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  What constitutes a "good" keris? (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   What constitutes a "good" keris?
Senior Member
posted 01-19-2001 05:59     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni has already asked the main question I wanted to know more about, that is, what are the major forms of kembang kacang? I'd also like to know a bit more about how an empu came to chose a particular kembang kacang type. Do the pakem specify which k.k. type belonged on what kind of dapur or is this an area where personal preference could dictate style?

In addition to the four varieties pointed out by Adni Bambang also makes mention on a k.k. bungkem in which the tip of the k.k. merges with the front edge of the gandik. These he notes are formed by drilling rather than forging.

I can't say all that much different about Peninsular belalai gajah. Using Bambang's images on page 90 as a guide, the most common types resemble the upper left hand and lower right hand type. Often you will see the b.g. (Adni-I think maybe b.g. would be a better notation of belalai gajah than b.l.) curve right around forming a circle at the end. NEP b.g. tend to be longer on average than Javanese keris though not always. SEP(Southeastern Peninsular) b.g., like the blades themselves follow Bugis influences. One difference I've generally noted between the b.g. of the two types is that while NEP b.g. may meet with the gandik at anything from a relatively shallow 20 odd degrees to almost a right angle, Southern b.g. tend to be more on the shallow side.

The janggut, when present, also generally resembles the grendeng. On occasion you will see janggut so deep that they will nearly sever the b.g. This as I understand it is another possible indicator of refinement.

Another thing worth mentioning I think, and this doesn't apply only to Peninsular keris, is how deep the k.k. is recessed into the gandik. on some keris the k.k. sticks out completely from the gandik area while in other pieces the base of the gandik and the head of the ganja overhang the k.k. almost completely leaving the k.k. recessed into the gandik. This perhaps has as much to do with the gandik as with the k.k. though and doesn't necessarily dictate how refined the keris is. It does raise the question though of style type. Is there terminology which refers to this type of feature?

That's about all I can think of to say right now so I'll end things here. TGIF all!

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wong desa
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posted 01-19-2001 17:38     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-not elaborate,I think ,but certainly long winded.I truly have tried to keep the detail down to something reasonable,but it is a fact of life that a picture is worth a thousand words,and I can`t give you pictures.
Q.1 I`ve only seen the kruwingan effect on a couple of first class Surakarta keris myself,that`s why I said"rarely".
Q.2 Yes.The idea is that the side of the k.k. follow the line of the blade.There are ,of course,some keris forms which do not include tikel alis in the ricikan,such as,say,Sempana,in a case such as this you would find that the decline from the odo-odo in a well made example would carry some kruwingan,so the sides of the k.k. would blend to this.If there was no kruwingan at all,then logically the sides of the k.k. alone cannot carry it.
Q.3 We are looking at the profile of the keris,that is ,side on.The correct way to view a keris is with gandik to the viewer`s left,point up,keris held at eye level,so you are viewing it in profile.The concavity I`m talking about is the concavity that you may see when a keris is held in this way.Viewed from the front you expect to see the k.k. placed central to the blade,the lines formed by its outside edges perfectly balanced,and the taper reducing not to a point,but to a smaller section.
I cannot recall anything further on jenggot.
I also have noted the facial similarity when viewing that section of a blade.I can make no informed comment on this.My guess is that what we are seeing is the artistic flair of individual artists.Well executed ,these features come together in any case to resemble a face;small adjustments,all within the bounds of allowable artistic expression,make this face more distinct,and add to the artistic content of the blade.Within a geographic area or time frame,this semblance could become convention.

The question on identification of k.k. types is really running into the area of pakem .
I most definitely do not intend to get involved in discussion of anything which is set down in any pakem.This is a mine field.As previously noted,at the very least ,the pakems lack consistency.
However,having said that,of the four types of k.k. shown on p.91 of ensiklopedi,I am confident of the name of one,and am prepared to take a guess at the other three:
Clockwise from top left corner:nguku bima(guess),pogok(certain),gulo milir(guess),nyunti(guess).

David--When I mentioned different types of k.k.,what I had in mind were the usual curled type(possibly what I`ve just guessed as gulo milir),pogok,the type found in the dapur panji panganten,the type found in dapur sempana bungkem,another type that goes right inside the body of the blade and curls around which is possibly an interpretation of a bungkem k.k.
Actually you see a lot of shape variations in k.k.`s,and mostly they`re simply variations in interpretation.The one main type of k.k. is the gulo milir (guess),when we talk about a k.k.,this is what we are normally talking about,others are specific to a dapur.
The word "bungkem" means "quiet"or "silent",so a k.k. bunkem implies a k.k. with does not stand out ,or project.
With Javanese keris which use these recessed styles of k.k. it is a requirement of the dapur being created,however,in other keris types ,such as the Bugis keris generally recognised as being from Sumbawa,it can perhaps be put down to regional variation.
However,all of this is incidental to artistic interpretation.Move away from kraton influence in Jawa and you can see some pretty peculiar interpretations of form also.
Pakems are guide books.Where a particular dapur calls for a particular type of k.k.,this is specified.For example,dapur pasopati requires a k.k. pogok.
We`ve moved here into a discussion of typology,and Adni and David have both mentioned various types of Peninsular k.k.`s.Do we know anything about what makes the execution of a Peninsular k.k. to be of superior quality?

David,I do not understand TGIF.Will you please enlighten.

My use of an abbreviation is not a Javanese convention.Its my laziness.However,I can see no objection to using this kind of shorthand to avoid endless repetition of long words,provided the idea is clear.So,b.l. when we know we are talking about a belalai gajah,why not?

Don`t take Ensiklopedi as gospel.

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Senior Member
posted 01-20-2001 00:01     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for your clarifications Iwan. I agree with you that Bambang intended the various types listed on pp. 90-91 to be read clockwise from upper left. Interestingly Bambang's drawing of the Nyunti style seems as if it has been broken off?

As I've already noted the main types of b.g. found in NEP b.g. resemble the Nguku Bima and Gulo Milir types pictured by Bambang. in the case of the latter these often curl right around to form a circle on the end. I Cannot recall having seen a pogok style k.k./b.g. in an NEP keris which is curious considering that the NEP was heavily influenced by the old Majapahit empu. Maybe Pandai Saras didn’t like them. This raises a fairly interesting hypothesis though. You do see a lot of pogok k.k. in Balinese keris so “wong Masopahit” apparently did use this type of k.k. Perhaps pogok k.k. were developed after the fall of Majapahit then made its way back to central Jawa later on? This is idle speculation on my part of course but has anyone here know of pogok style k.k. on Majapahit-era keris?

I think your Javanese standards seem to apply pretty well to NEP blades. On most good blades the kruwingan effect on the sides of the b.g. is there. Detail in the janggut should be sharp, well balanced and at least similar to the grendeng. The primary difference in k.k. and b.g. from the NEP seems to be length. It is my observation that NEP b.g. are generally considerably longer than Solo late period keris. I'm not as familiar with SEP blades, particularly with finer examples. There probably weren't that many anyway. The royal houses in Terengganu and Pahang weren't as big, wealthy, powerful or sophisticated as Kelantan/Pattani so perhaps the level of craftsmanship wasn't as high. Nor were there probably as many fine keris made but this is just a theory on my part. I can't say for certain. Maybe I just haven’t been looking hard enough.

Lemme post up some pictures to give you all a good look at some NEP and SEP b.g.

NEP keris Pandai Saras with a typical b.g. Personal collection.

An especially fine NEP keris. Collection of Nik Rashidin.

Another fine NEP keris. Collection of Nik Rashidin. This blade type is known as a keris carita.

Very refined NEP keris Pandai Saras. Collection of Nik Rashidin. This piece is known to have been a royal house keris.

NEP keris Pandai Saras. Collection of Nik Rashidin. Also very refined.

NEP luk keris pandai Saras with an especially large b.g. circular tip. This may indicate that this is not a very refined piece. Note the grendeng don't show much detail either though this piece has quite clearly been rather badly cared for. Collection of Nik Rashidin.

Very old NEP keris that was quite clearly once a high quality piece. Note the intricate pamor pattern. Note also the heavier wear at the tempering (sepuhan) line. I have encountered this quite a bit in NEP blades. Perhaps the tempered steel wears faster than the un-tempered. Local popular belief says that such keris had been stabbed into stone and were thus especially strong. Collection of Nik Rashidin.


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Senior Member
posted 01-20-2001 00:05     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

This is a NEP keris called a mata kapit. The b.g. is more to the Nguku Bima type. Personal collection.

NEP luk Pandai Saras piece, collection of Paul de Souza.

Nice NEP blade. Note the odd checkering effect on the lower part of the ada-ada. This is the only one I’ve seen like this. This blade is a colonial bring back to England and thus could have been filed? Photo raided from the net.

NEP blade. Photo raided off the net.

NEP keris malela. Sold to an unknown collector by Adni Aljunied.

NEP keris Pandai Saras. Property of Nik Rashidin.


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Senior Member
posted 01-20-2001 00:09     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

SEP keris showing its classic Bugis heritage. Personal collection.

Here's a SEP keris that shows NEP influence. This is quite common. Personal collection.

SEP keris. Property of Adni Aljunied. Sorry about the especially bad picture.

SEP keris, property of Adni Aljunied.

Bugis style SEP keris. Photo raided off the net.

NEP/SEP influenced keris known locally as a keris petola. Note the very slight luk on this piece. Property of Zainoddin A. Zahari.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-20-2001 22:02     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow! These pictures are really good Dave.

Comparing the pics to what we've discused so far, I noticed there are more similarities in the greneng than the kembang kacang between Java and NEP.

The ron-dhas are well executed showing the right profile as well as spacing. Hope Wong Desa would care to comment a little on the greneng. Is it well executed in Javanese perception?

