Introduction: Making a Paracord Whip
There are many kinds of whip, but the most popular for sport cracking and target cutting are the Australian Stockwhip and the Bullwhip.
This is a 12-plait, 6-foot stockwhip with an 18-inch, 16-plait stock. Lengths are in American customary units, since for some reason whip lengths are measured in feet and it was easier to do all the calculations for strand drops in inches because of this.
I am also including instructions on how to make a 6-foot Bullwhip and a 6-foot pocket snakewhip. Since the differences lie in the handles the second two whips will merely show what is different from the stockwhip.
This is an advanced tutorial. I will show several complex knots and methods for creating fancy patterns on the stock. The reader should have a knowledge of basic knots, such as the constrictor knot , the sheet bend , the wall knot, the crown knot, the blood knot, and the Spanish ring knot. I do assume a knowledge of plaiting (braiding) terms, and knowing how to plait (braid) will be helpful, though I do describe all over and under patterns. Explaining the tying of Turk's Heads and Globe knots would take up far more space than is available in this tutorial, so if you wish to use them I suggest KHWW.net's Grid Maker, the Turk's Head Cookbook, and the Globe Knot Cookbook.
I frequent the KHWW forum, and there are many helpful tools and articles on the site. The International Guild of Knot Tyers, of which I am a member, is also a good resource.
O1U1 Take the strand Over one and Under one other strand.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
About 170-200 feet of 550 paracord. (Buy extra, just in case. I can do it in 200, you will likely have more waste. 250-300 is a better amount starting out) 3/4 inch diameter hardwood dowel. BBs or very small lead shot. 5-minute epoxy. Bench vise (not shown). Artificial sinew, (not shown, Tandy 3609-00, $2-4) Electrical tape (not shown) A board & a hardwood or concrete floor for rolling the whip. Forceps/hemostats (RadioShack Cat#64-065, $10), Nippy Cutters (RadioShack Cat#64-064, $6), Micro torch (Frys #4039552, $15), lacing needle (Came with the globe knot cookbook, Tandy #1193-02, jumbo perma-lok needle works well), and rigging knife (any marlinespike will do, this knife is from Rough Riders, and the spike doesn't lock properly, but it's about $15 and works well otherwise.) Scissors can also be used. It is better to use a candle to heat-seal the ends of cord than to use the lighter directly. Especially a micro-torch like this thing, since it can melt copper. You are MUCH more likely to burn your fingers trying to mold the molten nylon than with a candle. The torch is just good because it can aim a flame straight down and still melt cord, which comes in handy when dropping strands.(Optional) The globe knot cookbook set, by Don Burrhus. It is available at http://www.knottool.com . This is used if you want the "globe-knot-on-a-post" end, the Little Lump Knot end does not require this.
I get my paracord from supplycaptain.com .
Bullwhips and snakewhips will use the BBs. Stockwhips and bullwhips will use the dowel.
Step 2: Making Pointed Ends for Fancywork
When sealing the ends, it is often best to make it pointed, for easier threading in a needle:
Diagonal cut paracord is much easier to thread into a needle: 1) Pull the sheath back an inch or two, and cut off all the strands. 2) Push the sheath back out, beyond the strands. 3) Cut the sheath at a diagonal, as shown. 4) Heat seal the end, just enough to keep the diagonal cut. Cutting the inner strands back like that makes sealing in general much neater.
Step 3: Prepare the Handle
For a stockwhip, cut a length of dowel about 18 inches long, and sand a groove about 1/2 inch wide 1/2 inch from one end of the rod.
For a bullwhip, cut a 9 inch dowel length, drill a hole about 3/8 inch diameter down into the center for about 3 inches, and taper the end with the hole. The smoother the taper the better. I use a belt sander clamped upside-down in a vise to make the taper, a lathe would probably be better.
