As a vendor of leather goods, I am often asked many questions. We (collectively) do our best to educate and inform everyone who comes to see us in person, regardless of whether or not they plan to purchase. One of the most common ones I hear: What is the best impact implement?
That’s a tough question on a good day.
I’m a heavy thud gal all the way. One of my absolute favorite implements is one that I built that isn’t for sale – a 36″ bat padded with a special high-density foam and covered with leather. It’s a warm-up and a full scene all in one, no need to change implements. I’m happy as a clam. Want something a little smaller? An elk hide flogger is like a massage in my scene and that works just fine for me. This means that my “best” will often involve soft textures. I also happen to have an eye for high quality implements, so the ones I want will likely cost someone a pretty penny.
Are either of those “the best,” though? Isn’t that subjective? Who am I to say what is your best? I may love thud, but I have many friends and acquaintances who are not fans of thuddy impact at all. Some prefer sting, some love whips, and some have some interestingly specific dislikes of floggers due to the impact of many tails at once.
Unfortunately, given the lack of in-person opportunities we’ve had this year, much of the kink shopping in our local community has transitioned to an online model or local sales chat with contactless pickup. The obvious disadvantage is that as a consumer, we are often unable to fully examine our purchases in advance. Not knowing exactly what an item may feel like can discourage a more expensive purchase. Some have simply opted to avoid new purchases entirely after one experience of disappointment.
Rather than avoiding new purchases, education can provide valuable insight about what we intend to purchase to ensure that we are getting exactly what we think we are ordering. This can be very difficult without hands-on, but I will do my best to provide useful information.
Setting General Expectations and Goals for the Purchase
Are you seeking an implement for a specific body part? Implements designed for genital impact are often smaller and lighter than an implement designed for full-body use. If you purchase one of the smaller ones thinking it is for full-body use, you will likely be disappointed even if the item is of good quality and value for its size.
Do you want the tool to leave marks afterwards? Do you want the tool to not leave marks? Unfortunately for those of us who prefer the thud, objects which provide it will often be less likely to leave mementos. To make that particular quest even more challenging, everyone is a little different. What marks one individual may leave only light traces on another, or may fade by morning. If a Maker is guaranteeing an object will leave marks, be wary. Absolutes are always suspect.
What sensations are you seeking in this implement? Are you looking to obtain something soft that can be used sensually, such as things involving rabbit fur or vegan materials? Are you looking for a specific effect from impact? I tend to prefer breaking down the sting / thud generalization into one that is slightly more descriptive. We categorize things by including a light / heavy descriptor, so we identify them as light sting, heavy sting, light thud, heavy thud, and combination sensations. Therefore, if I am shopping for something I want to be hit with, I am going to avoid things which provide a heavy sting, such as heavier paddles or smaller diameter canes made from harder materials (delrin, acrylic, carbon fiber). Softer textures absorb those inertial effects and create more thud. I’d also avoid things with pointy tips, such as floggers tipped to points, cats with pointed tips, dragon tails, etc. Rounded tipped floggers are more my cup of tea, and I will avoid leathers with shinier / smoother finish. Those finishes will generally come across as stingy. I know that is a bit sad for us thud fans, since those pretty finishes may be metallic or patterned and promise lots of sad later.
Matching Expectation to Reality
Knowledge and information are your friends. Learn about the ranges of sensation available in an implement. Floggers tend to be thought of as thuddy in general, though a skilled Maker can build one in any of the sensation ranges I mentioned earlier. Smooth topgrain leather plus thinner falls (3/8″ for example) plus pointed or snake tips equals a stingy flogger that will welt as easily as a more solid cane. An elk hide flogger that has wider falls (5/8″, 3/4″ or wider), a naked topgrain finish, and is finished with rounded tips is going to produce a softer thud. Thus unsurprisingly, heavier, thicker leathers with similar treatments will begin to create heavier thud sensations. Length definitely matters in an impact implement. Longer flogger falls require a harder swing to keep the falls from separating prior to impact, thus transfer more force through the blow. Want one that is less likely to wrap at lower speeds? Look for shorter lengths, such as 15″ falls. Avoid lengths of more than 20″, since those will require more force.
Keep in mind that softer textures and impact surfaces generally produce thud – leather paddle, floggers with lots of falls, rounded edges made of softer more flexible topgrain leathers or of full or split suede. Harder surfaces and textures generally produce sting – canes, dragon tails, smooth paddles made of wood or acrylic, floggers with firmer, stiffer leather or smooth finished topgrain and pointed tips.
Before you buy!