The kembang kacang as well as jenggot differs more compared with Javanese pieces. The k.k is more curly towards the end and some of the jenggot features is done very deeply. How does this jenggot feature differ from Javanese pieces? The ron-dha is more prominently seen on Javanese k.k whilst the NEP one are more varied. Sad that we do not have any refrences on the diffrent types of k.K in Malay.

The ensiklopedi is not a "gospel", tell me is there any book we can consider a "gospel" for the keris. I tried to look for other written sources that describes the diffrent k.k but only the ensiklopedi has it.

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wong desa
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posted 01-21-2001 05:30     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice pics David.They have succeeded in demonstrating to me that I can go no further without the facility to provide pictures.It seems I can churn out thousands of words and still not make my point without pics.I reserve all further comment on greneng until I can get the facility required in place.
The K.K. guess was based on the word sounds.I knew puguk,so looking at the others we had "gulo milir",which means "flowing honey ".Of the three remaining,which looks most like flowing honey?I don`t know the word "nyunti",however,Javanese is a pretty onomatopoeic language,so logically the abrupt sound of the word should indicate an abrupt form.What could be more abrupt than a break in continuity?(yes,this is a broken k.k.)The word "nguku" I don`t know,but "fingernail" is "kuku"so the "ng" is locical as a dialectic substitution,and the remaining k.k.looked to me as if it could be Bima`s fingernail.
A thought on the blade with criss-crosses in the sorsoran.Could it have been forged from a file?
Keris blades are not tempered.They are brought to critical temperature and quenched.This is hardening.The tempering is the next step in a heat treat process where some of the hardness is drawn from the blade to make it less brittle.Keris were not put thru the draw.The laminated construction of the blade made a draw unnecessary.However,it seems that a lot of Peninsular blades are made of homogenous material,rather than laminated material,if this is so,and if Peninsular smiths were recycling European material ,which is probable,then a draw would have been necessary,or the blade would have been too brittle.Such blades would have made fine weapons,but the draw after the quench would have weakened ,or perhaps even destroyed any occult power supposedly inherrent in the blade.I know of no mantras for use in a draw.The act of sepuh is a single quench.One way of getting around this would be to bring the lower part of the blade to critical,and the remainder to just below critical,then quench to,say ,half way up the blade.The unquenched part of the blade would act as a heat reservoir and the stored heat would bleed back into the hardened section,effectively drawing the temper.It would require very nice judgement in order to accomplish this without a second quench,but it could be done.

Mister Devries-please accept my sincere apology for not yet having attended to your query.I promise I shall do so ,however ,I regret this must wait for another day.For the moment I have run out of time.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-21-2001 21:51     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The pictures may make the blades look homogenous Wong, but from closer handling of them you realize that they are not. Recycling of European materials are somtimes done when the materials available are insufficient. Though they do not show the lamination as much as Javavnese, but it is the norm, especially in the North Peninsular styles, they do not have contrasting pamor arrangments.

The hardening process;- Is it also called "Nyepuhan" in Java? What kind of materials are used for quencing? I've heard of water mixed with oils and other things and I've also heard of them using just charcoal?? The process is also done with some connection to mysticim. Can you elaborate a little Wong?

Quote from you Wong;
"The unquenched part of the blade would act as a heat reservoir and the stored heat would bleed back into the hardened section,effectively drawing the temper.It would require very nice judgement in order to accomplish this without a second quench,but it could be done."

I've noticed many NEP blades with two shades of black or grey and was told that they are due to hardening. The explanation you gave above does explain this diffrence in color.
When the hardening is not done well or not at the correct temperature the effect can be disatrous. Is this so Wong, and what factors aside from the temperature effects the process?

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wong desa
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posted 01-22-2001 16:19     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-my remarks on homogeneity(is that really a word,or did I just invent it?)were not based on what is in David`s pics.I have a couple of these blades myself,and I have handled others.Some definitely show weld joints,others,which judging by condition appear to be more recent,do not show weld joints.I have handled one keris in an Australian collection that is documented as having been made from railway line back around 1900;in the back of my memory is something I have read somewhere a long time ago about Peninsular smiths using European materials to forge keris.I`m pretty sure it wasn`t in a keris related book,it could have been in something Swettenham or somebody similar wrote.Oh yeah,just remembered,I`ve read somewhere else about them using Chinese agricultural tools,to forge keris from also.The one that David provided a pic of with the cross hatching on its side-I`d be prepared to take a small(ie,very small)wager that the material in that blade has not been folded and welded.
"Nyepuhan" is from the root "sepuh".My Javanese is not real good,but it is probably adjectival.Thus,"keris nyepuhan"=a keris that has been "sepuhed".Guess.
Hardening of a keris blade is no different to hardening any other piece of steel.The quenching agent is chosen according to the characteristics of the material.Oil hardening steels are quenched in oil;water hardening steels in water.Brine,or sea water,is a more severe agent than plain water,and in some circumstances that could have been used.There are even air hardening steels,but its unlikely that these would have found their way into a keris blade.But they might have,I`ve heard of a gonjo made of wootz.
You would expect the mpu,pandai keris,or smith to choose the correct agent for the job.In practice,he may have justified the choice with some mystical reason,but you`ve got to realise,mpu are/were human too,no craftsman gives away knowledge that is valuable to him.The more mileage you can extract from your skills,the more money you can extract from your client.
There is no reason why oil and water could not be used together,along with any number of other peculiar things;European smiths sometimes had their own special secret mixes,and really smiths everywhere are pretty similar.Of course,with oil and water,you don`t get a mix,as the oil will float,but I could envisage some cicumstances where the two mediums used together could possibly be beneficial.
Javanese smiths would sometimes take water from seven wells, or from the confluence of rivers ,or from springs,and all of this sort of thing gets back to the relevant belief system.You got to keep the customers happy.There are a multitude of variations in precisely what was done.The main line approach has been documented a number of times.I think ,from memory ,that it even gets a run in Solyom.The seven water source thing probably had its roots in Indian smithing traditions,similarly the requirement for seven different types of iron.
The whole process of making a keris in the traditional fashion is ,of course,tied up with ritual procedures.I really don`t want to give a recitation of what can be found elsewhere.Anyway,its too long and not really relevant to the end product.
Getting back to heat treats.You cannot quench in charcoal,and I know of no Javanese tradition that uses charcoal for hardening,apart from as a fuel.However,I believe that back in the early eighties,or maybe even late seventies,Deitrich Drescher demonstrated a method of case hardening which employed powdered charcoal, to several people in Central Jawa.You may have heard something related to this.
I`ve never seen a keris blade that was hardened for its full length.The most common extent for a Javanese keris is to the poyuhan,however,in keris from all areas I`ve seen lots of variation.When the blade is quenched,the material which contains carbon(ie,steel) goes darker.Can`t explain the technicalities as to why,but it does.The material without carbon (ie,iron)does not darken.Similarly,the steel which has not been quenched does not darken.
With this knowledge,you can read a lot from a blade.It can tell you about blade construction techniques,materials,if a blade has been fiddled with.Lots of things.

The hardening of steel is basic,straightforward smith`s work.All the paraphenalia that surrounds this process with keris,is,in my opinion,window dressing."---not well done---","---not correct temperature---".Any smith that could judge welding temperatures could certainly judge critical quench temperatures.The difficulty in the quench with welded material is not in the quench,but rather in the welding that has already been done.Any weld joints that are not properly stuck together will come adrift when heated to critical and quenched.In the space of a fraction of a second you`ve destroyed days of work.What smith in his right mind would not pray to his own personal god,prior to the quench of a keris blade , that everything stayed stuck together?
What other factors effect?As a straight blacksmithing process,not much that I can think of,as a ritual associated with the completion of a keris,multitudes.

This probably brings me to Mr. Devries` question.The reason it is necessary to understand the manufacturing process for a keris blade,before you can determine if that blade is any good ,or not,is because unless you understand this you do not know if the maker has achieved his objective or not.
As an example,we`ve just been talking about the process of hardening a blade,that is ,the process of turning a piece of metal into a weapon.
If a keris, which according to its classification ought to have been made as a weapon,does not show evidence of hardening,what does that tell us?There are a number of possible answers,but one thing is certain,something is not quite right with that keris.
In the case of pamor,before you can judge the pamor,you need to know what the maker set out to produce.This means you need to understand the various processes which were used to produce the various pamor patterns.You also need to be able to recognise the various patterns.This is not always real easy,given that most primers that illustrate a pattern ,illustrate an idealised pattern.For example,you may come across an extremely attractive,and unusual rendition of ganggeng kanyut;how are you to know that what you are looking at is a failed kenongo ginubah,unless you can correctly read the pattern?How can you correctly read the pattern unless you know the processes involved in its production?
You need to understand the processes that are used to turn the forging into a finished keris.How well did the maker manage the pamor in carving it?If you don`t know what should have been done,how can you judge if he has done it well?
You need to understand the various methods of construction.For example,if a particular method of construction calls for no core material to be in evidence in the blumbangan,but there is core material in one blumbangan,but not the other,how do you know what is correct,unless you can recognise the method of construction?

I`ve mentioned a few examples above that demonstrate the depth of knowledge required before it is possible to determine if a blade is truly a "good" blade or not,however,the truth of the matter is that much of this knowledge is limited to a very few individuals,and it never has been and never will be widely spread.In Jawa many of these knowledgable people(ahli keris) provide the service of appraisal for others.Outside of Jawa ,we are thrown back on our own resources.So,although the processes for the production of many of the pamor patterns are firmly locked up,or even forgotten,these patterns often are the same as ,or resemble ,modern damascus patterns,and there is plenty of published material on the production of damascus patterns.

The whole thing gets back to what I`ve said previously.You can`t learn about keris simply by focussing on keris.You`ve got to spread your net wider and take in a lot of knowledge from fields that may not seem to be directly related to the keris.

I trust the above answers your query ,Mr. Devries.Should you have any further questions,please don`t hesitate to ask.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-22-2001 21:10     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"homogeneity" - Whether it is a correct word or not, your selections of words always makes it easier for me to undertsand. Thanks Wong for the extra infos on nyepuhan too.

