state, however, that there weren't
better whips being turned out in America - I simply was
unmindful of them.
But in 1985 I stumbled upon my first Australian bullwhip. It was
an eight-foot modestly designed delight turned out by Terry
Jacka of Sydney - and all at once my enthusiasm for whips was
reborn. I cherish and have it still.
Around this time I also became acquainted with the late
legendary Leonard Wheatley. He specialized in crafting THE ideal
American bullwhip, usually of rawhide. While I've several in my
'arsenal', I rarely met a fellow whipper who didn't hoard AT
LEAST four or five Wheatley's in their respective collections.
(Whip artist Alex
Green informed me that, since Leonard's passing, his whips
now command prices of biblical extravagance).
And now, at this writing, my 'Weapon of Choice' is usually a
whip made by Mike Murphy.
I (and here I use the term loosely) "live" in Los Angeles. I
often perform in the smaller, more infinitely claustrophobic
clubs which cheerfully infest the areas in and around Hollywood
and the Greater Los Angeles area. Appreciate, please, that up
until 1985 I was an American amateur occasionally dabbling in
cabaret theatrics. I knew nothing of the quality so handsomely
represented in many a whip from our neighbours "down under".
Heck I didn't even drink beer.
Every now and then I'd lend a whip-hand to this TV show, that
movie or make some sort of music video. Due to the rarity of
such assignments, I'd rely on any "flavour-of-the-month" U.S.
made whip to fall within my grasp.
And upon my receipt of Mr Jacka's steadfast implement,
encouraged research enabled me to conclude that Australia is to
the whip as Cuba is to the cigar.
For many little club room engagements I try entertaining at with
their low ceilings and cramped stages, the Mike Murphy whip I
presently use "can't be beat" (no bad pun intended). It's a
two-tone 12-plait whip so delicate I can floss a dental patient
from a distance while the doctor is out. And then replace the
cracker, of course.
But more importantly, it's mere presence commands attention on
stage before my first "crack" is ever thrown. Suddenly, the
stage seems bigger, my partner looks more attractive, and it
gingerly "delivers the goods" with a confidence that would make
the youngest novice look like a pro.
Today, more and more American whip artists are succumbing to the
Australian whip. May this popularity breathe a new life back
into the once-flourishing trade of whip making, and prove
mutually beneficial to both our countries.
*Who is Brian Chic? Mr Chic is an entertainer pal of mine.
That's him performing in the picture above. The picture is a
still from Sean Lennon's latest video music clip from a soon to
be released single.
Guinness World Record - Most Bull Whip Cracks in 60
On September 2nd 2003 whip coach and performer Robert
Dante set the first Guinness World Record for "Most
Bullwhip Cracks" of 203 cracks in 60 seconds at the
Dream Circus, Hollywood USA. The following article
is for anyone who wants to make an attempt at this record. It's a tough
challenge but a good opportunity for some publicity, as well
as some bragging rights.
There has been several attempts since to improve on 203 cracks
in 60 seconds. Illinois's Christopher Camp came as close as
anyone. Beating the original record by 8 cracks, his effort was
recognized by Guinness for one month only to be out-done
later by Robert Dante's second official attempt. The latest world
record for most bullwhip cracks in 60 seconds is now officially
214 cracks. A quote from Robert Dante's website www.bullwhip.net
captures the moment and gives an insight on the planning involved
in making an attempt..."Using a bullwhip made by this year's
Australian whip cracking champion Mike Murphy, Dante achieved his
goal on the third try, according to affidavits provided by event
coordinator Walt Pattison, rodeo star "Lariat" Mike
Woolridge, performer Beverlie "Dakota Rose" Griffin, and
whip maker Adam Winrich. The record-breaking performance took
place on the main stage of the Third Annual Spirit of the West
Festival in Sioux Falls, SD, in front of approximately 100
spectators on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004, on the 50th anniversary of
the establishment of Guinness World Records".
Reckon you can raise the bar? Get closer to 5 cracks per
second? Before an attempt is made - make sure you contact the
Guinness people. www.guinnessworldrecords.com has
an attempt form you need to fill in. With a date for your
attempt in mind, you can then get their okay and they
will assign you an attempt number. This process takes
approximately six weeks. They will then give you the criteria
you must follow for the attempt to be considered as new Guinness World
Record. The record was designed for a single handed attempt but
the rules don't spell this out. It would be a good idea to discuss
this with Guinness when you make your first contact so they can
give you clarification. Here's the criteria, as quoted from
Whipcracking - Most in a Minute (Bullwhip)
acts as a guide to the specific considerations and undertakings, in
addition to the general requirements, for any potential attempt
on the most whip cracks in a minute record. They should be
read and understood by all concerned - organizers,
participants and witnesses - prior to the event.
This record is for the most cracks of a single bullwhip
an individual can make in 60 seconds.
The bullwhip must measure a minimum length of 1.82m (6ft)
from the butt to the end of the thong (excluding the
length of the fall - the single un-plaited
length of leather and cracker).
The handle must be at least 30cm (12 in) long (measured from the
butt to where the leather becomes flexible) and have a
diameter at the handle butt and thong/handle connection
of 2.54cm +/- 3mm (1 in +/- 1/8 in).
The single strand leather fall must be a minimum of 76cm (30
The cracker must be a minimum of 15cm (6 in) long.
Only volley cracks that are audible can be counted towards
A start and finish signal (loud enough for all the
contestants to hear) is required.
At least one timekeeper should time the event with a highly
Robert Dante has a few suggestions for people wishing to
attempt the record...
"To count the cracks, I had my counter use a manual
thumb-click counter (the kind used by scientists to count
blood cells through a microscope, or used by doormen to
count attendees at an event). Because the cracks come so
fast and furious, instead of using the thumb to depress
the clicker, use the whole arm with a stiff wrist. Every
time the counter hears a crack, they tap the button. Recounts
can be made by viewing the video afterward.
Contact media -- a TV news crew's video of the attempt
carries credibility with it.
Have the time keeper call out the time to the cracker in 10-second
increments. This is also good for the video."
What about the bull
I made the bullwhip that
was used in the first and current Guinness record. Guinness
spent a good deal of time with me discussing bull
whip anatomy so the bull whip criteria to be used is specific. I
doesn't matter what plait count the bullwhip is. Guinness
aren't concerned either, but I suggest an 8 plait with
an 8-plait point for durability's sake. Use the best
moving, sweetest cracking bull whip you can find. It has to has to
be energetic, one built on a braided rawhide foundation will
give the best results. If the bull whip used is not the best then
the cracks aren't going to be that audible and your going to work
way too hard on what is already a tough hill to climb.
Best of luck in your attempt and I hope you get a Guinness
congratulations - "your record has been approved as an
official Guinness World Record".
Whip cracker and entertainer Chris Camp cracked a 6 foot bullwhip 222 times in 60 seconds, breaking the previous record of 214 times set by Robert Dante. Camp’s record breaking attempt took place on April 29, 2005 during a live broadcast of WMAY’s Mike Wilson Show. Congratulations Chris from Murphywhips.com
Since Chris's bullwhip record was made Australia's Andrew Thomas (3 times RM Williams AWPA Australian Whip Cracking
Champion) cracked a 4 1/2ft stockwhip 233 times in 60 seconds.