For a snakewhip, make 2 lengths, 3 feet and 1.5 feet, of "ballcord" by cutting a length of paracord, removing the inner strands, putting the end of your marlinespike into the cord, and heat-sealing the end open. Then, one at a time, feed BBs into the hollow cord.I push the BBs in with a long, thin steel rod. One can also push the BB in with the spike, then hold the cord between the spike & the vice and pull the cord to force the BB down.
For the bullwhip, you only need to make about 12 inches of ballcord. Coat 3 inches of it with epoxy, put some epoxy into the hole in the handle, and push the cord into the hole. Let it dry. This must be secure for a proper whip.
For either bullwhips or stockwhips, to improve strength and durability it's best to have a metal rod inserted through the center of the dowel. This requires either boring a hole through the center with a lathe, or splitting the rod, carving a channel in both sides, and gluing it back together. Since this requires additional tools (lathe or precise saw) (or buying a pre-made handle) I have left it out. It won't significantly affect the performance of the whip, but will require a bit more care in handling. If someone steps on the stock it might break without the reinforced handle, so don't leave whips lying around (not that you should do that anyway.)
Step 4: Prepare the Core
For the stockwhip, cut 4 strands of paracord, and heat-seal the ends: 1x 72" 1x 54" 1x 36" 1x 18" Bind the 4 strands together with sinew, starting with a constrictor knot, binding tight for about 2cm/1 inch, then loose out to nearly the end of the short strand, then back up and finish off tight w/a constrictor.
For the bullwhip, cut 3 strands, 1x 63", 1x 45", 1x 27". Bind them to the ballcord sticking out of the handle, and tape the binding point to the handle.
For the snakewhip, cut 2 strands, 1x 72", 1x 54". Use the 2 pieces of ballcord and bind just as in the stockwhip.
Step 5: Belly Plait Start
Cut and gut 4 strands for the belly, sealing the ends with a candle. 2x 128" 2x 160" Start with a diamond plait.
Step 6: Attach the Belly to the Core
Lay the core on top of the belly.
Cross the "top" strands of the belly, then O1U1 pattern back to their respective sides.
Keep repeating this until there are 6 crossings.
Then flip the whole thing over about the long axis of the whip.
Step 7: Plait the Belly
Around the back, Under 2, Over 2.
Do the same on the other side.
Bind the end with the diamond plait in a vice so you can pull the plaiting tight. Pull tight, then do the U2O2. Pull tight, plait loose. It's much easier and will give you a better whip than trying to pull tight after plaiting a strand through.
Step 8: First Strand Drop
After 1.5 ft, drop 2 strands to a 6-plait. Take 2 strands, wrap them a bit around the core.
Then cut them off and seal them to the core.
Step 9: 6-plait
6-plait is U2O1 on each side, the U1O2 on each side. Continue this for 18 inches.
Step 10: 4-plait
Now we drop to a 4-plait.
This is easy, just go O1U1 on both sides.
Continue for another 18 inches, cut off all the cords, seal the ends, and bind them to the core with a constrictor knot in artificial sinew.
Step 11: Belly Plait Complete
The belly is complete, but probably a bit lumpy.
Now roll the whip on a hard floor under a board. Get the strand drops to taper smoothly.
Step 12: Tape Bolster
Wrap the first 18-20 inches of the belly tightly with electrical tape. Roll it again.
I've attached pictures of the finished 8, 6, and 4-plait braids.
At this stage I like to make a popper & tie it directly to the end of the belly, then try to crack it. It should give a slight pop, and a nice smooth roll-out. A reasonably good whipcracker will be able to tell if there are any errors, even if the belly alone can't be cracked (though it should optimally be crackable.)
Step 13: Making a Fall
Make a fall. Take a piece of paracord about 36" long, gut it, and make a hole just off-center from the middle with a marlinespike.
Then thread the end through the hole using a threaded needle.
Until you have about a 3/4" diameter loop.
And then cut the end off where both strands are still present, and heat seal it all together.
