I come from the UK generation that chose an apprenticeship before leaving school, nowadays your lucky to be even offered one, I chose brick laying after putting very little thought into it and was less than 6 months in before I regretted deeply my choice. I did have the sense to finish my apprenticeship just incase I ever needed to go back to it but left as soon as was possible and found myself working as a maintenance/repair man in a small factory.
The factory was on the river in the part of London where I was dragged up, opposite it was a chandlers and outside used to sit in the summer months an ex merchant seaman employed by the chandlers to do all the splicing and rope work for the yachting folks. I soon found myself befriending him and taking him in large bars of dairy milk chocolate that he took great pleasure from, in turn I learnt to tie monkey’s fists, various Turks head knots, how to splice, which is not much different from back plaiting, aswell as some basic round and flat plaiting.
Pure entertainment at the time and I guess a bit of boredom release for the pair of us, but a year or so of my young life that would later shape my life and give me a career that I am passionate about, I never lose sight of how lucky I am to love what I do for a living, I have my moments but never once have I dreaded getting up and going to work.
For the next few years I moved from job to job, mostly related to the building industry, I settled for a long while on window fitting and managed to make enough money to buy a house and eventually a small gymnasium that I ran as a business, somewhere along the way I had started weight training and ended up competing in bodybuilding contests at which I was quite successful, I had still managed to keep up plaiting as a hobby, I made dog leads, collars, key rings and that sort of thing, not a vast experience but as we say here in the UK *enough to keep your hand in*
One day out of the blue my life changed forever, into my gym walked Mel, I was smitten immediately and 2 plus decades later we are still together and I’m still smitten. She was at the time a purser for British Airways so only in the country 6 to 8 days a month, almost from day one I arranged my days off to coincide with hers and would often do a little trip with her to the Isle of Wight to visit her parents.
The Isle of Wight is full of Ramblers groups and before I realised it I was making walking sticks which were long poles a plaited handle and a couple of Turks heads with a wrist strap and at the other end a rubber ferrule, I made a lot of them and my plaiting moved on to being a part-time business rather than a hobby.
With the coming of the internet I was able to get in touch with various whip makers who had many years of experience and my business progressed and became full-time, Bernie Wojcicki was one, a real sad loss recently, may you rest in peace and happiness wherever you are Bernie, I can’t think there are many whip makers in the world that haven’t benefitted from Bernie’s knowledge and generosity, though some don’t admit to it, Chris Barr the worlds best plaiter and stock whip maker helped me lot’s too, as I type this today the 17th March 2016 I have been plaiting any tying knots some 32 years, that’s plaiting and tying knots, not making whips, I have been making whips commercially, i.e.:- selling through my web sites some 14/15 years now and prior to that 3 maybe 4 years word of mouth, unlike some whip makers those would be real years as opposed to dog years, and doesn’t include the time period from when I was a kid and made a whip from a string and a stick as my start time…sorry English sense of humour and good old scorn at some of the diabolical claims you can find on the net