Get Cracking

Ever since watching Indiana Jones, Zorro, Catwoman, and others crack a bullwhip on film, I’ve wanted to try my hand at it. An episode of the podcast Galactic Watercooler sent me over the edge last year. In episode #208, the crew interviews David Morgan and his son Will, two of the world’s most famous whipmakers. You might be familiar with David’s work, as he made the whips for the Indiana Jones movies. The crew also learns to crack a whip, under the tutelage of co-host Sean’s father, Bwana. After listening to that ‘cast, whip cracking never seemed so possible.

A week ago, I received my first bullwhip. It was a gift from my father-in-law, someone who shares my interest in things that make loud noises. Ostensibly, it was an anniversary gift, but I think he was just looking for an excuse to give it to me. Of course, I immediately started using it.

The whip, pictured above, is an eight-foot Indiana Jones-style leather whip. I’m told it was about $80. It came from its eBay seller with a page of care instructions and a small jar of Pecard’s leather dressing. The whip came with a large black cracker, seen in the pictures above – it’s a the tassel at the end that’s responsible for the loud noise when the whip is cracked.

As a started practicing, I noticed that the cracker had a tendency to slide off the end after a while. No matter how many different knots I tried, I couldn’t get it to stay on, and eventually I lost it in the grass. After a little online researched, I figured out how to make my own crackers. I picked up a $2 spool of nylon upholstery thread from Walmart – white, to make them easier to see if they happen to slide off again. These homemade crackers actually sound better and crack easier than the one that came with the whip! I have my suspicions that it was designed more for display than actual use.

My whip is what’s referred to as an “Indy on a budget” whip. Despite the $80 price tag, it’s bargain priced compared to a $800 David Morgan. However, as YouTube whip guru Adam proves, the “Indy on a budget” whip is actually a quite versatile companion:

I haven’t quite reached that level of skill yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve mastered the cattleman’s crack, the most basic crack, and I’ve pulled off an overhead crack a couple of times. I’ve even tried hitting a couple targets with mixed success.

The most interesting thing for me – besides peoples’ reactions when I tell them about my new hobby – is how much fun it actually is. Even though I know I’ll probably walk away with a few welts, I look forward to going out and practicing. I certainly don’t plan on running of an joining the circus, but I think I might dress up as Indy for Halloween!

I figure now my whip needs a name. Any suggestions?

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About Jonolobster

A self-described "nerd in progress," I geek out about: sci-fi, comics, history, politics, food, entertainment news, cats, and alliteration. A beleaguered blogger, I boldly bloviate between bouts of boredom, buck blandness and blockages, and bombard the blogosphere with blasts of blazing braggadocio.

Posted on August 8, 2011, in Hobbies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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