Glad to hear that you have some Malaysian pieces with you too. You said that you observed the newer ones being welded and the ones looking older more homogeneous. Is this not the other way round? I know that you do not have pics presently, but when you do, I hope you can post them up for us to "share".

Talking about sharing, I hope there are some others out there following this rather long winding thread. I do not know about others, but I find the informations which have been discussed lately very very beneficial to me. It may be in deep detail for someone relatively new to it, but from my experiences, I find going into the deep details are the type of informations that does not get spread widely. A quote from yr last posting Wong Desa;

"the truth of the matter is that much of this knowledge is limited to a very few individuals,and it never has been and never will be widely spread."

The topic of "what constitutes a good keris" has been maybe not directly answered, but I am defenitly not copmplaining as to where the direction of this thread is heading.

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Senior Member
posted 01-23-2001 00:56     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I found Wong Desa's information on the sepuhan process very interesting and just wanted to add a couple of bits of information to that. Nik Rashidin made mention of a couple of different types of sepuhan aside from the regular straight dip. In one process only the edges of the blade were quenched leaving a pattern on the blade. This was called sepuhan pucok rebong. In another process a special type of sepuhan is achieved called a sepuhan garing. Nik Din couldn't tell me how this was done but blades quenched in this manner have a high pitched ring to them when struck, even when the hilt is attached. Interestingly Wong Desa mentions a type of "air hardening." Nik Rahsidi brought up a kind of sepuhan called "siah terbang" where the hardening is done by blowing air on the blade.

The temperature of the blade is, as Wong Desa mentions, very important. Nik Rashidin tells me that smiths will look for colors in the flames of the forge which will tell them when the right temperature has been reached. These colors are 1. Sayap Kumbang (a reference to the color of the wings of a beetle) 2. Sentul Masak (the color of a ripe sentul fruit. I'm not familiar with the English name of this fruit but according to my dictionary it has the genus sandoricum koetjape.) and 3. Buah Pinang Masak (color of the ripe areca nut).

I was also told there are a number of special kinds of charcoal used for the burn prior to quenching. These woods are 1. Rambutan 2. Gelang 3. Coreng (a small palm whose leaves are used to make atap) 4. Rhu and 5. Tempurung (coconut shells).

I am in total agreement with Wong Desa on the necessity of knowing more about the methods of manufature in truly appreciating the keris and applaud him for his well reasoned explanation. One of his comments though bears some further comment though. He writes:

"you may come across an extremely attractive,and unusual rendition of ganggeng kanyut;how are you to know that what you are looking at is a failed kenongo ginubah,unless you can correctly read the pattern?"

In addition to the classification of pamors into parallel (pamor mlumah) and perpendicular (pamor miring) types, pamors are also commonly classified into planned (pamor rekaan) and un-planned (pamor tiban). Pamor tiban are often said to have been brought about by an act of or the will of God. Indeed the term tiban or perhaps more accurately in Malay tibaan means to arrive or arrival, that is to say, to "show up" of its own accord. Because of this, pamor tiban are often even more highly prized than pamor rekaan. In this sense "failed pamors," as Wong Desa terms them are actually still viewed positively.

I have not handled personally the strange keris with the cross hatching on the sor-soran however if you look carefully you can see that the ganja does show a pattern weld in it. This is not to say that the whole blade is in fact pattern forged. However, traditionally the ganja would have been forged from a piece of the same billet as the blade. It thus goes to reason that the blade probably is pattern forged but there is no way of telling withough further more detailed examination.

Malay smiths did come to make use of modern steels in forging keris. That being said most smiths still pattern forged thier blades even if they did use modern materials. Most famous (or perhaps infamous) are the so-called bicycle chain keris. Because these chains had a certain amount of nickel in them they naturally came to show a pamor effect in them that is quite distinctive. Other smiths are said to have and still do use automotive leaf springs and other such materials. These are however obviously a Colonial period innovation and wouldn't have occurred prior to the availability of modern steels in the region.

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wong desa
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posted 01-23-2001 15:52     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-I don`t think I said that the new ones were welded:"Some definitely show weld joints,others,which judging by condition appear to be more recent,do not show weld joints." Thus the newer ones do not show weld joints,the older ones do show weld joints.Sorry for the confusing construction.
Our thread may be a long and winding road Adni,but we`re sure getting a lot of interesting material up,aren`t we?It pays to talk.
Not yet have we agreed on what makes a good keris.But we`re breaking new ground here.Look at all the books that have already been published on the keris.How many of these even address the concept?If we just keep on rolling along,sometimes on track,sometimes off,even if ultimately we agree to disagree,at least there will be sufficient information in the public arena for people to make up their own minds.
Yes ,I`ve got some Malay and Bugis keris.In fact,I`ve got keris from all over,some I don`t know where they come from,others I do.I rather like some of the Bugis and Malay style keris.They have an integrity that is sometimes not evident in some other keris.Like a good honest tool created to do a good honest job.

David-In Jawa,pamor tiban does not refer to unsuccessful attempts at a planned pamor,it refers to pamor patterns where the maker has not planned(in fact,could not plan) a specific result.The pamors which can be classified as pamor tiban are specified,and include,amongst others,wos wutah,pulo tirto,rojo gendolo,and kulit semangka.The idea behind pamor tiban is that it is made whilst praying and simply hammering,thus it is the hand of God that is forming the pamor ,not the man holding the hammer.We are not permitted to excuse unsuccessful work by claiming it as pamor tiban.I can assure you David,that failed pamor rekan are not regarded positively in Jawa.They are regarded as failures.

The additional information on sepuhan in the Peninsular I find extremely interesting and it has generated some questions;

Q.1. How was the process which quenches only the edges of the blade carried out?I cannot imagine any way of doing this except by covering the centre of the blade with mud and straw ,a la the Japanese process.I have not come across even a smell of this in Jawa,and to my mind it seems to run contrary to the underlying ethic.If this method was practiced in the Peninsular,and for keris,I would be very,very interested to hear more about it.I have heard of Japanese sword manufacturing in ,I think,Thailand.If I`m not wrong,this is in Quaritch-Wales.Is it possible that this method of hardening was known in the area,but not actually applied to keris?

Q.2. On sepuhan garing."Garing" in Javanese is "dry".The only dry way I know of hardening a blade is if air hardening steel is used,or again by case hardening.In Jawa these processes are just not a part of the keris tradition.Do we know any more about this?(Is "garing" a word in Malay?)

Q.3. Let us accept that air hardening was mentioned.Was it mentioned in connection with keris?Unless a steel is an air hardening steel,no amount of air will harden it.Air hardening steels,even in the modern world are pretty rare fish.That they should exist in the Peninsular keris tradition is incredible,but,at the same time,it could have happened.Do we know any more about this?How?When?Where ?Why?

Yes,one of the ways of judging forge temperature is to observe flame colours,actually ,not just colour,but colour,form,conformation.It is really just a matter of the smith knowing the way his fuel and forge behave.However,this does not translate into judgement of either weld temperatures,or critical quench temperatures.Readyness of a billet to take a weld can be judged by observation of the flame,but what you look for is little stars flying up.It is not a reliable or consistent indicator,but it can be used.The traditional way to judge a quench temperature is by colour observation of the blade.This is usually described in the European tradition as "cherry red",but of course this depends on the situation of the forge,so it again comes back to the tradesman knowing his tools.The easy way is by application of a magnet.Steel loses its magnetic quality at critical.I don`t think South East Asian smiths were aware of this.There are other ways to judge,but really all of this is not relevant:the maker would use his knowledge and experience to judge the correct temperature.End of story.

The types of arang that you mention,David,would not be,or have been ,accepted ,by a keris maker in Jawa.It is acknowledged that only teak charcoal is acceptable for welding.Other types of charcoal produce too much ash and are too quickly consumed at weld temperatures.Additionally,it is probable that teak charcoal ash has a fluxing effect.For the heat treat ,teak charcoal is again preferred ,because it allows a constant temperature for a longer period of time.

Cross hatched keris.I honestly can`t see enough detail of the gonjo to say if there is evidence of welding or not.I can see colour variation,but this alone is not evidence.It really would be an interesting thing to examine.

I don`t know that we can call the techniques used to produce Peninsular keris blades without pamor "pattern forging"(pattern welding) David.I undoubtedly have not seen as many of these blades as you have,but all the ones I`ve seen show evidence of a "wasuh" process,that is repeated welding and folding in order to make the material workable,and burn out the impurities,but they do not show evidence of any pattern welding.We can really only call a process "pattern welding" when a conscious attempt has been made to create a pattern,either by use of contrasting material,or by use of the weld joints.I`ve never seen this in a Peninsular blade which has been made without pamor.Perhaps with your wider experience in this feild,you have,but it certainly was not general with these pamorless types of blades.

Further to our cross hatched keris.I just went back on line and had another look at it .Have a close look at the back edge of the gandik David.You can see a continuation of the cross hatching.Have a look at the gonjo directly above the blumbangan.See the grain in the metal?This grain does not appear on what we can see of the body of the blade.At this stage I`m prepared to increase my wager.Pity we`ll never really know.

Just had a thought on sepuhan pucok rebong.Firstly,I am fluent in Indonesian,know a little Javanese ,and only understand Malay as it relates to Indonesian.
Is the Malay meaning of "pucok","point",or "tip"?
Is the Malay meaning of "rebong","bambu shoot"?
If so ,it is not logical to apply such a name to a process that hardens the edges of a blade.It is logical to apply it to a process that hardens only the tip of a blade.
I have seen a number of Bugis and Malay blades with only the tip-maybe the first inch- hardened.The first inch ,or less, of a well made blade shows the edge of the core.
If Nik Rasidin has not actually seen the process himself,I suggest that somewhere along the way something has been lost in transmission.
I don`t think we`re talking about hardening the blade edge for the length of the blade.I think we`re talking about hardening the edge of the core at the tip of the blade.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-24-2001 01:52     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many interesting ways of nyepuhan is known of. This latest one of using air is another one that adds to the list.