Guinness now has two 'fastest' whip categories - the
6ft bullwhip and 4 1/2ft stockwhip. Andrew's record breaking
attempt took place on the Australia's Guinness World Records
September 2005 - Florida's Mike Woolridge, reached 228 cracks in 60
seconds, breaking the previous mark held by Chris Camp - a record
As quoted by Robert Dante (official counter/original record
holder) - "Mike Woolridge and Adam Winrich went head to head in an
old-fashioned contest (it was exciting! I like this format for
future attempts). Mike broke my own record by 14 cracks, hitting
228 -- but Winrich cracked an amazing 261 times. Winrich used an
unorthodox approach, but it does not appear to be illegal -- he
gripped the whip halfway up the handle and used the handle as a
pivot, with the lower part of the handle acting as a
counterweight. He did a fast wristy volley at waist level in front
"To tell the truth, I didn't believe Robert (Dante) when he told
me that I did 261, but a friend of mine who counted along said I
was at 130 cracks by 30 seconds, so I guess it was possible. In
training the most I had done was 245. Hopefully Guinness will
verify the 261. I remember the old goal for this record, at least
between me and Chris Camp, was for 240, or 4 cracks a second for a
minute. I guess the new goal should be 300, or 5 cracks a second
for a minute." - Adam
October 2007 a new world record was set by Adam Winrich for the
most number of stockwhip cracks in a minute. 272 cracks using a
4 1/2ft stockwhip is now the official record- one minute of
continuous volleys with no switching of hands.
How does a
There are several theories on why does a whip
A theory that was popular at one time was that the whip's
tail/fall and/or cracker slapped back on itself. But high speed
photography has debunked this theory long ago. Crackers/the fall
striking the whip's body in reality often results in a tangle,
very rarely a crack sounds when this happens. Whipcrackers are
at pains to avoid this so they don't spend their whipcracking
efforts untangling whips all the time - enough said!
Another theory argues a wave travels down to the tip of the whip
and gets reflected back to the handle. It's at the change of
direction from travelling out to travelling back, that the
whip's cracker goes through a brief, but intense acceleration.
It's this acceleration that has the whip's cracker travelling
faster than the speed of sound resulting in a small sonic boom -
the actual whip crack. This theory is close - but no cigar. Yes
it is a sonic boom that is making the whip crack, but this
'wave' thing travelling backwards and forwards is not 'how' the
sonic boom is created. Any whipcracker who has mastered the
basic crack called the cattleman's crack knows the whip's
cracker doesn't travel back up the whip against the handle to
cause the sonic boom. When this crack is mastered
'sounds' without a ripple or hint of excess energy - all the
energy expires out of the whip and leaves the cracker facing
away from you uncoiled to the maximum.
Now the accepted theory - proven by high speed
motion picture photography -
shows the whip's cracker moving faster than the speed of sound
resulting in small sonic boom. The speed of sound is
approximately 1,230 feet per second (or approx 1,000 kilometres
per hour) and the "crack" is the sound of air rushing back into
the small vacuum created by the whip's cracker. This sonic boom
occurs when the very tip of the whip moves at faster than the
speed of sound and so breaks the sound barrier. Physics explains
why the whip is capable of this - simply put, it's because it's
a precise taper of weight.
To look at, a whip has a physical tapered shape to it. But
measured in mass the whip also tapers in weight as you follow
your eye down to the tip of the cracker. The whip handle is the
lever, it's imparts a certain amount of force that moves the
flexible part of the whip - called the 'thong'. This force moves
the adjacent whip thong section that is fractionally less in
mass and so on and so on down the whip until it has been
accelerated enough to break the speed of sound. Each successive
part of the thong accelerates it's adjacent part that fraction
faster because it's moving less mass in each instance and no
energy is lost from the system. Remember the energy in the whip
is imparted into a closed system - very little energy is lost in
friction with air for instance.
The whips ability to crack is explained in the first law of
thermodynamics. The principle of conservation of energy states
that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant,
regardless of changes within the system.
Getting frustrated mastering a tough whip routine? Whips are
too short, too long, "It can't be done with bullwhips" etc.
Ranking whip cracking challenges? - none of these compare to New
Hampshire's Ron Currier's.
Ron lost both hands in an electrical accident but it's not stopped
him getting out with his whips. After a number of experiments Ron
has perfected a bracket that let's him hook up his whips.
Snakewhips suit the bracket best because of their even taper
wedging the handle/knot area firm into the bracket. "The hole for
the whip handle is oversized to fit a slice of heavy nylon weight
belt material around the shaft" so the bracket doesn't cut into
Ron will be competing next year at a WE event from the 9ft and
The Jackeroos New Whip
The noise rang around the station and echoed through the
When you were having a yarn you couldn't hear yourself speak.
There were jackeroos with stock whips, learning all the cracks,
But they never used them when astride their horse's backs.
Now all this blooming noise was making the bosses head ache,
If all this whip cracking kept up some ones neck he was gunna
One evening he'd finally had enough so to the quarters he did
A jackeroo perfected the Sydney Flash, just as he did arrive.
Now the jackeroo was proud of his brand new seven foot whip,
It had a nice long cane handle and a fancy plaited grip.
Every night outside the quarters, he'd practise with that thing,
With all manner of different cracks he'd make those ranges ring
Dick pulled up in a cloud of dust, got out and slammed the door,
His anger was obvious by the set of his rigid his jaw.
But he asked "Is that a good whip?" in a quiet friendly tone,
"To right" said the jackeroo clutching the whip like a dog with
The boss smiled and nodded, then asked if he could take a look,
As the young bloke's kangaroo hide whip, he calmly took.
Dick then with whip in hand, quietly turned his back,
In all honesty he was sick to death of listening to it crack.
With a pocket knife in hand, he proceeded to turn seven foot
The kangaroo hide whip was seven pieces, when he'd cut and done.
The jackeroo was dreaming of flicking flies from off the back of
When the boss threw the pieces over his shoulder, and said,
"Crack the Bloody thing now!"
© Corin Linch September 1995
The circumstances regarding the jackeroos new whip occurred
some years ago at Moola Bulla station just out of Halls Creek. I
worked there for fifteen years most of the time spent running
the camp, I went there in 1971 and left to manage a southern
place they bought in 1985. The whip event happened after I left
but a mate told me about it. The bosses name was Dick Northcott
and I could just imagine Dick doing it. The poem is also in my
first book of poems `In Memory of the Drovers and other rubbish
that I write` although I have made a few changes since I had the
Corin's books are available by contacting the author direct - PO
Box 613 Jurien Bay 6516 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kangaroos & Kangaroo Hide
When travelling in rural Australia the 'kangaroo sign' is
very common. It's your warning as dusk approaches to slow down and
be on the look out for 'roo's crossing the road. Many kangaroos
feed on the green pick that grows from hay seed blown off carting
trucks that are busy on country roads just after Summer cropping.