Step 14: The Overlay
For the overlay there are 12 strands total, so 6 strands folded over. I don't fold them in half, that wastes cord when dropping strands. Instead I chose how many strands will go all the way to the end (usually 6 or 4) and figure out the length of the side strands. 6*12*1.75 (1.75 is a reasonable "safety" margin for the extra amount taken up by plaiting) = 126" long strands. Accounting for strand drops every 18": 2x 158" (13'2") 2x 189" (15'9") 2x 221" (18'5")1 Find the "middles" (actually 126" from one side of each of the strands,) lay them out with 3 long sides & 3 short on the left, 3 each on the right, and start a 12-strand diamond. When using two colors make sure to have all of one color on one side and the other on the opposite side.
For a bullwhip I add 18" to all the strands to account for the thickness of the handle.
For a bullwhip or snakewhip I also don't plait a loop for the keeper, instead I wrap it straight onto the handle, just like when doing the belly.
For the stockwhip's keeper loop, start a diamond plait as before.
Cross the center strands of each side.
Bring them O1U1 to the outsides.
The new innermost strands cross and go O1U1 to the outside.
Repeat for the last 2 strands.
Now it's time to flat braid!
1 strand goes O1U1 to the other side.
The opposite strand goes U1O1U1.
Repeat 3 times.
And do the same for the other set of 6 cords.
Interweave the adjacent sets of strands, O1U1, being sure to preserve the strands own OU sequence.
One at a time weave the strands from the "upper" groups of cord through, O1U1.
Place the belly on the diamond.
And plait O1U1 for at least 6 crossings.
1 There are many questions about this bit, so I'll go into more depth about the math to find strand drop locations.
First, determine the length of the thong of your whip (for a stock) or the whole whip (for a snake or bullwhip.) Eg 6 ft.
Second, convert the length to inches (or meters to cm, if using SI units.) Eg 6 ft * 12 in/ft = 72 in.
Then add a "safety factor" to account for the spiraling of strands and the need of extra cord to pull on for plaiting. Eg 72 in * 1.75 = 126".
Then determine the number of strands in your overlay (Eg 12) and the number of strands you want to reach the end (6 is the maximum one normally wants, even on 14 or 16-strand whips.) Eg 6.
The remaining strands will drop in pairs, evenly along the thong. Eg 12 strands - 6 strands reach the end = 6 strands drop out. 6 strands / 2 (pairs) = 3 drops. So there will be 4 sections of the whip of equal length. 126 in / 4 = 31.5 in.
Subtract the length of the sections that drop. Eg 126 in - 31.5 in = 94.5 in. 94.5 in - 31.5 in = 63 in. 63 in - 31.5 in = 31.5 in.
Add subsection lengths appropriately. Eg each strand is paired with a full-length strand in a 12-strand whip, so 126 in + 94.5 in = 220.5 in. 126 in + 63 in = 189 in. 126 in + 31.5 in = 157.5 in. The numbers above are these, just rounded.
Example for an 8 foot, 16-strand whip:
Whip length: 8 feet.
Convert to inches: 8 ft * 12 in/ft = 96 in.
Safety factor: 96 in * 1.75 = 168 in.
16 strands in overlay, 6 strands reach the end. 10 strands must drop out, in pairs, at even intervals along the whip.
10 strands / 2 (pairs) = 5 drops. So 6 sections.
168 in / 6 sections = 28 in/section.
168 in - 28 in = 140 in.
140 in - 28 in = 112 in.
112 in - 28 in = 84 in.
84 in - 28 in = 56 in.
56 in - 28 in = 28 in.
Since we're folding the strands over instead of trying to secure the separate strands to the belly we add the whip length with safety factor in to the 6 shortest strands (3 shortest pairs).
168 in + 28 in = 196 in.
168 in + 56 in = 224 in.
168 in + 84 in = 252 in.