Again I am referring to the eniklopedi here (sorry but there are no other works touching on this subject) page 116 under the heading of "nyepuhi". The last paragraph mentions of other types of nyepuhan;

1) Sepuh Dilat - i.e hardening using the toungue.
2) Sepuh akep - hardening using the lips
3) Sepuh kempit -hardening using the underside of the arm pits.

(I've even heard of a mention to a female empu using the lips of her "private parts" for sepuhan!!)

Bambang adds that these above nyepuhan is hard to be accepted to the modern collector, but certain circles, they are not impossible.
Please add if have any inos on these Wong.

My observation on the cross hatched keris. The hatched marks are there, but they do not look as if they are made out of a file. They look more like vice clamp marks to me. I think file surfaces are smaller than that. Another thing is that the overall refinements in the perabots does show a rather high level of workmanship and it just does not reflect the way these hatched marks can be left there by the actual smith.
These marks could have been made while trying to detatched the handle from the blade. Heating of the blade helps in loosening the many types of materials used to fit the handle, and I myself had done so with success many times. The very hot blade is clamped rather too hard between a vice, and while twisting to remove the handle (rather vigorously), these vice marks got stamped onto the blade.
I am not wagering anything here with you Wong, but if I do, what's at stake here??

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wong desa
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posted 01-24-2001 17:25     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-you could be right about the cross hatching being vyce marks.I`ve just spent another ten minutes looking at that blade.You could be right.Right up at the top,just a little bit below the bottom of the gonjo,you can see what looks like a straight line.Logically file cross hatching should continue right to the edge of the blade.Yes,you could be right.The thought never occurred to me that anyone would clamp an unprotected blade into a vyce.There`s some barbarians out there all right!
Now,on the subject of wagers.I don`t feel quite so confident any more,so its back to the level of a cup of coffee.
Yes,Ensiklopedi does mention several types of sepuh,but these other occult ones are not used on normal keris.
Sepuh dilat and sepuh akep were usually used on pedang luwuk.I can`t recall ever seeing a blade with evidence of sepuh kempit,but once again,it is for wesi aji other than keris.
As for the rather exceptional process employed by Empu Nyai Sombro(the female empu you mention),this was limited to what we refer to as "keris sombro"-those thin little talismanic blades with a hole in the end of the tang.
My understanding was that we were talking about the keris as an art form,or as a weapon,not about all the possible ways in which a critical temperature can be lowered fast enough to cause hardening.
If you wish,you can also harden in a banana stem.Lengthways,the result looks no different to water;cut the edge into the stem,and guess what?You`ve got the same effect as sepuh dilat,sepuh akep,and sepuh kempit.Never ever heard of the use of the body of a slave though.
The possibility of the use of air to harden keris blades has far more important implications than would seem to be generally realised.It is not just another alternate method of sepuh.
The steels which were generally available to S.E.Asian smiths were simple low to medium carbon content steels.There is the possibility that they may have encountered high carbon steels from time to time,but I doubt that these would have been popular for keris use,because of the difficulties which would be encountered in welding.On the other hand,as I`ve already written,some pamorless blades show no weld joints,so maybe these contain high carbon steel.In any case,all these types of steel are hardened by raising to a temperature above 727 C. and then quenching in water or some other quench medium.If the temperature is not lowered quickly enough,you simply do not achieve a hardening effect.
There are steels which harden in air.I don`t know a lot about them,because I`ve never had to work with them,but they are modern,special purpose steels,that have very specific processes involved in their heat treatment.Its not just a matter of waving them around in room temperature air to achieve hardness.
Years ago I read a report of an air hardening process being used in the middle east on steels that were probably one of the wootz steels.I`ve just tried to find this reference so I could quote it,but I can`t locate it.I`m not talking here about a mainline hardening process for wootz.That`s been well documented,and everyone knows it.I`m talking about an observed and reported variant.
I`ve never heard of an air hardening process for any historic steel ,apart from this.
I do know of one instance of a gonjo being made from wootz.
If Peninsular smiths had access to a steel which would harden in air,to me this is very interesting and important information.The production of weapon quality wootz is believed to have ceased about two hundred years ago.So,the possiblity is that two hundred plus years ago,Peninsular smiths were using Indian wootz to forge keris blades.I can imagine no other explanation.There may be another explanation,but I can`t think of one.
You`ve got to admit,this is a really interesting possibility.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-25-2001 04:35     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The elabration you gave on air haardening is truly appreciated Wong, and yes this method of sepuhan does invite the "the possiblity is that two hundred plus years ago,Peninsular smiths were using Indian wootz to forge keris blades". I have yet to see any peninsular piece made of wootz or any other origin where the keris is found.

You said you seen a gonjo out of wootz Wong. Is it the same way as other woots metal that we see or are they any diffrences? My knowledge of wootz is rather limited. I presently have only a pesh kabz made of wootz and have handle only a couple others before. Pictures from books and the net helps to maybe diffrenciate the styles and technique. Because of the diffrence in materials used over in these parts, how diffrent are these technique are compared to the Indians, and this air hardening, how does it effect the diffrent materials?

I know that the subject of hardening may not be an "artistic" subject, but if all krises must be hardened or sepuh, and with all the diffrent types of sepuhan we have, could it be wrong to say that if the blade is not hardened, it is "not a good keris"?

Sorry for my spelling of "vice" Wong. I did'nt realize the "other" side of the word until you spelt it correcly - VYCE. An as for the "vyce clamped keris", Dave is "watching" it I belive, and maybe we let him be the judge on who owes who a cup of coffee.

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posted 01-25-2001 08:55     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My ignorance of forging techniqes is leaving me with little to add at this point. Indeed I always thought that laminated metal blades were all "pattern forged." Perhaps s/o with expertise on the subject could identify and explain the various techniqes used for all of us.

A vyce clamp certainly would explain the strange cross-hatching on that Peninsular blade. Worse things have been done to keris I'm afraid. I have a keris that was filed, probably by some fool colonial back in the day. Fortunately a good wash and warangan put the thing pretty much right.

I'll have to get back with you on the mysterious "siah terbang" air hardening technique. I must admit at the time I wasn't particularly interested in a detailed description. I can't seem to recall whether the practitioner was supposed to blow or spit on the middle of the blade. Something like that anyway. Must remember to ask Nik Rashidi about it next time I'm up North.

Sepuh pucuk rebung I remember more clearly. I'm told was done by inserting the blade at an angle and then flipping it over to the other side. The tip of the blade does go into the cooling medium though. The technique leaves a pointed sepuh mark along the edges and point. Here's an example.

You can see the sepuh line along the edges of the blade angling to a point at the end of the sogokan.

Hope this clarifies things for you. I'm off to bed

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wong desa
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posted 01-26-2001 16:05     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-if anybody is wrong on the spelling of that clamping tool,its me.I`ve always spelt it with a "y" and I don`t know why.According to Oxford its either"vice"or "vise".
I had a boss once who was the original "bah,humbug!"One of his notable sayings was "I never trust anybody who can spell.They can`t think because they`re too busy trying to remember".He had a few other sayings along the same line too.The important thing with the use of words is that they move an idea from one person`s head into another person`s head.If they can do this it doesn`t matter how they`re spelt.

There are different types of wootz,they are not all weapon quality,and they do not all provide the same beautiful contrasting patterns when forged out.The gonjo I have seen(and that was maybe 12 or 13 years ago),and which was subjected to metalographic analysis by Prof. Jerzy Piaskowski of Poland,was not weapon grade material.I can give no further information on this gonjo because the details are contained in an unpublished paper.
I also have never seen a keris blade of wootz,all I was doing was picking up on David`s remarks,and putting two and two together to make four.However,in view of David`s further comments on "siah terbang",I think perhaps I made five,rather than four.An air hardening process was implied ,but David`s further description demonstrates that it is not anywhere near an air hardening process.

I`m not real sure on what your question is, relevant to wootz.I think what you`ve asked is the difference between forging wootz,and the forge processes involved with keris.Totally different processes Adni .Wootz is not put thru any forge welding.In fact,wootz is forged out at relatively low temperatures,which is quite the opposite of what we do with keris.
As for air hardening,well,as I`ve already said ,I don`t know much about air hardening steels,but they are specialised steels with specialised methods of heat treatment.As an example of what I mean,if we look at the heat treat requirement for large mass H13,which is a hot work tool steel(this means a steel which can remain hard for extended periods of work with hot material),we find that it requires a salt bath at 240degrees centigrade to reduce moisture content of the steel,then a soak at 850degrees centigrade to alter the grain structure,then an hour at 1040degrees centigrade(1040 is critical forH13),it is then held in still air until cool.Not a simple process,and not a simple steel.Some other types of air hardening steel are taken to critical for a specific period of time,and then cooled with compressed air.If you treated a simple carbon steel in this fashion you would not succeed in altering the grain structure in the fashion required to achieve hardness.

Probably not quite correct to say that if a keris is not hardened,it is not a "good" keris.It once again gets back to the classification of the keris.If it is a blade which should show evidence of hardening,and it does not,it certainly raises questions that should be considered before that particular keris can be adequately evaluated.

David-thanks for the clarification on sepuh pucuk rebung.Yes,I can see how this could be done,but it would raise difficulties of execution,and causes me to wonder why it would be done.I`m sure there would be a good solid practical reason for doing it this way.Interestingly,I`ve seen a blade with exactly that sepuh pattern which had been caused by the projection of the steel core .The undarkened area of the blade in this case was the iron skin without carbon.