Australian Aboriginals hunting in times past were all too aware of
the kangaroo's taste for young sweet green shoots. Burning off
(setting fire to the bush) promoted new growth and this is exactly
what they did, timing their return to hunt when the green shoots
appeared. But roos and cars don't mix too well. Sadly, a kangaroo
lying on the side of the road is an all too typical scene on the
Australian country roads.
It must be hard for some to imagine why anyone would be
involved in the harvesting of such an interesting and strange
an animal as the kangaroo. But the fact is many kangaroo
populations exceed their environment's capacity to sustain them.
This occurs all over country and arid Australia where good rains
in the 'wet' enable large populations to develop. Droughts, that
are often measured in months and even years, literally dry up
resources in the kangaroo's environment. Competition for feedstock
is inevitable. Crop damage from these big flat footed beasts can
be huge, especially when there's a lot of kangaroos getting into a
crop. Kangaroos too are perfect for damaging fences. If you ever
get to watch a kangaroo get under a fence you'll first see the
short front legs reach through and under the fence. Then the first
half of the body is pulled through and then the big back end
levers through. Wire stretches and snaps. Kangaroos are incredibly
strong and holes big enough for sheep to walk through are not
uncommon. But none of these problems are the kangaroo's
fault, they just do what comes naturally.
Since the colonisation of Australia several of the kangaroo
species have had population increases. Mainly this is attributable
to changes in their environment...more cleared land that means
more food plus water being made greatly available through artesian
bores and dams of all sizes. Hence, it is agreed amongst all
Australian state wildlife authorities that kangaroo populations
are to be carefully managed. What follows is briefly what is
involved in their management that is relevant to the whip enthusiast tracing the path of a kangaroo in the bush to kangaroo
hide leather leaving the tannery.
There are nearly 50 known species of kangaroos and wallabies.
All of these species, and further sub-species, are Australian
native fauna and thus are protected by law. Each Australian state
has it's own management programme that permits the culling under a
licence system of a small number of kangaroo species that are
prolific. Most kangaroos are harvested by professional 'rooshooters'.
It is most often the rooshooters who obtain the cull permits on
behalf of the landowners (both freehold and pastoral) who have
kangaroo problems. On that cull form's completion a finite number
of 'tags' are paid for and issued. One tag per kangaroo. The tags
are colour coded according to the species being culled. The tags
issued are numbered and assigned not only to the rooshooter but
also to the specific region the landowner has had the permits on
his behalf applied for. No rooshooter would risk being caught
coming out of an area that he hasn't a permit to harvest roos in.
For the gain of a few extra roos to the night's tally compared to
the loss of the rooshooter's hunting privileges it's not worth it.
Unused tags along with even more paperwork are returned back
to the wildlife authority. The return paperwork itemises when and
where, sex etc of the harvested kangaroos.
Rooshooter's trucks are unmistakable. Four wheel drives. like
the Toyota Land Cruiser, are the most common being tough enough to
deal with the wilder country of the Australia. On the flat
rear tray a frame is built that has fixed gambrels that hold each
harvested roo. When the rooshooter harvests for human consumption
you'll see knife tubes and the like that house white handled
knives and hygiene equipment...all neatly spaced out of the way but
still within easy reach. On the driver's door a shooting rest is
mounted, an important aid to accurate shooting. Mounted through
the roof of the cab is a powerful narrow beamed spotlight. It can
be moved to nearly any angle as it is rotated on a ball joint by a
'T' piece handle inside the cab with the left hand as the shooter
drives with his right. Shooting is done at night, mostly in open
country. There is little hunting skill involved in the final act
other than letting the shot off properly and some accurate range
estimation. The harvested roos are field dressed and tags are
placed through a nick in each skin, often at the butt of the tail.
After a night's shoot the rooshooter will sell his harvest to his
buyer. The rooshooter's job is done. Many buyers operate
small abattoirs that process the roos for pet food. A few
specialised buyers cater for human consumption. The fresh roo
with tags attached, are then on-sold to hide and skin merchants.
Of the limited species of kangaroo that are legally harvested
in Australia it is the two species of the grey (Western &
Eastern) and the red kangaroo whose tanned skins are important to
the manufacture of fine quality whips. All three species of roo
can stand nearly as tall as a man, with the red kangaroo being the
largest living marsupial. The red has fine rust red fur and is
common, especially in the arid regions of Australia. The female
-called a doe- can be blue with a red tinge, but often in the arid
centre of Australia she will be the same colour as the male. The
western grey has a stockier build and often it's colouring is a
shade browner with darker facial markings than it's eastern
state's cousin. Both are common and populate semi-arid to woodland
regions. Their fur is much coarser than the red's.
The hide and skin merchant's business is based on the supply of
dehaired and pickled hides and skins to local and overseas
tanneries. What follows is a quick look at what happens to the
fresh raw kangaroo hides before they are on-sold by the hide
merchant to the tanneries.
Dehairing is the first step. This is done with hydrated lime,
sodium and water. This is done on a commercial scale, but the principles used in home tanning are the same. Huge rotating drums
greatly speed up the chemistry of the lime's action on the
kangaroo hide hair follicles by agitation. The physical act of
dehairing is performed quickly by rotating drums and is made more
effective by the use of sodium sulfide ("quick slip") in
the dehairing stage prior. Next the dehaired hides are put through
a mechanical splitter. The mechanical splitter not only removes
flesh membrane but evens out the overall thickness of each hide.
The dehaired kangaroo hides are then washed twice in fresh water
and then are placed in another rotating drum with a chemical bate
solution. The chemical bate neutralises the action of the lime
still present in the freshly dehaired rooskins. Bating of the
limed hides is very important to ensure strong firm leather
results from bark tanning at the tannery. Bating recipes are
closely guarded secrets, but are often a detergent and sulfide compound solution. In primitive or early pre-tanning animal
manures were used as a bate, chicken manure being the best.
From the chemical bate the kangaroo hides are washed again and
then enter the pickle stage. Pickling is pre-tanning with acid. A sulfuric and formic acid, sodium and water solution is used in
large rotating drums to ensure quick uniform pickling. Pickling
is completed in a 24 hour session of slow drum rotation and a
fungicide is added to maximise the shelf life of the pickled
hides. While still damp the pickled hides are graded and sorted by
hand. Grading is based on size, species and by obvious
defects like mechanical splitter tears and holes. Acid tanned red
and grey kangaroo hides are both white but are quickly
distinguished as the red has grey shading in the forearm area of
the skins. Reds also have smooth thin skins with fine hair pores
and are a 'diamond' shape compared to the greys. The hides are
then neatly folded and stacked on pallets. The pallets are covered
with plastic to prevent them drying out. This way the skins are
ready for sale and are safe to transport without fear of spoilage
to the tanneries. The use of the fungicide plays an important part
in keeping the hides safe from the spoilage by microbes.
Tanneries either buy pickled or raw kangaroo skins.
If they buy raw hides, then they process them as above. Once the
acid pre-tan stage is finished it's time for the vegetable tanning
stage. Tannac is the bark extract brand that is most often used
and it is a by-product of the paper making industry. It is a
source of highly concentrated and consistent tannin. Tannin
chemically combines with the acid tanned kangaroo hides in a water
and salt solution. The tanning time is managed with precise agitation,
temperature, acidity, salt ion regulation and carefully
matching batch weights of hides to the amount of chemicals used. Pre-tanned
hides also allow quicker uniform penetration of the 'veg' tanning
chemicals, much more so than than a dehaired raw skin ever
would. Once complete penetration of the tannin through the neck
and tail region of the hide is achieved, the wet tanned hides head
to the fat-liquoring stage. A hide that is dried without the
addition of mineral oils and tallows is termed a crust hide.
