So a question I get asked about a lot, and work that I do a lot of, its known by many names, Spiral Plaiting, Fancy Plaiting, Ring Work and Decorative Plaiting to name but a few, I call it Decorative Plaiting because that’s how it is referred to in all the Australian whip making contests, but I have also been known to call it ring work as this is how the late great Ron Edwards refers to it on occasion in his various books, Anyway these are my thoughts, they are gained from my experience and are not intended at anytime ever to offend any one.
So the most common question I am asked is by budding whip makers is how to do it, and how I do it, there are two methods, the conventional way where the strings are pulled through one at a time left to right, right to left alternatively, under however many over however many, then the other way is by spiralling all of one colour round the job you are plaiting then with the other half you are plaiting in a contrast colour you sew the patterns in….
This naturally leads to another question, which way is best? HaHa! now for one of those answers you dread when you’re new and don’t fully understand the craft, *Both* but don’t worry I won’t leave you hanging, I’ll address both.
The Spiral Method
So as explained above this is achieved by winding half the strings round the job your doing and then feeding the 2nd half of the strings through those first lot to create the patterns. As with both methods there are pro’s and cons, the good things with this method is it is much easier than the alternate string method, you can put it down at any time and come back to it and its also easier to keep things straight, like a lot of things folks have learnt this method from The Rod Edwards books and what he is talking about mostly is stock whip handle plaiting, not so good and not so easy on a shot bag thong that has some give in it, if you plait really high count then once you get over a 24 plait the spiral method is almost essential, the reason being at 24 plait your strings are ofter 2 to 3mm or there abouts at 32 plait or 48 plait or 64 plait then the strings are so thin that no matter how good a quality kangaroo red species hide you think you have you can and probably will break strings, a broken strand in a 12/16/20 plait whip is an easy repair and hard to spot if done correctly, in the higher plait counts near impossible. So on a solid handle like a bullwhip handle, a flogger handle or a stock whip handle, no worries.
On a thong it is in my opinion very different and I have seen lots of evidence its very different for other makers too. I’m not here to name names or put down other whip makers, that’s not what I’m about and the blog itself is about giving quality info for not only budding whip makers but also those that just have an interest. So on a thong that has give it is not quite so easy, usually folks just put in 6 to 12 inches at the start of the thong or just the handle and 6 ish inches after the transition on bullwhips, the reason being it is very time consuming and so to do it all the way down would take forever and need to be charged for. The way this is usually achieved is to tie your strands on down the thong the distance you are going to plait decorative from, you then plait a little herringbone down the thong and tie off then going upwards start your spiral method plaiting, the reason being it is so much easier to pull though 18 inches of string going up than maybe 6/8/10 foot of string depending on how long your whip is going down, that’s just common sense, this is where the problems can arise, often this method can create a patch of plaiting where you transition from that is loose and loose plaiting is very much your enemy it allows grit dirt etc etc to get into the core of your whip and once that has happened its a matter of time, almost like a ticking time bomb…I’ll use Fetlife as an example without naming names, there are many makers on there posting pictures etc and there is a whole plethora of whip users as you’d imagine, one maker in particular seems to be the darling of the crowd, I have only seen 3 bits of this makers work in hand, all bullwhips and all suffer the loose plaiting syndrome which is a crying shame as they are works of art but also nice throwing whips, there are a couple of others who i do know have had work sent back for the same problem so on a thong beware.
The Conventional Method
So again as above this is achieved by drawing strings left to right and right to left under and over, it needs more concentration and i guess for a novice it is harder to keep the patterning straight and you can’t just stop anywhere and come back to it, well I can’t anyway, it is one of those things that the more you do the better you get at it, until such times as you get to the stage where the plait count you’re doing is within your comfort zone then fixing mistakes etc is really not so easy, the big advantage of this method is that as you put the patterns in you are in fact able to keep the plaiting tight with the usual pull tight, plait loose method, no nasty grit and dirt working its way in.
Well that’s easy up to and including 24 plait I firmly believe that the conventional way of doing it is much much better, and over a 24 plait the only way to do it is the spiral method…that’s how I do it and why I use both methods, I guess that sucks a bit if you’re a newbie you’ll be needing to learn both ways.
So as an aside and it’s my blog so blow my own trumpet time, my prices on my site include the price of decorative plaiting I don’t charge extra for it the prices you see are the prices you’ll pay, thanks for reading I hope someone somewhere got something from reading…Take Care