I do have a little bit of experience in forge work David,and I can probably explain the"various techniques",however rather than use up space on that here-and we`re talking lots of space-I`d suggest you have a look at Jim Hrisoulas`"The Pattern Welded Blade".In this he gives detailed explanations of the way in which various patterns are produced,and you don`t need too much imagination to translate these damascus patterns into the pamor patterns we see on keris.
Essentially,pattern welding is the production of a pattern in ferric and/or other material by welding and manipulation..It is also possible to use weld joints to produce a pattern,and personally,I have also always regarded this as pattern welding,but I`m not real sure that everyone would agree with me.Although people practicing in the field of historical metalurgy seem to hold the same opinion as I do.
However,just because a material of welded and layered construction is produced,we can`t call it pattern welded.Blades,and other tools,from many countries and many periods have been made by welding odds and ends of ferric material together to obtain a large enough billet to work.Not all of these tools can be considered as examples of pattern welding.Think of some of the remarkably rough Indian village blades:welded construction,certainly;pattern welded,I think not.

My own forging experience comes from Alan Maisey`s insistence that if I was to learn about keris I must learn from the ground up.When I was a little kid I used to hold the tongs for him as he used the hammer.As I got older,I did the striking.I made my first piece of damascus when I was about 12y.o.,and not long after that I made pamor and a laminated blade using a pamor skin.Its probably about 4 or 5 years now since I`ve done any forge work.I don`t like it,its hot, dirty ,heavy and hard.But I do understand it.Apart from practical forge experience,I also hold relevant trade,academic and professional qualifications.

What goes on with a keris blade is that sometimes the material that was used had to be"washed" before it could be used.It could be hot short(breaks up under the hammer ),or carbon content too high,or too many impurities.In any case,in the form as obtained,it couldn`t be used.So what the smith did was to put it thru repeated folding,welding ,forging until it displayed qualities indicating that it would perform satisfactorily.This was indicated by the cessation of sparks flying up when struck at weld heat.This "washed" material was then used for the pamor iron.
When it was desired to produce a pamor with good contrast,this material was combined with another which would give this contrast.In later times this was nickelous material,probably from Luwu in Sulawesi;eventually European nickel was used,but in early times it was a high contrast iron.When a low contrast iron was used you finished up with pamor sanak.

With those blades that don`t show a "skin",but do show weld joints ,the smith has carried out the washing process,but for one reason or another has not proceeded with the complete process by producing pamor and welding in a blade core.In a case such as this,the material is the same all the way thru the blade,just as mechanical damascus is the same all the way thru the blade.So, when it is hardened,you`re not just hardening the projecting edges of a core,as would be the case in a blade of pamor construction, but you`re hardening the entire outer body of the blade.Such a blade will lack the flexibility of a blade with steel core and softer laminated pamor skin.The pamor construction also allows a lighter cross section to be used.(As I`ve written this the reason for sepuh pucuk rebung has become clear to me.Its obvious,isn`t it?)

Now,since this type of construction seems to reflect blade construction used in Jawa prior to the general use of pamor construction,I think it is probable that the introduction of this form of blade into the Peninsular was a pretty early event.I`d guess,early Mojopahit.I might be drawing too long a bow here,but on the face of things it seems to make sense.

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Adni Aljunied
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posted 01-27-2001 11:55     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry for the hasty questions Wong and thanks for extra infos on the diffrence between wootz and forge welding. After noting the difficulty in the process of altering the grain structures during hardening.... and your last line in the paragraph "If you treated a simple carbon steel in this fashion you would not succeed in altering the grain structure in the fashion required to achieve hardness."
If it is done, what are the signs that we look for? This may not sound like a good question, but if there's possiblilty of the technique being used, I just like to know how to diffrentiate.

Can you please inform further on the book;Jim Hrisoulas`"The Pattern Welded Blade".

At 12, and you are already an "empu" in the making. I "envy" you Irwan!

Some say that presently only Jeno has the right to claim to be an "Empu"(from his family line) and outside of Jawa, there are no others whom are "popular" enough to be known.

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wong desa
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posted 01-27-2001 18:28     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adni-I`ve taken your question as "How do we know if the material in a keris has been subjected to an air hardening process?" Answer:I can`t think of any easy,practical method to identify whether the material was air hardened.
However,I really don`t believe it is a possibility that we even need to consider.
David`s first mention of air hardening got me thinking,but when he elaborated it was clear that there was no air hardening process attached to the name.
We all know that this process is not a part of S.E.Asian smithing technology.
It was just a momentary tantalising possibility that went nowhere.

Jim Hrisoulas wrote several books on blade smithing,and the making of mechanical damascus.There was"The Complete Bladesmith.","The Pattern Welded Blade","The Master Bladesmith".There could have been others.They were books written to ride the wave of forging and damascus popularity that welled up in the U.S.a few years ago.They are very easy to follow,carry a bare minimum of technical detail,and are good useable guides for a non technical person who wants to jump in and try to make a knife by forging it.
"The Pattern Welded Blade" gives details on how to manipulate material to produce a number of damascus patterns.For someone who is familiar with pamor patterns,it doesn`t cause a lot of brain strain to think thru the illustrated damascus patterns and relate them to pamor patterns.Publisher:Paladin Press,P.O.Box 1307,Boulder, Colorado 80306 U.S.A.
Another really good book on damascus is"Damascus Steel" ,Manfred Sachse,and then there is "On Damascus Steel",Leo Figeul.Figeul is short on technical explanations.
These books deal with damascus,but Sachse`s book has a section treating keris.
It really is necessary to extend study into other areas if we truly want to understand the keris.

Yes,some do say that only Jeno has the right to claim to be an empu.
I will not be drawn into discussion of this matter.
However,for those who may be interested in verification of these claims,I suggest investigation of the role of Dietrich Dresscher,research into the validity of Javanese geneologies,and observation of the well known Javanese propensity for producing stories to ornament existing fact.
However,this raises the question of exactly what an empu is .We`ve treated this previously ,so repetition is not necessary.Using these parameters,Jeno is not alone.

As for me being an empu in the making at 12y.o. Never,never,never.
According to my teacher,I needed to learn something,in order to understand other things.That`s all that was involved.Nothing more,nothing less.
I have never made a keris,and I never will.It is simply too difficult and requires too great a commitment of time and mental effort.

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Tom Anson
posted 02-05-2001 03:03     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom Anson   Click Here to Email Tom Anson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi all you keris people.I have been following this thread for some weeks andI have to say I am very impressed by the knowledge you people have andI have learnt a lot I did not know.I know that the idea is for interested people to tell what it is that they find attractive and interesting with keris so that you can put this data together and draw up a code for keris collectors.This is probably a good idea but I do not think that whatever you do will have any effect on the way people collect keris.They will still collect what they want to collect for their own personal reasons.I have collected keris nearly all my life and I am now 62 ,my grandfather had a collection of kerises and other swords and daggers that he put together when he worked in the old Dutch East Indires and Malaya before World War One,he died when I was still young and I goy his collection ,so you can say I had a flying start and for the last 50 years I have added to that collection.The way I have added to it has not been planned or thought out,it has been a matter of if I saw a keris and I liked it and I had the money I bought it.Fifteen or twenty years back I was making big money and back then I bought some very expensive kerises.They were worth it ,with gold and rubies and ivory ,but I retired a couple years back and now I cannot afford that kind of money but I still buy kerises that I can afford.Some of my favourite keris are ones that I rescued from piles of junk and restored,so what I am trying to say here is that all the gold,all the art,all the practical weapon function really does not mean much when you consider just two things:do Ilike it?can I afford it?to me these two things are the real number one criteria.IT does not matter whether the keris is old or new or is a wonderful weapon or a beautiful work of art all that does not mean anything if you have not got the money to buy it or you do not like it.If I look at all my kerises and try to identify the reasons why I like one or the other of them I come up with lots of different reasons,it is just about as if I like each keris for maybe a different reason.
Over the last ten years I have added more new and recent kerises to my collection.The reason for this is because this way I can add more beautiful pamors and top class workmanship to my collection.Some of these newer kerises are much better in quality of the fittings andworkmanship of the blade than a lot of the older kerises I have seen.Iknow some people do not like newer kerises,but for me I can see no difference between a new keris and an old keris as long as I like it.A lot of the kerises that my grandad had in his collection sure look as if when he bought them they were pretty new and I have bought kerises from England and Europe that were old kerises but were in such perfect condition that they must have been new when they were taken back there maybe 150 years back.I just can not see the difference between a well made keris from 150 years ago that some one took back to England 150 years back and it sat in the bottom of a cupboard for 150 years and a well made keris that was finished last week.
Like I said I have collected kerises all my life almost and the way this started let me see genuine old kerises right from the beginning so I have always had nice old kerises to compare whatever I bought against.If what I have wanted to do was to build a collection of nice quality kerises,why should I not have newer kerises as long as I like them.
Anyway I just want to say thank you to all you experts and I hope you keep up the dialog because I am sure it is not just me who is learning a lot,but if you want my criteria they are going to have to be:do I like it?can I afford it?
And I also have a couple of questions that I hope you will answer for me.First I want to ask about the question of age with keris I have already said that if a keris is old or new it does not matter to me as long as it is good quality and I like it.But I understand from some of the posts to this thread that some people only want old keris.I would appreciate it if somebody could explain to me the reason why some people have this preference for older keris.I have thought about this and to me it does not make sense,so I must be missing something.
My second question is to wongdesa who said he will never make a keris because it would use too much time and physical and mental effort.Can you tell me how much time it takes to make a keris?Also what do you mean by too much mental effort?I do not understand how something like a keris which although it can be beautiful thing seems to me like a straight forward piece of craft work can use up so much mental effort.Can you please explain to me what you mean.
I hope you experts can answer my questions and please do not stop talking.

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posted 02-05-2001 09:53     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom makes a couple of comments I'd like to address briefly. First off, in a sense, you're right about the difference between a well made old keris and a well made new keris. If it's well made, it's well made. But I think a lot of people, myself included like the added mystique of age. In my experience it's just more exciting to hold a keris in your hand which was made by some guy centuries ago and passed through all those hands on the way to your own. It isn't something tangible per-se but it can be pretty exciting nonetheless.