It's leather fibres are bound tightly and the hide has little
yield, is brittle and thin. The fat-liquoring stage is often
combined with the colouring stage too. Tannery specific, space
invading dyes are used. Acidity monitoring is critical, especially
with black to get even and rich colouring. Kangaroo hide destined
to be whipmaking leather is then drum-stuffed. Cod liver, mineral
oil or tallow based recipes are heated up in rotating
drums and saturate the hides. The resulting hides are laden with
the oil mixture and this gives them the best whipmaking properties
like being easy to cut, reduced stretching, maximum strength, will cut without feathered edges and so on. The
drying is mixed into these previous stages. The water content of
the tanned hides is measured to get the best 'as water evaporates
out, the oil goes in' effect. Drying racks combined with optimum
air flow and heating reduce drying time in the big commercial
tanneries. The size of each hide is then measured by an
operator on either a manual or computerized
measuring table. Each hide's measurement is stencilled on the
tail/butt area. Grading is the next stage. Defects like
tears, knife nicks, bullet holes, tick bites, fighting scars, you
name it, are all imperfections that affect the grade a hide is
assigned. Few hides get a 1st grading, even fewer in drought
conditions where kangaroos suffer from food and water shortage and
even more so from insect pests. The grades start at 1st for
perfect leather and finish at outsorts, which is the last grade
below 3rd grade.
Tanning Hints for
Use common fine salt on cool fresh skins - cover the whole flesh
side of the skin to an even depth of 1mm. Roll the skin up and
hang it in the shade in a jute or cotton bag (no plastic bags -
the skin must be able to drain freely). 24 hours later - repeat
by brushing off the old salt and replacing it with fresh salt.
After 24 hours, remove the salt again, roll the skin up with
it's edges folded in to cure for 7 days - hang in the same bag
in the cool shade away from direct sunlight.
Use the tanning knife to
remove the flesh membrane and fatty deposits. Keep your tanning
knife sharp with a flat file and flesh only on a smooth round
beam - a smooth round fence post strainer works well as does
large diameter PVC storm piping. Go over the whole skin removing
the flesh membrane - this takes experience to do a quick neat
job, but the flesh membrane is obvious on most types of skins so
you'll know when it has been removed and when it hasn't.
Wash your skin in cool water with a little detergent. Wring out
the skin until it is damp and not dripping - weigh it. A hide
weighing 6kg (13lb) will need a solution of 500ml (16fl.oz) of
tanning chemical, 35L (8
gals) of water and 2kg (4lb) of common fine salt (no iodized
salt). Use simple proportions to calculate the amount of
solution and chemicals you need to mix - a 3kg (7lb) skin will
need half as much solution as the 6kg (13lb) one. Use rain water
if possible - water laden with minerals, called 'hard water' is
no good. Immerse the skin and wring it out several times a day -
each time making sure no air bubbles are trapped under the hide
and the skin is laying as flat as possible with no folds so as
much solution is in contact with the skin as possible. Stir the
skin and solution each time you pass your tan bath, at least do
this a couple of times a day. After 24 hours, wring out the skin
and inspect the flesh side of the skin. Your looking for white
patches that are areas that need re-fleshing to remove flesh
membrane or fatty deposits.
Tanning time depends on how thick the skin is. A 1mm thick skin
will tan completely though in 3 days or so, depending on
temperature. A thicker hide will take longer to tan. Nick the
skin at the neck or tail (these are the thickest parts of the
skin) to check an even blue shade has coloured the entire
cross-section of the skin. Once you have complete penetration,
tanning is complete and it's time to wash the skin in
preparation for the fat-liquoring stage.
Wash the skin in fresh water with a little soap powder. Wring
out after rinsing in fresh water. Thick hides can be hung over
night to reach a damp, but not wet stage. Weigh the skin in it's
damp stage and calculate the amount of
Leather Lube required based
on 120ml for every 1kg of damp skin (2 fl/oz per 1lb). Peg the
skin out with nails or a staple gun flesh side up. Pay attention
to getting an even stretch and shape to the skin. A clean sheet
of plywood is a good board to peg out on. Brush the Leather Lube
over the whole flesh side, with a little more lube along the
thick skin areas like the tail, neck and spine. When the skins
are dry they can be softened with the curved edge of the tanning
knife by pushing the blade over the grain away from you over a
soft pad like an old towel. Sand the flesh side with coarse grit
sandpaper and trim the skin to give it an even shape and remove
the hard edges.
Now look at your handiwork and make a few mental notes on how to
improve your results next time. Tanning is an involved and
enjoyable game of chemistry. Learn more from
Tanning Skins & Furs.
Whip collecting, links to whip collectors, whips from my collection and more...
I've had the collecting bug for as long as I can remember. But I think my interest in collecting whips sparked when I was ten or eleven years old. That was when I realized how interested a family friend - Lew Whiteman - was on a whip I described to him that was in a collection of whips of old Tom's. Old Tom was teaching me whip making and whip cracking at the time. Old Tom told me later that Lew had called on him, saw the whip and asked if he could buy it. Many years later old Tom gave me that whip.
Old Tom's Whip - Circa 1960. 20 inch lead weighted handle in 16-plait, featuring a pineapple hitch knot and a perfect crowning thong to handle connection that makes it quite an unusual stock whip. Both thong and crop are 2-toned in black and tan. The 12-plait thong is 7 1/2 ft long, naturally weighted and tapers to a very fine point. The whip is in the same condition as the day it was made. It has a light falling action, with reasonable sound and is very accurate. The thong is what is termed a straight-out. Most stock whips have a swell or swing belly design where the thong throat emerging out of the keeper knot is a finer diameter compared to 6-8 inches further up the thong.
Lew was a well known collector and my mother used to bid at antique auctions on his behalf so not to attract interest. He owned the largest brickworks in the southern hemisphere and didn't need people knowing he was keen on a lot, bidding up the price so he paid through the nose. When Lew died he left an amazing legacy, generously funding the Princess Margaret Children's Hospital with proceeds of his vast estate plus being instrumental in setting up
Whiteman Park. Whiteman Park is so big it has it's own railway and postcode (Zip code)! It has several museums on it's grounds including Lew's Australian Pioneer and Transport memorabilia collection. It is in this collection that 80 or so of Lew's whip collection is housed. Most of these whips are stock whips, with a smattering of bullock and coach whips used in the horse and buggy days. Val Humphreys is the museum's curator and she invited me in the late 1990's to help her catalogue Lew's whips. We spent 3 days
cataloguing those whips! Most of those whips I remembered well from my childhood days when Lew would visit with his latest 'new' whip. Whips from one of the best old time West Australian whip maker's - Dean Davies - featured a lot in Lew's collection. Dean Davies made very neat well falling kangaroo hide stockwhips. I don't have one of his whips in my collection but I nearly got one in 2003.
