This whip has a beautiful silver handle & collar, decorated with cast coiled serpents.
Unfortunately the covering of the shaft or stock has suffered some damage. Looking on the bright side – this does let us look at the construction of an antique whip.
The body or core of the whip is made of whalebone or balleen. This material is not actual bone but comes from the fibrous plates in the whale’s mouth, used for filter feeding. Whalebone was used for many purposes before the advent of plastics & fiberglass, because it was strong and flexible. Hopefully the images at the end of this blog show its layers or lamellae.
This core was wrapped first in thin paper (sometimes newspaper was used, which can be useful in determining the age of the whip ) . A layer of braided material would cover the paper – the imprint of this can still be seen on the paper. The braided material could be catgut, linen or more whalebone.
The grip of this whip is covered in braided whalebone – I believe this whalebone was cut into strips and steamed to make it flexible enough to be braided, similar strips of whalebone were also used on violin bow lapping.
Special looms were used to create the tubular covering, unfortunately not many of these survive, so I am looking into ways to get the whip re-covered.
Detail of whip showing exposed balleen and paper