The remaining strands are dropping out before the end on both sides, so we add them in pairs, longest with shortest of the remainder.
140 in + 112 in = 252 in.
The final strands will be as follows:
2x 196 in (folded at 168 in), 2x 224 in (folded at 168 in), 2x 252 in (folded at 168 in), 2x 252 in (folded at 140 in).
Step 15: 12-Plait
Time for a herringbone plait! 12-plait is U3O3.
The pattern looks like the second picture when pulled tight properly.
Step 16: Dropping Strands in the Overlay
Proceed to plait for about 1.5 feet, you should be just about to run out of material from 2 strands. Use the forceps to pull them through the belly plait, cut them off, and heat-seal them down.
Step 17: 10-Plait
This gets you a 10-plait. U3O2, other side U3O2, back to the first U2O3, and the second U2O3.
U3O2 on the second side.
U2O3 on the first side.
U2O3 on the second side.
Step 18: Finishing the Overlay
After 1.5 feet, go to 8-plait. 8-plait is, just like in the belly, U2O2 every time.
Again after 1.5 feet, go to 6-plait. 6-plait is the same as with the belly. You should have 6 strands as you hit the belly. When you get to the very end of the belly slip all 6 remaining strands through the fall loop. Start half-hitching them in alternate directions, around all the other strands and the main part of the fall. After 6-8 hitches, cut & seal all but the bottommost strand. Take that one up through the fall, pull the fall down nice and hard, then cut & seal that strand as it sticks up out of the fall loop. Roll the thong under the board. Get it nice and smooth. If you pulled tight enough nothing should be loose.
The last three pictures show a 12-plait, and the irregularity of the 10 plait.
Step 19: The Stock
Now it's time to make the stock. Of course this section isn't used in a bullwhip or snakewhip.
Cut 2 strands 292" (24'4") long, one of each color. Fold them in half, then in quarters, and cut into 4 strands 73" long each. If you want a bigger safety margin, cut the initial 2 @ 340 inches (28'4"). Middle the strands, start an 8-strand flat plait. Continue this for the length you want the keeper, and fold them over the handle end that has the groove. Pretty much the same as making the loop for the overlay, just with 16 strands instead of 12. Plait a few inches of 16-strand diamond (over-1, under-1, all of 1 color on the right and the other on the left).
The easy way to do patterns is to wrap one color (the foreground color) all the way around the handle, evenly, covering the whole thing, (no gaps) and bind it at the other end.
Step 20: Bracelet Pattern
Then weave strands from the second color through. For me the first color was the black, the second the blue. You can, of course, just plait it and alternate strands. Use whichever method suits you, and make whatever patterns you like, the rest of this I show the wraparound method. When using that method it's best to make all the strands of the diamond plait emerge at the same "height" instead of in their normal diagonal. Weave the strands O1U1 with a lacing needle. The most basic pattern is the "bracelet". Go O4, then under 1.
Each successive blue strand goes under the next black strand and gets pulled up tight.
Step 21: Pattern Design
Now, you probably want to try fancier patterns than a bracelet. It's not that hard to plait nearly any pattern, it just has to fit a width of 16 strands. So draw that out on graph paper.
And draw a pattern. "Interlocking diamonds" is traditional.
You can design your own patterns. So long as they fit they will be possible to plait. So long as they repeat at multiples of 4 squares they will make "clean" rings around the handle. Here's a pattern I designed to show this, I've never seen it used or in any book.
Some patterns won't fit. I wanted to plait the IGKT's carrick mat logo, but the simplest version I could draw came out to 24 strands minimum.
Step 22: Pattern Implementation
So let's see that pattern I designed actually made. Pick a strand and thread it into a lacing needle, then bring it over 1 and under 4.
Next strand O2U1O2U1
O4U4 and you're done, just have to lock it in (with a bracelet, stairstep, or just the next pattern.)
Last 2 pictures are the pattern locked in with a bracelet, showing the diamonds and the dots.
