Willow Street man makes award-winning sporting whips; see one in action [video] | Entertainment

It takes a steady hand, a knack for code breaking, infinite patience, and just the right tension and strength to become an internationally acclaimed whip maker. Just ask Evan Fava, of Willow Street.

“Making whips takes a lot of patience and hard work, but it’s extremely rewarding,” said Fava, whose brand is EF Whips. “When you make something by hand and it works — and works well — it’s like ‘Wow!’ ”

Most of Fava’s customers are whip cracker enthusiasts and sportsmen seeking high-quality whips, like professional whip cracker Adam Winrich, a 23-time Guinness World Record holder. 

Fava also makes custom collector whips. According to Fava’s website,, any type of whip with at least 24 strands is considered a collector’s whip. This functional work of art will take hours or days to design and days to plait, or weave an intricate pattern. 

All that labor is reflected in the price tag. A collector’s whip starts at $1,200, while an Australian kangaroo bullwhip starts around $400. 

There are six main types of whips, each with its own style and utility: the bullwhip, snake whip, signal whip, stock whip, cow whip and the bullock whip. Fava favors stock whips as they are lighter in weight and thinner. 

“The hinge allows you to do things easier than you do on a bullwhip,” he added. The hinge makes more hairpin loops easier, he says, which means more whip cracks for your buck.

Whipping up a business

Fava grew up in West Chester, Chester County. When he was 13 years old, his family traveled to Australia, unleashing his lifelong interest in and appreciation for its cultures. His fascination shines through in his tight Australian stock whip creations, which are used for herding cattle as well as whip cracking sporting events.

Fava started whip-making in 2009. For many interested in whips and whip cracking, movie heroes like Indiana Jones piqued their interest, but not for Fava. As an adult, he heard a whip crack at an event, followed the sound and watched in awe as the whip cracker threw long, graceful whips. He was hooked. 

“My genius mind goes, ‘I like it and don’t have the money to buy one, so I’ll make one — and buy all the tools,’ ” he says.

Fava says has always enjoyed making things with his hands, including surfboards and skateboards. With each whip, he says, he got better and better. These days, a basic eight-plait whip takes Fava eight to 10 hours to complete.  

After hours of YouTube videos and picking the brain of his friend and mentor Peter Thorndike in Australia, along with years of practice and experience, Fava became “self-taught” in whip-making.

Detailed patterns

A well-made whip can last for generations. Fava uses kangaroo leather because it is highly suitable for whip-making due to its high strength-to-weight ratio. The strength of kangaroo hide allows for even the finest of strands to be properly stretched before plaiting. 

“Kangaroos [in Australia] are like deer are here, and harvesting them is highly regulated,” he said. “K leather” is nearly three times as expensive as cow leather, but well worth it for Fava’s functional, durable pieces. 

A tanned kangaroo hide is only about 3 feet long, so Fava carefully hand cuts his strands in a circle. Then, they are stretched and trimmed to a tapered point. It’s an exact science, as the strands must lay flat and taut in the plait. 

“That’s where the feel comes in — you have to have the right tension,” he said. 

The completed whip must be durable and flexible, with a languid tautness the whip cracker can harness with a flick of the wrist. 

“The core and initial taper are the foundation — if it’s not perfect, the error will exaggerate” as you build the whip, he explained. 

Fava said each of his whips are unique, unless the customer wants a set — which an ambidextrous performer may want. He said he comes up with something slightly different every time in the design.

Patterns can be created, downloaded and modified for a client. That’s where the code breaking comes in. If you can make sense of u3o4u1o1u1o2, whip making could be in your skill set. Here’s how to decode this plait pattern: u stands for under, o stands for over, and the numbers refer to specific strands. 

What causes the ‘crack’

According to Scientific American, it was long thought that the sharp sound of the whip crack resulted from the tip of the whip traveling fast enough to break the sound barrier. 

But a couple of scientists from the University of Arizona discovered something else. 

“The crack of a whip comes from a loop traveling along the whip, gaining speed until it reaches the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom. It’s the loop itself that generates the sonic boom,” they said. But the cracker, or tip, at the end of the whip is no slouch, either. They found the cracker can reach speeds more than 30 times the initial speed of the whip. 

Australian stock whips have five main components: the stock, or handle; the keeper; the thong; the fall; and the cracker. The handle is a pivot point for the thong, so the whip can be used from any angle or direction. The stock whip is accurate, lightning fast and provides a thunderous crack. It is the perfect whip for the snappy, complicated routines created by competitors, as well as two-handed whip cracking competitions. 

“Stock whips are measured by the braided part, not the handle, fall or cracker, as those are detachable and replaceable,” Fava explained. “Measuring the length is the plaited work that goes into it.” 

Fava said sport cracking held steady during the pandemic. The annual event in Los Angeles for whip crackers and whip makers has “drawn attention to the sport and the craft,” he said.

That’s another good reason to get cracking. 

Willow Street man makes award-winning sporting whips; see one in action | Entertainment Source link Willow Street man makes award-winning sporting whips; see one in action | Entertainment

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