There are some things in older keris that just can't be done anymore. Certain types of wood are extinct or difficult to find in good quality and the number of top craftsmen today probably isn't anything like what it used to be. There are some wonderful craftsmen working today and Iwan has already pointed out that some of the work being done today is probably the best that has ever been done. This work doesn't come cheap though. In an older keris the labor costs have pretty much been absorbed by others. Nik Rashidin might take 3 months to make a top quality hilt today and has to charge several thousand dollars to be able to make a reasonable living. A comprable piece done a century ago might cost half that or even less. The condition, age and materials carry a premium over Nik Din's work but the amount of labor used to make the item has already long since "evaporated."

All that said, the level of workmanship and attention to detail today, for the most part, just isn't what it used to be. Because of what I've said above, an older piece represents a much better buy than the best quality new stuff.

Of course, that's all neither here nor there though. For the collector the bottom line is, as you say, do I like it? and can I afford it? The point here I think is not to tell people what to like and not to like but to educate people on what is available and what to look for in terms of quality. Obviously if you can't afford a keraton keris you'll have to set your sights a bit lower. But we can help folks out there educate themselve on what it is they are looking at and know perhaps how much they should be paying for it.

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wong desa
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posted 02-11-2001 00:25     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Tom.Thank you for joining our discussion.What a wonderful start to a collecting career you recieved from your Grandfather.I believe many of us would envy you this.My own beginnings were very much a struggle to raise money to make my first purchase,however,I also had the advantage of access to an excellent collection for comparison purposes,and I had already been learning about keris for a number of years before I spent any money.
I`d like to comment on a couple of matters you have raised.
This has been a fairly long and rambling thread.Because of this it is possible that you,and perhaps some others,have mistaken our purpose.I don`t believe that our intent has been to reshape the tastes and standards of people who collect keris,but rather to assist these people in the identification of what are considered to be the indicators of quality in a keris.
I personally believe that this is a valuable undertaking because keris are in many ways very different to weapons from other cultures,and it is sometimes very difficult to apply the same standards to appraisal of a keris,as you would apply to the appraisal of ,say,a khanjar,or a Meditteranean dirk.
I believe people with an interest in keris need to be able to understand and judge these indicators of quality in order to enrich their collecting experience.At the present time I believe it is particularly important to provide this advice and information,because in recent years there has been an influx of really dreadful new "keris" onto the market.Admittedly these"keris"sell very cheaply,but it is very true that you just about get what you pay for.
It is a simple fact of life that quality costs money.
However,if one does not have the specialist information available to enable the judgement of quality,purchases become a gamble.A couple of unlucky purchases could well be sufficient to kill the interest of a beginning collector,that loss to the collecting community then becomes a loss which affects us all.Paucity of good quality items,legislative changes,changing community attitudes all mean that it is in everyone`s best interests to strenghten the collecting community as a whole.
This to me is the rationale for this exercise in the determination of a "good keris".
Your criteria of "do I like it?can I afford it?" are perhaps the ultimate criteria for all of us.I probably use pretty much the same criteria myself,but I use these criteria from a base of knowledge that has been hard won over a number of years.Regretably this knowledge is for the most part not available in books,which means it cannot be accessed by the vast bulk of collectors.The value of a forum such as this is to allow a free interchange of this information which cannot be found in books.
So---we`re not trying to change the world.Just assist others and at the same time learn more ourselves.

Your remarks on the relationship between old and new keris I understand perfectly,and for the most part I suspect that I am in total agreement with you.
What you have said about many of the better preserved keris from British and European sources is ,I am sure ,absolutely true.Often they were new when they were taken home.However,although I probably have a similar attitude to your own in this matter,I think that it probably comes down to what the motivation for any collection is.
Keris are generally percieved to have a mystical/magical component in their make up.Even people who barely recognise a keris will often ask questions such as "What is its religious significance?".So it is that you have some collectors who directly associate the keris with a supernatural component.This appears to be a very prevalent attitude amongst people in the keris bearing cultures who have not truly learnt about keris ,but who are familiar with all the folk myth and legend associated with the keris.As with any supernatural activity,the biggest contributor to that activity is the person or group of people involved,and so it is that often the belief will generate the actuality.Thus,a keris is not necessarily the same object to different people.
However,many collectors seem to construct their collections upon the precept that for a keris to be "genuine",it must bear evidence of age,the age more or less gives assurance that the keris was made at a time when belief in magic was strong,and thus,the assumption is that some magic quality would have been incorporated into the keris during its making.From discussions I have had,and listened to over the years,this seems to be the rationale behind the building of this type of collection.Regretably this rationale can be shown to be faulty, by an examination of the history of the keris,together with a basic understanding of supernatural phenomena.
Then,of course,some collectors cherish the weapon function of the keris.The keris is unarguably a weapon,and the further back in history we go ,the more important its role as weapon appears to be.Thus,old keris =keris as a weapon ="I wonder how many people this one has killed?" Sort of a vicarious third person association with violent death.I suppose this basis for a collection could be attractive to some people,but personally I cannot support this viewpoint .
When you move past the ideas of the keris as a weapon,and the keris as a vessel for magic power(here I use "magic power"in its widest possible sense),you arrive at the idea of the keris as a work of art.Throughout the history of mankind ,the highest technology,and the highest artistic endeavour has been bestowed upon mankind`s weapons.The keris exemplifies this marriage of art and technology within the culture of Jawa specifically,and to a lesser extent within the societies which adopted the keris from Jawa.
Thus,the more you penetrate to the heart of the world of the keris,and the more you listen to the people who really do understand ,the more you realise that although most of them acknowledge the existence of a supernatural component in the nature of some keris, and equally recognise the other facets of its nature ,when it comes to the appraisal of a keris ,they almost universally use criteria which do not rely on the interpretation of any supernatural qualities,or of any supposed weapon function.
So what you find with these true experts is that they tend to appraise keris on the basis of artistic values ,which although rather specialised,do incorporate universal values.As in any field of artistic expression,it is possible to find excellence in a 200 year old work,and equally in a 2 week old work.It is also possible to find 200 year old inferiority.If something was less than good when it was made 200 years ago,the mere fact that it has survived for 200 years does not make it any better now.It is still inferior ,only 200 years older.
So Tom, it comes down to the motivation for the collection.Why does anybody collect keris?Because of supposed magical association?Because of supposed weapon function?Or because of the desire to collect the supreme example of art and technology combined,from one particular culture?
Then there is the other motivator.What I have heard Alan Maisey refer to as the "Silk Road Syndrome".This is the longing which many of us have for a different time,a different place,far away and long ago.The keris seems to exemplify this place in the heart of many people.Perhaps I am one of them.
Now,I am not suggesting for a moment that there is any conscious recognition of the motivators for collecting amongst collectors themselves,however,I believe a no holds barred examination of any of us would reveal that one or a combination of the above would be what is driving any of us.
David(DAHenkel)has put forward an economic rationale for the purchase of older keris,and has given as an example the comparative costs of carved Peninsular handles.I am unable to comment on the costs or values of Peninsular handles,however, my own experience in comparative costs of Javanese keris fittings is that for items of equal quality-and I do stress equal quality-old items are very much more expensive than new.As far as blades are concerned,again,a Surakarta blade from,say, the 1840`s,will be vastly more expensive than a blade of comparable quality from one of today`s makers.
It is certainly true that it is possible to puchase examples of keris with blades a couple of hundred years old,and dress from the late 19th. century for much lower prices than than you will pay for a good quality recent keris,however,when the measurement of equal quality is applied,you realise that ,as in all things,you get just about what you have paid for.
However,David`s remarks relevant to the disappearance of certain skills,and materials are ,regretably ,all too true.If you want some nice trembalu or one of the timoho grains in your collection,you simply will not get it in new work.
To my mind the key factor in all of this is quality.Buy quality, whether old or new,and it will appreciate,for the simple reason that there is never very much of quality available.Buy mediocre or inferior examples and they will not appreciate ,and you well may find that you have difficulty in even getting your money back if you want to sell them.
When I consider what you have written relevant to your own collecting ,I suspect that were I to view your collection I would find that it had been constructed on the general principles of artistic appreciation.

How long does it take to make a keris? : How long is a piece of string?
I cannot answer either of these questions.There are too many variables.
However,I have seen various people making keris.For a tourist grade recent "keris",around 3days for the blade,3days for wrongko without pendok,2days for handle.I don`t know how long it takes to make a mendak.
On the other hand,a small keris pasopati that Alan Maisey made some years ago took three days of forging using two strikers,and a further 40 days(and I mean 8 and 10 hour days) of carving.Empu Suparman,who was Alan`s teacher,could complete the carving of a keris in under 20 days.The forging time is pretty much a constant,except where complex pamor miring is produced,when forging time can increase tremendously.
The mental effort involved in making a keris is dependent upon the degree of artistic effect that the maker is attempting to create.This can involve lengthy periods of intense concentration on just one small part of the blade.I`ve seen what is involved,and its just too hard.
Top quality new dress takes relatively lengthy periods to produce.
As an example:
The silver used in a pendok comes in the form of a small ingot.This is hammered out by hand into a sheet,which is left marginally thicker at the edges to be joined.It is formed over a mandrel,silver soldered together,filled with wax and laid on a bed of hot wax.When the wax is cold the design is hammered in,mostly freehand.When the design is complete,the pendok is cleaned of wax and polished.Just to hammer out the ingot into the required sheet takes a skilled worker three full days.
The tukang warongko must interpret not only the grain of the wood, but also match the subtleties of the wrongko to the age,physical size,and personality of the person who has commissioned it.Additionally he must stay within the parameters of the wrongko style which has been ordered ,and suit it to the blade style.All this again takes much contemplation and consideration.
Similarly,the tukang jejeran,or handle maker needs to consider the same factors as the tukang wrongko,and will sometimes work under the direction of the tukang wrongko in the completion of an order for a client.
The factor of over-riding importance is that the completed ensemble must achieve harmony.
The production of a good quality recent ,or new,keris involves the total expenditure of a very considerable number of man hours by skilled artisans.It is not"straight forward craft work".The top quality work today is produced by traditional methods,and by application of traditional standards,but sometimes the artists and craftsmen involved will use more modern tools.This use of more modern tools is one of the reasons for the prevalence of superior workmanship in recent fittings.

