There are several different sections to a bullwhip and each needs maintenance periodically, some sections more than others do. Here is a list and brief description of each section.
• Handle /Butt knot
• Wrist Loop
• Fall Hitch
• Popper or Cracker
• Ring transition knot
THONG – is the long leather braided section of the whip and should be tapered from the handle to the tip where it joins the fall, and it should feel firm never soft to the touch. The fall is attached to the end of the thong and accommodates the crackers.
HANDLE/BUTT KNOT – the average whipcracker holds this in the palm of their hand, it is a decorative but useful knob most times finished with a turkshead knot. This knot is used to evenly distribute the weight of the whip and to cover the leather or lead foundation of the whip.
HANDLE – this is not flexible like the thong, and the longer the handle the more leverage for cracking, making it easier to crack.
WRIST LOOP – is like an accessory, it isn’t a necessity but a great option. They are used more for security when using the whip and to hang the whip by when storing it or cleaning and conditioning.
FALL HITCH – is where the fall is attached to the end of the thong. If the braiding above the fall hitch becomes faulty, such as loose strands, your whip will not crack as well, if at all and if the strands are weak there is more chance of them breaking in this area.
FALL – the fall, which is at the end of the thong, needs to be replaced when it is becoming overly feathery or after every few practice sessions, and it should never become shorter than 18 to 20 inches. It can be easily replaced though not as easily as crackers.
POPPER/CRACKER - these are used attached to the end of the fall, to make the whip crack. They are primarily there to make louder cracks and to stop the fall from fraying as the fall will crack, contrary to certain beliefs. Crackers are easily replaced and should be done often as they take most of the battering.
RING/TRANSITION KNOT – this is a decorative turkshead knot it acts as the transition point between the handle and the thong and is often held in the palm of the hand by many whipsters. It basically serves the purpose of the transition between the handle and the thong, nothing else. They have been a major part of the bullwhip since the days of the wooden swivel handled bullwhips.
The usual measurement for Bullwhips is from the butt of the handle to the end of the plaited thong where it joins with the fall. The more plaits, or braids the handle and thong consist of, the better quality the whip. Whips come in various lengths ranging from 3 feet to over 20 feet. There are variations in the measurements, material and assembly between Australian and US made Bullwhips.