Cow leather - It's very popular, thick, reasonable priced. I can make few whips out of one piece. If you know how to work with this leather you can create beautiful whips. The main weekness is that I cannot make any whip with finer strands using the leather. It's too week for that.
Kangaroo leather - Very common among whip makers. It's very thin and very strong. Much stronger than a cow. There are two flaws that I find in this leather. First is thickness. Usually the leather is about 1 mm thick, so it can be very vulnerable for cuts, second is the price. It's about six times more expensive than a cow leather. At least in my country.
At the moment there are two common types of tanning.
Vegetable tanning - This method was used hundreds years ago. Tanneries are using barks and other natural ingredients to tan the hides. If not treated well it has very poor resistance for water. It's used mostly in soles and making stuff that is in constant touch with a skin, as it is not as allergenic as chrome tanned leather.
Chrome tanning - modern kind of tanning process. In my opinion the best for whips, as leather tanned this way is cheaper (it takes days to tan a full cow hide, not months), very strong if tanned properly and usually is more durable than veg tan. Also this method allows to create thousands of finishes.
Types of a whip
Stock whip - very popular type of a whip. It has an attachable long handle, and a light thin thong. In my version handle is usually 50 cm(19,5 in) long. In this kind of a whip there is always a visible joint between the handle and the thong.
Bull whip - This kind of a whip you saw in for example Indiana Jones movies or Zorro movies with A. Banderas. The handle it stiffly attached to the thong and the transition between them is hard to see. The handle is much shorter than in stock whips, usually about 20-30 cm (8-10 in). Sometimes handle is made out of naked wood, where the thong is attached to the and of the handle not braided over it.
Snake whip - here you will knot see any kind of a stiff handle. The whole whip is flexible. It's the least precise whip of all.
Signal whip - this kind doesn't have a whip fall. The cracker is braided into the braid, or the whip is finished with a tiny loop to which the cracker is attached. The rest is the same as in a snake whip.
Cow whip - this whip is a mix of a stock whip and bull whip. Long handle has a hole at the end to which the thong is attached. Thong has features very similar to the stock whip's, so it's thinner and lighter than the bull whip's.
Which whip to choose?
I will present you my (not the ultimate one) point of view about which whip will be the best for the concrete purpose.
Targetting - I would go with any stockwhip or a bullwhip with 30-40 cm handle. Heavy and very fluid in my opinion will be the best.
Two handed whip cracking - two 3-4 ft stockwhips. Light, fast with 40 cm handles.
Single hand cracking - a bullwhip with a short handle, I would go with 4 ft length of braid, or a stockwhip 3-4 ft long.
What does the length change?
Up to 4 ft in total, excluding a fall and a cracker - very fast whips, very easy to crack indoors.
Over 4 ft up to 7 ft in total, excluding a fall and a cracker - Easy to learn, not very fast whips. I reccomend those for a begginers.
Over 7 ft up to 10 ft - Such lengths allows to roll the whip beautifully and slow. For some it may be a little bit too long whip whip for whip cracking, but most people are using those without any problems.
Over 10 ft - very slow and heavy whips. In my opinion if you don't have any particular reason why you should have such a whip there is no point in heaving them. Yes, they look great when hanging on a hanger, or when rolling during cracking. But there is not much you could do with those.
My height and the length of the whip
Think about it as a proportion. The taller you are the easier it gets to operate with longer whips. My point of view is based 5 ft 6 in above the ground ;) so a 6 ft tall person will have different experiences when cracking the same whip. The best length for me in a matter of single handed whipcracking is 4-5 ft. Two handed 3-3.5 ft targetting - it doesn't matter, as it is not as dynamic as the rest.
Number of strands
Most common number of strands are: 4, 8, 12, 16. Why? First of all all these numbers can be divided by four. Second thing is that such number allows to creat a cheap or beautiful whip. 4 Will be cheap 16 is beautiful :). So you can buy a whip made with 24,36 or even 72 strands but there is only an artistic aspect in there.
Besides the price and the look, the number also changes the way the whip moves. The larger the number the more fluid motion of the whip. For me th best is 12 or 16 strands. But 8 or even 4 plait still will do the job.
Cheap, Standard, Classic, DeLuxe
I have divided the whips for four different categories.
Cheap whips - four strands whips. The guts are: a core, a plaited belly, a bolster and a top plait.
Standard whips - eight strands whips. The guts are: a core, a plaited belly, a bolster and a top plait.
Classic whips - twelve strands whips. The guts are: a core,two plaited belly(since January 2014; before than there was one belly), a bolster and a top plait.
DeLuxe whips - sixteen strands whips. The guts are: a core,two plaited belly(since January 2014; before than there was one belly), a bolster and a top plait.