I hope the above answers your questions,Tom.I apologise for taking so long to get back to you,but I`ve had a few other commitments to attend to,and there were a couple of things relevant to my reply to you that I wanted to discuss with Alan Maisey before I went public.

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Tom Anson
posted 02-14-2001 02:31     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom Anson   Click Here to Email Tom Anson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your explanations.I do appreciate you sharing your knowledge and opinions with us.But I think maybe I have got more questions for you.
DAHenkel says:"the level of workmanship and attention to detail today just isnt what it used to be"
Wongdesa says:"Top quality work today is prduced by traditional methods but sometimes the artists and craftsmen involved will use more modern tools.This use of more modern tools is one of the reasons for the prevalence of superior workmanship in recent fittings."
Looks to me as if there is not agreement on the standard of recent work.
I know there is a lot of junky kerises around,but I also know there is some very,very good quality recent kerises available thru the right sources.In fact I have got some.
Can you please explain for me why DAHenkel says that workmanship is not what it used to be,but Wondesa says its better than ever.You both seem to be experts,but your opinions are very different.

Wongdesa,you mention "art" and "quality" a lot when you write about kerises.
I think I know what you mean when you use these words,but I have got my own idea of what art and quality is with kerises.
DAHenkel,you do not write about art and quality as much as wongdesa,but if I read thru everything you wrote it is clear that you are thinking about art and quality too.
I would really appreciate it if both of you could give your opinions of what these two words mean with kerises.I do not want to learn about all the tiny details of why one blade is good and another blade is not,but if you could give just some sort of overall guide I would really appreciate it.
I hope you can answer my questions.Thank you.

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Lee Jones
posted 02-16-2001 06:43     Click Here to See the Profile for Lee Jones   Click Here to Email Lee Jones     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Received from MF for posting:

I have been following this topic since it started and might have a picture or two that Wong Desa might use as an illustration while he delves into the details of good workmanship. "I took note that he could not put pictures on the web to illustrate his points."

Please ignore the oil residue showing in the fine details of the cuts on the front of the kerises. The actual cuts are sharp and well made.

The first is a "young" Surakarta Keris which may be critiqued to point out the good and bad points of its workmanship. "Actually Wong Desa might even be able to actually name the man who made this piece."

The second is a "young" Palembang Keris in which the creator attempted to reach for Surakarta craftsmanship and actually produced a pretty good piece for that region.

Both of these pieces, although young, are in pretty good condition (show what the piece might have looked like when it was delivered) and could be utilized to illiustrate the very precise details that have been mentioned early in Wong Desa's comments.

[This message has been edited by Lee Jones (edited 02-17-2001).]

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Senior Member
posted 02-19-2001 09:50     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First off, I don't disagree that there are wonderful keris' being made right now. Indeed I suspect that the art of keris making is in something of a renaissance after the bad old days of the 70's and early 80's when kerismaking was an all but extinct artform. My point is simply that there is an incredible amount of rubbish being made these days and much of that rubbish is being passed off as quality work. Ugh, I shudder every time I come across some "fine vintage keris" on e-bay or in a shop somewhere that is little more than a cut out slab of sheet iron; with trashwood and aircraft aluminum fittings to boot! Even if you dismiss such garbage there are many keris; ostensibly classifiable as such, that is, a pattern welded blade and at least reasonably true to form fittings, that are as yet so badly made as to make a knowledgable collector wand to lose his lunch. Also, consider the flood of older, salvaged keris odds and ends, mismatched, hastily sanded, patched up, lacquered and marketed as desirable collectibles. Hey, if a collectors idea of a great keris is such garbage, more power to him. In a perfect world a spade would be called a spade and everyone could go about their business. Unfortunately, the keris, and the hobby are fragile. As has been noted on occasion previously there are numerous unscrupulous individuals, out there to make a fast buck, the hobby, and the keris be damned. If such rubbish is allowed to pass as quality it could, if left unchecked, ruin the hobby and relegate the keris to the scrapheap and the museum. Perhaps this sounds a bit melodramatic but such things certainly aren't helping. Potential lifetime keris fanciers and collectors eventually tire of getting taken for a ride and when that individual moves on it costs the hobby. Iwan, myself and others here are, I suppose, hoping to provide a caveat emptor and offer our experience and knowledge to others out there with interest.

Tom is misrepresenting my opinion when he notes that I write "workmanship is not what it used to be." I stand by that statement but I would not and do not dispute that there are fine craftsmen out there making keris' and keris fittings that rival the best stuff ever made. My point is simply that there are the proverbial drop in the sea of swill we swim today. For every Nik Rashidin, for every Pauzian, for every Djeno, there is an army of poorly paid, untrained, unknowledgable handicraft factory workers that turn out unmitigated crap by the containerload. Kraftangan Malaysia, as well as other government sponsered, quasi-government and private companies are churning out cheap, and sometimes not so cheap tourist pieces that unsupecting collectors embrace as the real mccoy. I, for one, find this unacceptable and will do all I can to stop it.

Wongdesa writes of "Art" and "quality" while I tend to focus on "craftsmanship," "fit and finish" and "form." I would suggest that we are approaching the same thing from different perspectives. Iwan's approach is aesthetic while mine is more material but we're both talking about "quality." I can't, and see little need to rehash what has been said before. Hopefully someday, one of us will find the time to sift through the rhetoric and opinion we have expressed in this forum and come up with some commonsense guidelines on what to look for in terms of "quality." That was, after all, the original point of this thread. But even if we seem to have stalled somewhat lately I think we've accomplished a great deal. Nor do I see any reason to rush things. I'm generally satified with the direction things have gone in so far. We have a long way to go and need input from more people.

MF's pictures are, IMO marvelous examples of good quality recent items. (The Palembang piece strikes me as having a little, but not too much age to it. Then again, I've been wrong before, a lot.) I'd love to see more pictures of the fittings and of the blades in their entirity. Great stuff. Thanks MF!

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Adni Aljunied
Senior Member
posted 02-19-2001 11:11     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Really good pictures taken MF.

The examples are indeed showing well executed dapor features (in my book) and it is quite interesting comparing them both.

The grenengs on both shows the splay or kruwingan (discussed earlier) and the ron-dha are well spaced. They both are having three ron-dhas, one at the blade and the other two at the ganjar. I see a more refined ron-dha nut (between the ron-dhas) in the palembang as compared with the javanese. Although at the gandik area, the javanese piece looks more deeper and they share the same features, except for an additional lambei gajah in the Javanese piece.

I know that I might be intruding here, as you are addressing Wong Desa (where are you Irwan), but I am very tempted to say that the javanese piece was made by the famous Empu Jeno Harumrojo. A more overal picture will help, but I have seen a number of his pieces ad this ones looks very "similar".

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 02-20-2001 04:30     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom,I suspect that the major reason for the apparent variation in David`s opinion and mine ,relevant to the quality of recent work is because each of us has experience in different areas.From what David has written I assume his base of knowledge is rooted in the Malay Peninsular in general,and with more specific knowledge of certain areas within that broader area.
My own knowledge is rooted in Jawa,Madura and to a lesser extent,Bali,with a focus on Central Jawa and specifically Surakarta.
I have no first hand knowledge of the Peninsular.
In the areas with which I am familiar ,keris culture,and the arts of the keris ,are alive and well.In Solo(Surakarta) at the Academy of Indonesian Art (A.S.K.I.) there is a department ,which is a part of the school of plastic arts,which specialises in the keris.
There are societies given over to the study of the keris,and within the larger sphere of Indonesian art,the keris ,and particularly the blade of the keris,is recognised as a legitimate expression of art.Indeed ,some authorities regard the blade of the keris as the highest expression of the Javanese plastic arts.
The place of the keris within Javanese society is stable,and it is a requisite item of dress for most formal occasions.
In brief,it has been for a very long time,and remains,an integral part of Javanese society.I recall reading somewhere that "Jawa without the keris would not be Jawa."

Now, if we contrast this situation with the situation that David has reported from the Peninsular ,we find that there is an enormous variation.
From David`s writings ,it would appear that keris culture in the Peninsular is all but dead.The most basic skills have apparently disappeared,as has the fund of knowledge necessary to support the culture.

It is probable that most of the recent work that David has seen is that same horribly inferior rubbish that seems to abound on auction sites and in tourist destinations throughout S.E.Asia.If my suppositions are correct,they would do much to explain David`s opinions on recent work.
In any case,if my recollection of his remarks are correct(I don`t intend to read back through this thread to check),he has usually qualified his opinions with something like "most of",or "mostly",which would seem to indicate that he recognises that there is good work out there,he just hasn`t seen a lot of it.
Please correct me if I`m wrong on this David.

Tom,you yourself are well aware of the superb quality which is available from some sources.I believe we both count ourselves acquaintances of at least one of your suppliers,and I have taken the liberty of perusing photos of some of your recent purchases.I compliment you on your taste.

As to the question of "art" and "quality".In fact Tom,these things are what this thread is supposed to be about.We have already written a fair bit about these matters, but I must admit,what has been written is probably difficult to identify specifically,and it is far from complete.
Hopefully,one day ,we may be able to draw together our ideas on these matters and reach some more or less comprehensive agreement.Presently we still seem to have a way to go.
I can understand your request to omit the "tiny details",however,as with almost anything,it is the "tiny details" that separate the people who really know, from those who only think they do.The true experts on keris(and I am not one of these,in fact,on a direct educational comparison,I`m probably about half way through junior high) have an obsession with detail.Perhaps there is no place for this extreme attention to detail within the western keris collecting ethic,but,regretably,without it an in depth understanding of keris art cannot be achieved.
However,this does not answer your question,does it?
What follows is my opinion of the broad,overall,components of quality in a keris.As you request ,I have made these very broad,even flexible guidelines.They are not absolutes,and I have tried to stay away from the "tiny details".