So here's a typical collector's story. I was at a local Sunday morning swap meet and saw a saddler friend of mine. He had a stall of odds and ends and there in the middle of the table was an immaculate Dean Davies stockwhip. It was a 1/2-cane whip in saddle tan, original fall, original everything. Snowy had bought it ages ago and just hung it up - and he'd just sold it. He was holding it for the lucky buyer who was going to pick it up on his way out. I'd like to hear from anyone who has a Dean Davies stock whip.
Over the years I've been able to collect some very early Australian whips. They don't turn up often. Most get destroyed by grandkids I think - getting hold of grandad's old whip and flogging it's brittle leather out on the gravel. Sometimes you can get lucky at antique auctions and stores. I got an old Scobie stock whip that way. I visited an antique store near Claire in South Australia and picked up a very early example of Alec Scobie's work. I had a friend with me at time who had a soft spot for the Scobie whips (he already had a couple of them) - "Look what I just bought" - he nearly died. Page 173-175 of "The Stockman" published by Lansdowne in 1984 gives some background to Alec Scobie by RM Williams. Page 175 features a photo of a near identical whip to mine. That whip apparently has a shot loaded belly - mine is naturally weighted as far as I can tell - I don't want to crack it for fear of the old keeper failing. RM Williams wrote of the Scobie whips in "The Stockman" as heavy whips. "The handles were cane, and the keeper was attached with what became known as the Scobie hitch". If you look at the
picture of my Scobie whip (left) it has that keeper knot described by RM Williams. There is some conjecture whether that it's the keeper knot or the handle knot that became known as the Scobie hitch. Either way the the keeper knot is similar to a sliding knot woven out to 8-bights but with the 'bight' passes overtaken by two outer bights that cover 4 strands. The handle grip is quite short and the scobie hitch or pineapple hitch, what-ever you want to call it, is beautifully tied and shaped. The handle or crop is 20" long and naturally weighted. The 12-plait thong is a a reasonably large diameter with a shape that stays heavy for quite a way into it's taper. The thong's starts with a 6-seam herringbone, moving into a standard 4-seam herringbone after a few inches for the rest of it's 6ft.
The last whip I'd like to show off is an early 24-plait by Johnny
Cadell (left). Johnny Cadell made a lot of whips for RM Williams and is no longer alive. He made quite a few stockwhip/bullwhip hybrid whips similar to the old stockwhip of Tom's pictured at the start of this article. The thong is 7ft long and is likely not Johnny's work judging from the workmanship on this thong compared to others of Johnny's I've seen. Notice in the photo the 'speedo cable' stiffened section that starts just below the thong's keeper and ends 16" down at the obvious bend. This obviously dates the whip after the introduction of the motor car in Australia. Although the thong is 24-plait, heavily patterned, it's the 19" cane handle that makes this whip unusual. This handle is an excellent example of Johnny Cadell's talent. The keeper is attached with a small sliding knot expanded to 8-bights with a second sliding knot of two passes tied a few inches below the keeper - most likely covering the cane's natural node. The handle grip is a beautiful and stunning example of spiraling fish-scale braiding. It's particularly fine and neat and is finished off in a super fine pineapple hitch that's shaped and exaggerated like a light globe. The handle is 19" long and quite heavily weighted.
All these whips in their own way relate to whip making in South Australia. Each state in Australia has whip makers who have made and left their mark with their work. I picked these few whips from South Australia for no other reason than they were the first whips that caught my eye when I looked though my collection before I wrote this article. The fact that each whip tells it's own story based on where, when and by whom it was made is one of the fascinating aspects of whip collecting.
Collecting whips is a rewarding pastime. But don't be tempted to try out your latest find. Old whips are barely hanging in there at the best of times and will damage very easily.
Treat yourself to
the Whip Repair & Maintenance DVD or Video
for all the information you'll need to go about preserving old whips. If you have some old whips in your collection or are a whip collector and would like a link placed here for other collectors to contact you please contact me. If you want to see some more whips visit
Here you'll find whips old and new and of many different styles and origins. Another keen whip collector is
my friend Huk (Hukplanas@aol.com)
Happy whip collecting - I hope you save some old whips from extinction!
How to make simple target stand and more...
This article will help you make a simple target stand that will hold foam coffee cups for you to aim at. The stand's design is similar to the those used in Australian whip cracking competitions. It will hold two foam coffee cups horizontal - roughly at shoulder height. It is far from elaborate but it is effective, neat and can be made by anyone who has access to a hardware store and some simple tools.
The Australian Whip Crackers & Plaiters Association host competitions in most states of Australia, culminating in the National Titles that are held in New South Wales annually. In each of these events accuracy with a whip tested. It is scored on how accurate you are at aiming at ten foam coffee cups. There are five target stands similar in design to the one we're making. Each stand hold two cups and each cup is worth a maximum 3 points giving you a possible score of 30. See the
Whips Video for targeting and more about Australian whip cracking competitions. The scoring goes like this - a miss is zero, a hit is 1 point, a tear is worth 2 points and the cup cut cleanly in two pieces is 3 points. Do that ten times in a row and you get perfect score - but in the Australian competitions you must shoot at 5 targets with your left hand and 5 with your right! A 6ft stock whip is required and you toe a shooting line that is 8ft away from the base of the target stands.
You'll need a 1800 - 2000mm plus length of 25mm diameter hardwood dowel...similar to broom handle wood - just in case you have an old broom handle lying around that's not earning it's keep. You'll see from the photo there is a cross piece and an upright section of dowel. The cross piece is 500mm long. Depending on how high you want your stand to be, add this length to the hieght that suits you to calculate the overall length of dowel you will need. You'll also need a copper T-piece from the plumbing section of your hardware store. They are normally in imperial measure - you are after a 1" diameter T-piece. If you have access to a metal lathe you can ream the internal lips out. If not you'll need a round file with coarse teeth, a vice and some elbow grease. Work the internal high spots off with the file so the internal diameters are consistent throughout. Time to saw some dowel.
You'll need a wood saw to cut the 500mm long cross piece. I cheated and used a bandsaw. Cut into each end 10mm deep 3mm wide grooves - make sure they are square to each other so the cups are held in the same position. This is all that holds the cups in place and it is surprisingly effective. This also does away with pegs, clips and other target holding contraptions that can break off or worse - cut or nick your fall. Slightly round both ends with a file and sandpaper so there are no edges to give your whip's fall any grief. Slide the T-piece down the cross piece so it's
centered...measure both sides of the exposed wood from the edge of the T-piece to check this. Sliding it down should require a bit of effort, but it will be easiest if you 'corkscrew' the T-piece down. Line up the cup grooves so the cups sit downward. That's all that's needed to hold the cross piece in place - the 'round' dowel invariably is oval in it's cross section and it has a 'cam' effect of locking itself in one place, but not so tight a fit that the T-piece can't be pushed into place. The remaining dowel becomes the upright part of your target stand. I cut a 90 degree notch into the end that tucks into the T-piece so the maximum amount of dowel was forced in place (look inside the last T-piece hole -it will make more sense then). On a matt or similar, place the T-piece hole upward and tap the dowel upright in place with a hammer. It'll only go in so far and will be a very snug fit. Your nearly finished.