Step 23: Letters
You can even draw letters. I only had space to make 4-square high letters, Ron Edwards provides a 5-square alphabet in "How to make Whips". This one is for the IGKT.
To draw letters, use the graph paper method to create the patterns for the letters.
Step 24: Finishing the Stock
I cut the strands a tad short, so my blue ends before the black. This gets an interesting effect, but requires a bit more work. Time to finish the stock then. First, paint on some white glue to the wood of the handle.
Then bind the base strands down to the glue with sinew. Glue the upper strands onto them, and bind those to the base.
Once the glue dries, cut the ends off and heat-seal them.
Feed the thong through the loop in the keeper, and the handle through the loop in the thong. We do this now to make sure it will fit, instead of after the globe-knot on the end...
Step 25: Globe Knot End (stockwhip)
If you have the globe knot cookbook and want to do a globe knot end (easier for a stockwhip) follow these steps.
Every stockwhip needs a knob. I use 2-part sculptable epoxy. It's a bit like sculpting bubblegum, but it has a working life of about 5-15 minutes and cures hard in an hour.
I make the knob as even as I can, about an inch across.
Then I tie a "globe-on-a-post" to it. 56ZQB works well. I used about 12 feet of paracord for the globe knot here, and left room to do an interweave with a 3rd strand.
I also tied a Spanish ring knot. Since 56ZQB would be very difficult to tie without a globe knot tool, and those are included with the globe knot cookbook set I'll not provide instructions on how to tie it unless Don Burrhus says I can, since I'd just be copying his book. Spanish ring knots are very common, instructions are easy to find.
Step 26: Little Lump Knot Handle Knob
Optional: Epoxy the start of the overlay to the handle (or core for a snakewhip) to help secure the knob.
Cut 4 6-foot long strands, and put them through the weave to get 8 3-foot strands attached to the handle.
Tie an extended footrope knot:
Start with a wall knot, let it hang down a few inches.
Take each strand O1U1.
Repeat, to extend the footrope knot. Tighten evenly.
Tie a double crown (a crown with pairs of strands instead of single strands) around the edge.
Tie a second double crown over the top.
Tie another extended footrope knot (wall, then O1U1O1U1.)
Using every other strand, tie a crown knot.
Take the strands from the wall and follow the "adjacent" strand down through the knot. It's pretty obvious which strand to follow in practice.
Take 1 of the four strands facing you, and take it U1O1 to the left of the strand facing away. Leave a loop facing you.
Take the strand facing away and take it over the previous strand, then U1O1 and through the loop. Pull somewhat tight.
Repeat with the other 2 strands, but since 2 have been done you go U1O1U1O1 and to the left...
Then over the previous strand, and U1O1U1O1 and through the loop. Pull tight.
Now take each strand and follow its adjacent strand until you would be tripling the knot. Take the strand U all and out the bottom.
Tighten the knot 1 strand at a time. Once tight I like to gently tap it with a rubber or rawhide mallet to even out any bulges. The little lump knot is done.
Tie ANOTHER extended footrope knot beneath the little lump knot. At the end, take the strands U all and out the bottom.
Tighten this. Cut the strands, carefully heat seal them (don't burn the knots or handle) and push them under the footrope knot with a marlinespike.
Step 27: Attach the Whip to the Stock
If you're making a stockwhip, you must now attach the stock to the whip itself.
Thread the keeper through the loop on the whip.
Thread the whip through the keeper.
Step 28: Finishing the Whip
Make a popper. Take two core strands about 1.5 feet long, clamp their ends in the vice, and twist them. Keep twisting until it starts to kink. Fold the thing in half, it should fold neatly. Tie a blood knot about 4 inches from the fold. Cut about 4 inches beyond the blood knot, and unlay the strands to make it fluffy.
Tie the popper on (use a sheet bend). I make my poppers from some of the spare core strands of the paracord.
Your whip is now finished.