You can learn a great deal about an item from its description. Is the description lacking? The person selling it may be a reseller rather than a Maker. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. If someone can’t or won’t answer, they may not be the right seller for you. If a flogger description indicates that it is 20″ in length, is that 20″ of total length or 20″ of falls? How long is the handle, how wide are the falls and how many does it have? What type of leather is it made from? Do they list the thickness (or weight) of the leather? Do they mention what type of sensation you may experience from the item? Details are your friend. One measurement and the word “soft” in a description which comes in at one sentence long is personally not enough information for me to give informed consent to an item hitting my ass.
Look for key words. Do they advertise “Genuine Leather”? This is often a term used for leather that is made of scrap which is ground and pressed together. It is still technically leather just as plywood is still wood, it is simply a lower quality option. Look for words such as: split suede – which indicates the bottom layers of hide have been split off; topgrain – which indicates the top layer and will have some type of finish, such as naked (super soft), pebble (textured but flexible); fullgrain – both topgrain and suede split leathers still combined, often thicker than either individually (still variances between animal types); corrected grain – topgrain has had the imperfections sanded off and then has been stamped with a topgrain finish, leaving a less expensive and slightly lower quality product, etc. If you don’t recognize a term, this is a good time to either run a quick google search or reach out to the seller and inquire. When purchasing wooden items, such as paddles, look for the type of wood. You don’t want thinner impact items made from softer woods, like pine or poplar. Hardwoods such as oak, maple, purple heart, and exotics are less likely to break and potentially splinter and cause some unpleasantness for the person receiving impact. The janka hardness scale can be a useful tool. Look for things with a hardness over a thousand, as a general rule.
Is it Artisan made? Is it mass-produced and available for resale on etsy for $20? A $20 flogger may well be worth what is being asked for it, but is much less likely to be tailored for a specific sensation preference, and likely to be made with lower quality materials and workmanship. I tend to advocate purchasing from a builder who is local, or if a local seller is unavailable in your area, from one who handcrafts their implements . Even then, however, levels of skill and workmanship will still vary greatly between craftsmen. If someone has a clear and reasonable understanding of the value of their work, and it is structurally sound, purchasing from them can be a viable option for those looking for implements in lower price ranges rather than from someone whose work may have more flourish and skill but be that much more expensive as a result.
The next thing to look at is workmanship. If the item features a braided handle, is the pattern lined up down the handle? If it has “knotwork,” do all of the parts of the knot seem to be symmetrical? If it has tacks, rivets, or other visible evidence of fastenings, are they lined up in straight lines or is the spacing even? Are they lined up with other parts of the item? Does the hardware appear solid and of good quality? Are edges finished, such as rounding edges on a paddle or burnishing leather edges on a belt, cuffs or a collar? Does stitching appear even?
Do keep in mind that these details do not necessarily indicate a product which is not worth what is being asked for it, or that the item won’t last. Most of those things are cosmetic, though some may be structural. If a paddle has been cut so that the wood grain traverses the handle portion in a perpendicular fashion, this is less stable in a more intense scene than one which has been cut so that the wood grain runs lengthwise down the paddle. If you see spots that appear to be blemishes, do not be afraid to ask for an up-close photo. Most Makers are willing to provide more information and responsible ones are less likely to be willing to sell an item which appears to have questionable structural integrity.
Read reviews of the item if it is one that is available in a standard option, and of the seller prior to purchase. Do reviews indicate that buyers generally received what they expected? Do reviews indicate that the photo was a stock one and the actual item varied greatly in quality?
Look at the photos. Are there close-up photos as well as distance pictures? Is there anything that looks iffy? If you are uncertain, it doesn’t hurt to ask someone who has more experience than you do.
Shop around. Finding a flogger marked at $35 is great, until you look closer and see that it has 10 falls that are each 1/2″ wide (likely that won’t be listed in the description). My super awesome maths skill tells me that’s 5 total inches of leather. If I can buy a different flogger for $45 that clearly lists that it offers 40 falls that are each 1/2″ wide, that’s a much better deal for the price even thought one is more expensive. If you factor in the workmanship and shipping, one may end up being a clear winner when it comes to a long-term investment.
Price point alone does not indicate whether or not a tool is appropriate for you. Not all vendors have a good understanding of how to price their items according to their skill level, labor time and effort, and material costs. This can mean pricing for a given item may range as much as $50 between the low and high end, and the pricing may still seem unevenly distributed across the quality of implements offered at those prices. It may also mean that the same $80 price tag can include a huge variety of offerings when it comes to amount of material, quality of material, and workmanship. Purchasing a less expensive item from a less skilled Maker can absolutely be a viable option as long as it meets your expectations and usage needs for the tool.
Christmas bunny has been exploring kink since she was legal to do so. Her serious writing started in college, where she accidently got some of her papers published in educational journals. She has recently expanded her writing to include her kink journey. She began writing in the physical realm, but shed some of her inhibitions and began sharing those entries with others. She now keeps an active blog of her personal growth and her relationship with her Master / Daddy Dominant and writes helpful educational posts on a variety of subjects.