The base is the last thing you need to sort out. I used an old plough disc with a 1 1/4 diameter galvanised steel water pipe welded in the centre. It's probably a perfect a base as you can get. It's heavy, stable and the whip can lay over it without the risk of any damage. You could fashion a wood base, but I suggest you take the trouble to hunt down a bit of scrap steel plate or anything that is reasonably heavy and will lay flat with a low centre of gravity. You could even try the beach umbrella 'corkscrew' base that will let you twist the target stand into soil. Or drive a metal tube (that has an internal diameter big enough to accept the dowel) into your lawn in an appropriate place so it sits flush to the ground.
Anatomy of a Stock Whip:
a close look at how a stock whip is made...
This article will give you some insight into the construction of an old stock whip. The whip pictured is quite old, possibly dating back as far as the 1930's. This style of whip has remained unchanged since the depression years and is similar to those being made for some saddlery stores today.
The 21" crop is in 8-plait kangaroo hide, same as the thong and the handle knot is typical of these saddlery trade whips. It's a 3-bight 4-part Turk's head that is the fastest knot to tie on what is essentially an inexpensive whip. The keeper is a false keeper whipped in place with thread and has withstood a lot of hard work before succumbing. Notice the length of the keeper knot and loops - very long compared to the
fine tight keepers of trick whips that get made for
The thong was 6ft long and reasonably finely proportioned compared to the shape of thongs most of these whips came out with. It has a well folded keeper showing that it was made by good whipmaker who was still trying to make a decent whip despite the price he would have received for it. The thong terminated in 6-plait, down from 8-plait which is typical of these hard working whips. The wide strands taper a little, but no much over the entire length of the thong. This gave the whip more durability and also the plaiter some speed in manufacture.
Have a look at the leather foundation of the thong. It comprises of a simple 4-plait kangaroo hide core that extends 18" down the thong where the plaiting finishes.The core strands extend further down unplaited and are then tapered to give a little shape to the belly. This belly is covered by a chrome tanned bolster that measures near 5ft. The thong plaits to 6ft by using the two dropped strands from the 8 to 6-plait transition as the final part of the core.
Anatomy of a bullwhip:
A close look at how bullwhip is made...
This bullwhip was made to be sold in a saddlery store. Nothing
more, but none the less this article will give you some insight
into the construction of a simple bull whip. The bullwhip
pictured was probably made in the 1970's. It's not easy to date
- it's owner, Justin, wasn't sure when he got it and the style
is typical of a commerical whip plaiter's - a whip whipmaking
style that has remained unchanged since the depression years,
albeit in this case modified somewhat to make a bullwhip instead
of the usual stockwhip required by the saddlery retailers.
The overlay is in 8-plait kangaroo hide - a thick grey kangaroo
hide to give the whip some body and bulk. The handle knot is
typical of the saddlery trade stock whips. It's a 3-bight 4-part
Turk's head that is the fastest knot to tie on an inexpensive
bullwhip. It's style is what has evolved into the recognizable
Australian pattern bullwhip
- a reasonably light weight whip with slim tapering proportions.
The thong was 6ft long and reasonably finely proportioned
compared to it's heavier American style bull whip cousin. The
thong terminated in 6-plait, down from 8-plait which is typical
of these hard working whips. The wide strands taper a little,
but not much over the entire length of the thong. This gave the
whip more durability and also the plaiter some speed in
Have a look at the leather foundation of the thong. It comprises
entirely of chrome tanned bolsters and fillers that measure
different lengths with the longest tapering to 5ft, this length
includes the 11" handle section. The thong plaits to 6ft by
using the two dropped strands from the 8 to 6-plait transition
as the final part of the core. Little wonder the bullwhip's
handle/thong transition failed and became a hinge - no plaited
core here on account of the whip being made to be profitable to
the maker and affordable to the retailer to on-sell. The handle
is cane and tapers to a point where the fillers are cut and positioned
to bulk out the flexible part of the whip without a change in
History of the Bullock Whip
The first Australian beasts of burden were of course the
convicts and the threat of the cat was one of the convict's
'incentives' to perform. The bullock whip was the 'tool of the
trade' plied by the teamsters who ran bullock, horse, donkey and
camel teams in Australia. It was a whip somewhat essential in
managing these teams of beasts that provided the draught power for
the fledgling Australian colony.
Olaf Ruhen, in his book "Bullock Teams" remarks on how bullock
teams "shaped and built the colony. They carved the roads and
built the rail; their tractive power made populating the interior
possible; their contributions to the harvesting of timber opened
the bush; they offered a start in life to the enterprising
youngster"1. Further more, Ruhen makes the point that the cattle
that landed with the first fleet where not treated with the care
that you'd expect of animals that history shows were so crucial to
the development of the new colony. Cattle are not native to
Australia and while not all of the first fleet's cattle cargo made
the voyage alive, those that did were Australia's first bovine
According to accounts in David Blair's "History of Australia" the
first fleet brought on supplies and stock at Rio de Janeiro and
Africa's Cape of Good Hope 2. Heavy seas, along with poor on-board
conditions resulted in losses of the cattle. The actual losses of
cattle are not known. But what is known is that six cattle
including one mature and one young bull came ashore on the January
29th 1788 only to run away one week later.
It was at the Cape of Good Hope that the draught power potential
of the bullock team was observed by members of the first fleet 4.
Ruhen quotes first fleeter Judge-Advocate David Collins "It was
not uncommon to see twelve, fourteen, or sixteen oxen yoked in
pairs to a wagon and galloping through the streets of a town,
preceded by a Hottentot boy who accompanied them on foot,
conducting the foremost couple by a leathern thong " Ruhen also
quotes the first fleet's Surgeon-General John White "The heavy
draft work about the Cape is mostly performed by oxen," The
Surgeon-General elaborates later in the same passage on the use of
the whip", and with a tremendous long whip which, from it's size,
he (the teamster) is obliged to hold in both hands, manages these
creatures with inexpressible address". The Surgeon-General is
later quoted saying "This immense whip, the only thing with which
they guide the team¸ the drivers use so dexterously that they make
them turn a corner with the utmost nicety;".
So the bullock whip is clearly not a sole Australian invention. It
was ensconced in draught work at the Cape well before the white
man arrived on Australian shores. But this is not to say that the
bullock whip didn't evolve independently in Australia either.
Bullock teams referred to in the earliest of Australian writings
indicate not only the 'arrival' of the bullocky on the colonial
landscape, but also that of the bullock whip.
Most of the history of the Australian bullock teamsters is
unrecorded and lost. Yet a good deal is known of their habits and
exploits thanks to those who have taken the trouble to hunt down
these old timers of long ago and record their version of events.
Logically, the emergence of the bullock whip must coincide with
the 'arrival' of the bullock teamster. The "working bullock was
still unknown in Australia" 5. by mid-December 1792 according to
John Easty, a Royal Marine who left the colony then. Up to 1799
"there is no record of bullocks being used,"6 . Bullock whips are
pictured in a drawing dated 1799 ( see "Aust Legends", the book -
artist unknown). The drawing seems an accurate portrayal of a
colonial bullock team scene, complete with the two wheeled drays
drawn by two bullocks. So this is the earliest recording of
bullock whip in use in Australia - eleven years after the first
fleet arrived creating the colony.
