I remember the day I got my first whip ever delivered to me. Oh, I was so incredibly excited to make that first huge BANG! Actually, I made several huge bangs over the course of my first day. The louder and harder the better, I say! That is, until I looked down at my whip before finally going inside and I noticed a few things…
First, the beautiful smooth paracord was rough and really fuzzy from about the halfway point down to the end. The plaiting just before the fall hitching was gappy and pulling apart. The fall hitch itself had slipped down almost a full inch and was threatening to fall off the end of the thong completely! NOOO!
And this is where I learned the difference between use and abuse of a whip. The advice I give now, applies to any whip from any maker, whether its a $19 Ebay special, or a $1000 leather whip, you need to know some basic things:
- Never, EVER use your whip on gravel, sand, rocks, or pavement of any kind. Think of it this way, would you run sandpaper over your car’s paint job? Of course not. While there is a marked difference in the care of leather versus paracord, neither will tolerate harsh ground cover. Always use your whip on grass, soft snow, or even a smooth gymnasium floor if you are in a pinch to practice.
- Don’t crack your whip with all your might. We all love that big bang. I admit it. It’s awesome, but you shorten the life of your whip by leaps and bounds when you do it. Your whip will make a good, sharp snap when you execute the crack correctly. If you put every ounce of strength into making the loudest bang you can, eventually, (sooner more often than later) you will cause real damage. While this might not be a big deal with a 20$ cheap rope whip that you plan to throw away after day 1, it will hurt a bit when you decide to invest in a quality functional whip for $100.00 plus. My advice is, get the big damaging cracks out of your system with a cheap disposable before investing in quality. Damage caused by abuse is easily spotted by any whipmaker that puts hours and hours into their work and I guarantee, you will never be compensated for abuse.
- Don’t leave your whip in extreme conditions. While I try to formulate my wax to stay fluid in the cold, not all whips do well in extreme temperatures. Often times, it is best to allow your whip to slowly warm up to room temperature if it has been shipped in the cold or stored in the cold, before cracking it. On the flip side of that token, extreme heat can cause even more issues. Your whip is essentially plastic. This is something one should keep in mind at all times. Don’t set it on the hood of a hot car or lay it on hot asphalt, or have it near a fire. Since I don’t use heat sensitive adhesives, I’ve never experienced a problem with my own whips in a hot car, but I did have a whip made by someone else who had used hot glue to create the heel knot foundation, which I was unaware, and the hot glue had melted all over the seat, and ruined the whip. Also, keep in mind the wax will soften in that situation as well and can sometimes soak into the seat of a car. I would have a towel under your whip, just in case.
- Don’t hang from trees or swing from your whip. First of all, most whip makers don’t endorse trying to hang from their whip like Indiana Jones. Yes, a lot of paracord is rated for adult weight bearing. You might even pull off swinging once or twice, but I will not warrantee a whip of mine that has been damaged from swinging or hanging. It’s simply not good for the whip overall and, the customer could very easily get hurt. Please. Don’t do it.
- Hitting things. I need to elaborate and get a bit specific here because this is important. I wholeheartedly endorse target work, as it is specifically what I weight and balance my whips for, but falls and crackers are cheap and easy to change. There are falls and crackers specifically designed for cutting pop cans and the like. No problem! Thongs, however, are not made to hit with. When you hit things like trees and rocks with the body of your whip, you are causing damage to your whip.
- I absolutely do not endorse hitting anything alive. Please. Animals are helpless and innocent creatures and both they and people can seriously get hurt. These are not play whips. They will cut flesh and take out eyes. I do not make my whips with the intention of hurting anything alive. I only ask my customers to do the same.
- Owning a whip is like anything else, it has the potential to be dangerous. My whips are not toys. While they absolutely can be used by children under adult supervision, whips do have the potential to seriously hurt the user. *PLEASE USE SAFETY GLASSES. *BE AWARE OF WHO AND WHAT IS AROUND THE USER AT ALL TIMES. *USE EAR PROTECTION. *DRESS APPROPRIATELY IN LONG SLEEVES AND LONG PANTS. *USE COMMON SENSE AND BE AWARE. A whip should be treated like a knife or a firearm. All the safety rules apply.
So, what does a well used and not abused whip look like?
Below is one of my favorite whips. One of 3 that I use nearly every day. I love this whip, but I have never washed it, or wiped it down after use. This is a practice whip, not a show whip, so I admit I don’t take as careful care of it as I do my more elaborate and expensive whips.
***Please note that this is PARACORD. If you treat leather or roo like this, it is abuse. Leather and roo are completely different and will require a lot more attention than paracord. **
The whip above has been used for almost 6 months every day for about an hour a day. Notice the discoloration at the end. That is to be expected, especially if you use it in the weather. Grass stains, mud, etc. all contribute to this. The heel knot gets grimy and shiny. Sometimes it will look like it closes up. It’s simply because it is constantly turning in your hand where all the sweat and hand grime is. Notice the cord toward the end of the thong is kind of “fuzzy.” This is mild wear and not at all what you would see if it was used on gravel or asphalt. Depending on how many hours a day you practice, if you clean and dry your whip or not after each session, and what kind of cracking you do, you may experience more or less wear than this. This is simply an example of what I have.
To wax or not to wax…who cares?
Since I don’t deal with leather at all, I cannot give any advice as to the care and maintenance of a leather whip. I make mine from paracord. I won’t go into detail about my waxing formula as I had already done it on my practical whip page, but I do use a mixture of wax that not only protects the paracord, but has an antibacterial and will remain more flexible in cold weather, further protecting your investment. Paracord is, essentially plastic. This means that it will resist water, snow, and can be easily washed when in contact with dirt of any kind. It is all weather, and all season friendly and when you see that delightful puff of mist from the cracker of your whip when using it in the dew, snow, or rain, you will love having purchased a paracord whip.
You might ask, why do you wax at all, if paracord takes care of itself? A couple of reasons: It further protects the paracord with yet another layer of waterproofing. Really, water can’t soak in and hide under the sinew that is used to bind the inner bellies of the whip. It seals and protects the inner layers even more.
Also, it makes the whip even easier to clean and to keep clean. A little dish soap on a scrub brush and there will be less staining. Grass stains on a waxed whip are way more likely to be removed than grass stains on an unwaxed whip.
Lastly, waxing adds an overall subtle heft to the whip that can be beneficial to overall performance. This especially applies to the slower heavier style whips. Heavy whips are kind of, point and shoot whips. They are usually loaded, balanced, and a lot of extra time and calculating has been put into their construction to make them very precise and predictable. The waxing very often adds weight to the areas of the whip that the whipmaker can’t add subtle weight to, like the nose and fall area. Often times, without a good waxing, those areas will flip off to the side, or wobble a bit. The wax is kind of that last bit of alignment.
I hope this little section gives you an idea of what is meant by abuse of a whip as opposed to wear and tear, why things are done the way they are and to bring a little safety information to the mix. My goal is to bring a little common sense to the table, to clear up some myths surrounding whips and to reintroduce the sport as a family friendly means to relaxation, exercise, and fun.
I wish you well,