Pictured is Bob Trickett, Western Australia's oldest bullock
driver. Bob's bullock whip is typical. A bush timber handle that
is 1ft taller than it's owner with a well crafted 4-plait
greenhide thong of 7ft. The thong has similar proportions to a
robust cowhide stockwhip thong. The second picture show's detail
of a sling of heavy cowhide tied the thong's keeper to a yoke on
the bush timber handle. The fall is 2 1/2ft long and often the
bullocky's didn't use a cracker. A prod in the ribs to relaxed
nearside bullock or a flick on the rump to a slowing offside beast
was all that was needed. The reach of the long handled bullock
whip let the bullocky communicate to his beasts while keeping a
safe working distance from his dray. Dangerous conditions and
situations would have been a daily occurrence and being run over
by your dray was a real possibility if you weren't paying
attention and more importantly couldn't communicate with the
bullocks out of harms way. Hence the need for the long handle of
the bullock whip.
There are other reasons for why the bullock whip looks as it does.
Nearly all bullock whips I have seen were made from cowhide. In
most cases the bullocky made his own whip. But old catalogues do
show bullock thongs being offered. It's likely the bullocky who
didn't want to bother making his own whips (or couldn't) bought
these thongs. Fresh cowhides weren't a problem for the bullocky to
come by and with a little bit of planning for future whip needs he
would have enough cowhide cured to make whips from when the time
There is an "Australian Bullock Drivers League" Inc. Their members
continue the traditions of the bullockies so as to preserve this
colonial heritage. Membership is by nomination by an existing
member and their contact details are as follows:
Australian Bullock Drivers League Inc
MR Rod Hutton
Eugowra Rd, Canowindra
NSW Australia 2804
1. Page 12, Olaf Ruhen's "Bullock Teams-The Building of a Nation"
2. David Blair's "The History of Australia" 1789
3. Ibid page 16
4. Ibid page 14
5. Page 3, L. Braden's "Bullockies" 1968
6. Ibid page 6
Special to The Monterey County Herald. A
volunteer finds himself drawn into the frenzied and captivating
world of high school theatre
By MARK SHULER
It's 7:55. Do you know where your shackles are?"
It wasn't my plan to be hard at work backstage on the opening
night of Aida, the musical at the Golden State Theatre in
Monterey. But here I am.
I head to the stage right entrances to inspect actors for
last-minute adjustments and notice costume pieces for quick
changes draped over every available railing, ladder rung or set
piece not used in the first act. Teenage actors spill out of the
downstairs dressing rooms to take their places for the opening
scene. Fly crews await cues at their stations.
I check the links and connections on the manacles that adorn a
row of Nubian slaves. A quick inspection reveals assorted
watches, rings and other anachronistic body hardware to be
removed and secured until after the show.
The music swells. The curtain opens revealing a lone figure of a
young woman on a museum pedestal who begins to sing.
After 35 years of teaching theatre arts to young people and
participating in countless live theatre productions, it didn't
surprise me that my services were needed beyond the sets I
agreed to build for this Forest Theatre Guild high school
musical spectacle. Nor was it unexpected that the additional
tasks demanded a commitment of long hours of concentrated
effort, displacing other projects in my already full schedule.
But I wasn't prepared for the magic.
It crept up on me while I focused on designing an improved catch
for a slave's shackle, crafting Egyptian weapons for a fight
scene, and teaching eager young actors how to use these props.
And during a tussle with the ancient fly system of this grand
old theatre, beautifully restored by its owner Warren Dewy, when
spirits of its early Vaudevillians seemed to hover in the air.
It moved stealthily as I scanned for potential problems in the
Then, in an unguarded moment, it swept over me. The realization
dawned that fate had transported me into something very special
About three weeks ago the time had come to construct sets for
the show, directed by Larry Welch, who had gathered a fine cast
of high school students from schools around the Monterey
Peninsula and Salinas. I recognized some of these as my former
The sets were designed by Gabrielle Wolodarski, a recent
Monterey High School graduate herself. The work was simple
enough: study the designs and build the set pieces, transport
them to the theatre and make sure they work right -- and that's
it. Then off to other pressing work.
Not so fast!
No sooner was I out the door to begin my next project when a
call came from Aida's stage manager, Valerio Biondo.
"I hear you do swords," he says. "We need six Egyptian swords."
"Well, I have not made Egyptian swords for the stage but show me
a photo of one and hum a few bars..." I mentally recalibrate my
schedule to fit in the design, cutting and finishing of the
The next day Valerio casually asks, "Can you throw in an
authentic-looking Egyptian dagger?"
"Yes, I suppose so." Again, I mentally tweak my schedule.
"Oh, while I am on the subject, we need seven sets of shackles
that hook into a chain," he adds.
My other work gets pushed back another day.
"Ahhh... and one other thing. I hear you know whips. We have a
character that has to crack a whip."
"Yes, yes, I can help you out there."
The simple set-building and load-in job was morphing into a much
bigger assignment, including the design and execution of some
fairly eccentric props. It also became clear that these young
actors would need teaching sessions on their use. The shackles,
swords and daggers turned out well, save for some initial
glitches. The prototype manacles were tested and held fast,
until the Nubian slave girls dropped their arms to their sides
and they fell off their wrists, clattering on the floor. It can
be an embarrassing moment when the manacles of captured slaves
fall off on stage.
Another request came in for three spears, and my skills as a
stage combat consultant were needed to assist with the
student-choreographed fight scenes.
While working on my expanding cluster of tasks, I noticed
something amazing occurring visually as Gabby painted some of
the largest canvases I had ever seen. Extraordinary images of
pyramids, exotic Egyptian landscapes, tomb walls covered in
hieroglyphs and a magnificent royal palace were emerging from
the brush of this exceptional young theatre artist.
The Golden State Theatre, like most halls, presents unique
challenges to the production crew. My help was solicited in
erecting the set and securing the canvas drops into flies --
some of which apparently had not been used in many years. During
a quiet moment in the theatre, the actors, dancers and singers
of a bygone era seemed to be whispering of their glory days. I
wondered when the last fully flown theatre production had taken
place in the hall.
More elements began to come together: the music, costumes, sound
and lights. The show was ready. Opening night was nigh. Soon the
fevered work would be over and my life would get back to
But executive producer Hamish Tyler had other hopes.
"Mark, we could use your help backstage during the show," he
said. "Can you fit this into your schedule?"
"I'll have to look at my schedule and can't make guarantees, but
I'll see what I can do," I said. I did a quick inventory of the
next three weeks' commitments, and said, "I can make some of the
And so I found myself backstage on opening night. Actors are on
stage, music is rising, shackles and swords are clanking, whips
are cracking and the voices of young actors are projecting out
over the audience.
The bubble of backstage energy has moved on stage, and I have a
brief moment to myself. Some concerns arise about the set -- and
my commitments. Then I look out onto the stage and see the
creative life force of live theatre happening.
I am no youngster to many aspects of performing and theatrical
enterprises, having been involved with hundreds of productions.
With this production, however, I was watching the evolution of
professionalism and heard my teachings spoken and owned by these
young people, who choreographed their own sword-work and crafted
other moments of action on stage.
I watch these young performers sing their hearts out and glance
upward into the 80-year-old fly loft. I swear I feel the smiling
spirits of young performers from the Depression era --
performers who would later become the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee,
Bob Hope and June Havoc -- who visited this stop on the circuit
many years ago, and also poured their hearts out to appreciative
So along with the spirits of the actors and stage hands of the
'20s, '30s and '40s, this child of the '50s and '60s witnessed
the torch being passed to a new generation in a new century,
soon to step forth into the world of adults. Some of them are as
capable, and as seriously devoted and committed to their craft
as any of my compatriots of years gone by. I feel honoured and
blessed that fate drew me into the heart of this amazing moment.
Mark Shuler is a professional educator and psychotherapist. He
resides in Carmel CA, USA.
Engaging An Audience:
Strategies that work...
Performing an art to entertain people is very rewarding. You
will learn how people react, behave and how to deal with that.
Most people start off doing a magic trick for their peers or
friends and discover what it feels like to have success at a
You can easily get hooked on that feeling. You think you can
take on the world and then you get your first booking for
strange people you don't know. You discover that these people
don't like your tricks or comedy and you go home not so happy.
So what did you do wrong? Your friends liked your jokes and tricks!
You've just discovered that performing for people is an art.
Performing for your friends is easy - they like you so they will
be nice to you. But when performing for money you have to
entertain them and this is a different business. So what can you
do to make your show successful?
Know your art by off by heart:
You have to be able to do your art on automatic pilot. So if
you are learning a new lasso trick and you've nearly mastered it
- it isn't ready to show to the audience. If you use jokes
- learn how to
tell them. Telling a joke in a bar is different. Learn also when
to not say too much or too little. Know your performing area. Know
how many steps you have to do. Know where your props are and
where you put them so you're ready. If you use music know every
beat. It will happen that you make a mistake so if you know
where you are in the music you can pick it up and keep the pace.
Know who you are. Understand what kind of humour you have.
Learn when you tell a joke why they are laughing. Is it the way
you said it - the speed- intonation. If you know this you can
then focus on jokes and tricks that suit your personality.
The show must build to a finale:
If you picture your show like a wave, the ideal wave is going
up. If it goes down you are losing your audience. So a show has
to build (as we say). How do you do that?
Make it more interesting. More visual, more comedy, more
interaction - more more more. Start low and end high. Keep your
best tricks to the end. It can happen that a trick that people
like most is an easy one for you. Difficult tricks may not
impress people. Perform what people like and they will connect with
you. Also know when to stop. An example - a young magician walks up
to an older professional magician and says "I know 10 card
tricks and you?" - the professional replies "8 - but I make a
living out of it". The older magician knows those 8 tricks so
well and how to entertain with them. And he's not going to do
more tricks when he knows the audience had enough.
Robert Blake is
professional magician from the Netherlands. He has over 24 years
experience in magic comedy, interacting with audiences over the
years through street and kid's shows, table magic, trade shows.
Interests = bullwhips, lasso and of course - magic.
picked the wrong guy"... The Sun-Herald
A marauding gang of teenage gatecrashers got
more than they bargained for when an angry householder used a
whip to eject them from his 16-year-old son's party.
Dion Driman pulled out a South African sjambok when more than 30
youths attempted to storm into the party at the rear of his home
at Wahroonga in Sydney's north (NSW, Australia).
Now he may face police charges for using excessive force to
drive the youths from his home last Saturday night.
"I told them it was a private party and to clear off but this
big youth put his face right into mine and said: 'make me',"
said Mr Driman, 46.
The South African electrical contractor said he had "sensed
trouble" when he saw the youths outside and had armed himself
with a decorative sjambok from inside the house.
The gang split into two groups and entered the house at the
front and side, kicking a screen door off its hinges in the
process. Mr Driman, the only adult at his son's party,
confronted the ringleader as he came around the side of the
"As I tackled him, six of them came over the top of me. I
received a big hit to the side of my head," said Mr Driman. "It
happened really quickly."
His son Brennan said: "There were six or seven really big, buff
guys on top of my dad, hitting him. I had to try and pull him
As he got clear Mr Driman started using the sjambok - a 1.5metre
plastic whip like the traditional rhino hide whips used by South
"I am certainly not a hero. I just defended my property and my
son's friends. There were a group of 15-year-old girls there
too," said Mr Driman. "These guys were much bigger.
"People have had enough. This gang has been terrorising people
whose kids are having parties for months now. Somebody needed to
stand up to them."
Brennan added: "I know that if Dad had not stood up to them they
would have completely trashed the house and stolen anything they
could get their hands on."
None of the youths could be identified and so no charges were
laid. Hornsby police were called to the incident and are
understood to be considering whether the force Mr Driman used to
protect his home was excessive.
NSW Police could not comment on the incident yesterday but a
spokesman told the local paper Mr Driman had the right to defend
himself - the question was whether he had used too much force.
"All I would suggest, if a situation arises again, leave it to
the police to handle," he said.
Mr Driman remained unrepentant: "I would gladly do it again.
They picked on the wrong guy," he said.
Whipped Into Action... a tribute to Murphywhips
By Mal Function... the Poet Larrikin
Owned a whip last century, when I was just a kid,
Got the thing one Christmas... it musta cost a quid,
In no time at all, I taught meself to crack it,
An' was ushered from the house, for makin' such a racket!
I really loved me whip, an' that's for bloddy sure,
But apparently me mongrel dog fancied it much more...
One mornin' as me Mum was inspectin' me for nits,
The flamin' dog, he found my whip, an' chewed it all to bits!
Well, the years rolled on an' on, all busy ones, lets face it,
Till slightly shy of fifty years, I decided to replace it...
So I chose a whip, a Murphy whip, I had to have the best,
A four foot snake, a Murphy whip, from over in the West!
I took it in my hand... told the Missus to step back,
As I prepared to demostrate that I still had the knack...
The Missus stood in silence, in the corner of the kitchen,
To crack me whip, me Murphy whip, I was downright itchin'!
The Missus gave a squeal as the light shade hit the deck,
An' shards of broken glass showered down me neck...
Me brand new whip, me Murphy whip, hadn't caused much harm,
Other than a bright red welt, the full length of me arm!
I practice in the yard now an' sometimes make it crack,
Other times I'm forced to wait... until the skin grows back,
Me trusty old Akubra hat now sports some extra creases,
I'm hopin' I regain the knack, before I'm thrashed to pieces!
Whether it's all in the wrist, or whether it's all in the
It sure can make those hecklers sit an' listen to me rhyming!
Yeah, I love me whip, me Murphy whip, I had to have the best,
It's a four-foot snake, a Murphy whip, from over in the West!
About the Author's work
Mal's books "Bull on the Backroads" and The Great Deciding
Range" are still in print
and contain over 50 originals by the Poet Larrikin himself...
long, short and tall stories...
All rhyming, all humorous, and all yours for $AUD23 - includes
postage inside Australia,
call Mal for overseas purchases on +613-5997-1314.