The most important single factor is harmony.Everything should look as if it is a part of a whole.All separate components should fit together firmly and correctly.All separate parts of a complete keris should be correctly matched.By this I mean that a Solo handle with a Jogja scabbard is totally unacceptable.Even more so,a Javanese scabbard with a Sumatra handle.There are some exceptions to this rule,but they are rare,and I did promise to stay away from detail.
The gonjo should fit the mouth of the wrongko firmly.It should not rattle around.
As a general rule,a keris should be presented in clean,undamaged condition.The wrongko should have either a respectable patina,or a lustrous polish.There should be no chips or cracks;this is often difficult to achieve with older pieces,but where damage to the wrongko does exist,it should be reflected in a correspondingly lower price.
The wood in the wrongko should display an attractive grain;contrast ,as in the various timoho grains,is prized,as is chatoyancy,that three dimensional effect,like a cat`s eye.However,having said this,scented sandalwood is one of the most highly prized of woods,and it is frequently of very plain grain.
The pendok can probably be appraised in the same way as any similar piece of European metal work.It should be a good fit to the wrongko,thicker material is preferred to thinner,any embossing should be deep,clean and positive.Old undamaged pendok can be expected to carry a premium.
The handle should be without without chips and cracks,any carving should be deep,clean and positive.A few rambling scratches do not a carving make.Probably the most highly regarded wood for a Javanese handle is tayuman,usually reddish in colour,dense,and will sink in water.It is very subject to cracking,and should be kept out of direct sunlight.
The blade should be presented in correct stain.The gonjo should be tight.Many,if not most,blades that have been cleaned and stained in Jawa since the general availability of Araldite (probably about 1960) will be found to have Araldite between the bottom of the gonjo and the base of the blade,and around the base of the pesi.This should not be regarded as a defect.Javanese m`rangis have adopted the use of this 20th. century material to help prevent further erosion of the area between gonjo and blade base.(usually this araldite is not obvious,because it is mixed with iron filings)
The workmanship of the blade should present clean ,positive lines;the carving of the various features should (ideally) be mirror images on either side of the blade.The overall visual impression of the blade should be harmonious:when you view the blade,think of a well formed young man-this should be the blade image;the blade should not remind you of an overweight old man,or of a house wife.The impression should be young,vital.Whether powerful,or agile,depends upon tangguh.
Pamor material should be in accord with age,broadly,old keris-low contrast pamor;recent keris-high contrast pamor.The pamor pattern should be well controlled and attractive.(There`s a lot more to it than this,but I said I`d keep it simple).
Two simple "rule of thumb" indicators of quality in a keris blade are a substantial,well formed gonjo,and management of the pamor material which has achieved an even exposure of blade core around the edge of the blade.These two indicators will rarely be found.
Blade material varies in appearance from tangguh to tangguh,so I am reluctant to comment on what is "quality" blade material.
That`s about it Tom.I think its about as broad and non-specific as I can get.However,if you followed what I`ve written you wouldn`t go far wrong.How much use it is to you is another question.With your experience,and what I already know of the pieces you`ve added to your collection during the last 6 years or so,I`d say you`re already well past the level I`ve outlined above.But that`s where the twist is:to go past the above probably involves getting lost in detail.

(I wrote the above on 16 February,then my computer decided to display her feminine nature,so I had to take her to see a computer psychologist to get straightened out;she came out of the clinic today ,and seems to be responding normally again,but you never can tell with ladies,so my fingers are crossed)

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 02-20-2001 05:49     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I`m back Adni!Just like Freddy.Bad attack of neurotic computer.
Good pics M.F.What are you using?Macro,or manipulation?I`m not much of a photogragher;that`s half the problem with my inability to post pics.The other half is my current lack of a scanner.But things are looking up.Maybe I`ll get some pics up before too much longer.

To be able to comment on the blade ,I need to see the entire blade,in clear silhouette.I also need to see a close up of the sorsoran(area from tip of sogokan to base including all of gonjo).Top view of gonjo is also necessary(ie,looking down on the gonjo from the top of the pesi).
Even then it is difficult to comment,because you can only see a flat representation.This is only a part of the story.But at least there is a chance I could make some relevant comments.From just pics of the edges of the base I`m not brave enough to say anything.
I could never name who made the blade.I`m not that good.If he held it,Alan Maisey possibly could name the maker,but I doubt that even he could name the maker from a photo.
Since the time of Mataram ,South Sumatra court blades have followed the style of the dominant Javanese kraton.Something to do with political allegiances.I have read about it,but I`ve forgotten the details.From what I can see in the pics,it looks like the South Sumatra blade is a near copy of a Surakarta blade.I`ll be better able to comment if we can get pics as I`ve indicated above.

David,I agree with you:I think we`re both going in the same direction.
The distinction between "art",and "craft" is slight.Some would have that there is no distinction.The only reason I prefer to use the word "art",is because I have been taught that the blade of the keris is art,and is so regarded in Jawa.
One could perhaps say that my view is aesthetically materialistic,whilst yours is materialistically aesthetic.We`re really only playing with words.
As you remark,we do seem to have slowed down a bit,and it is certain that we need more input.I`d really love to see a little bit more input from all the people who seem to be following this thread.

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Senior Member
posted 02-20-2001 11:13     Click Here to See the Profile for Mick   Click Here to Email Mick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The pictures are macros taken with a digital camera (optical zoom only) and put right on the web by Lee directly. They are only 640 X 480 in size.

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 02-21-2001 02:01     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for your reply ,Mick.These photos of yours are some of the sharpest and clearest I`ve seen on the net.As I`ve already said,I`m not much of a photographer.I`d really appreciate it if you could give me further details of what sort of set up you used to take these pics,and your equipment.Or,is the clarity and sharpness related to the way in which they were loaded for us to access?Anything at all that you think could assist me will be appreciated.Thanks.

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 02-23-2001 01:39     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And thanks for your additional info also ,Mick.I attempted to return the mail,but it would not transmit.

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Tom Anson
posted 02-27-2001 02:39     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom Anson   Click Here to Email Tom Anson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I apologize if you think I misrepresented your opinion DAHenkel.I just took what you wrote at face value.I did not intend to offend you.Your new remarks do clear up the matter a lot.
So now it looks as if both you and Wondesa agree that recent work can be very,very good,and the pictures that MF has posted seem to prove the point.
I agree with you about all the rubbish kerises that are around,but do you really think that people who have got even a little bit of an idea what kerises look like buy any of this rubbish?
I always figured the rubbish kerises get bought by people who want something to put on the wall behind the bar.I never thought they would get bought by collectors cause they do not really look like genuine kerises.Anyway,the prices that this rubbish sells for must tell people what they are buying.
Do you know any collectors with a bit of experience that have bought any of these rubbish kerises thinking they were getting the real thing?

Thank you for your explanations Wongdesa.
I think I have followed most of what you have explained with my collecting,but you have opened my eyes to a couple of things I did not know before.I never realised the harmony idea was important,but when I look at the kerises that I think are real nice in my collection,I think maybe all of them would qualify as harmonious.These kerises are generally not the ones with the real fancy carved hilts,but are mostly ones with Jogja or Solo hilts and rongkos.

I have got another couple of questions that I hope somebody can help me with.
I know there are different types of pamor like lumlah and miring and tambel.Can anyone explain for me the differences in the way they are made and if any pamor patterns are better than any others?

Wongdesa,if a pamor should be "well controlled" what does well controlled mean when we talk about pamor on kerises?

The colour of pamor seems to vary a lot between various kerises.I`ve read and heard that old kerises had pamor made of meteorite and then some people say that more recent kerises have pamor made of nickel.Does anybody really know what pamor is made from,both in olden days,and in more recent times?
Or is everyone just guessing?
Have there been any serious scientific researches into what exactly pamor is?

I hope some of you experts can help me with my questions.

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posted 03-02-2001 19:43     Click Here to See the Profile for Kiki-Gonn   Click Here to Email Kiki-Gonn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, think I definitely found the right place! I've been surfing the web trying to educate myself on kerises. I have one (roughly 100+ yr old) and wanted to clean the blade up a bit. In my reading I've heard of 'ruining' a keris by removing the patina(?), which I was told was 'stabilized oxidation.'
With the other antique bladed weapons I've bought (pretty new to this hobby), I tried to remove rust and polish the blade in an effort to get it as close to the original finish as possible.
With kerises, it seems this isn't advisable? I definitely don't want to:
a)devalue the piece (even though I don't see myself ever selling it, it was a gift)
b)ruin the 'original' texture/finish

So, what, if anything is advisable here? The blade looks like the newer pieces in those great pics from this post thread. I can see what I would call the original finish (light, rough grey)all over the blade but a lot of it is covered by old rust/patina/growth. This is dark (much darker than the original blade), with a fine texture.
Basically, the blade looks like if left alone forever, it would end up like the older pieces in those pics, almost all black.
Should I not try to remove the oxidation (at least that's what I'd call it) that seems to be taking over the blade? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Adni Aljunied
Senior Member
posted 03-02-2001 22:14     Click Here to See the Profile for Adni Aljunied   Click Here to Email Adni Aljunied     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Glad you found out about this thred Kiki.

Yes Kiki, the approach in cleaning a keris is diffrent from other western technique. There is baically three stages of washing.

First, all the rust and whatever "foriegn" substances (you mentioned black oxidide?) is removed using natural citric acids. This maybe in the form of lemon or pineapple juices. I personally prefer lemon juices, and I dilute it a little with water. Scrubbing the blade with a toothbursh to remove the rust. Some stubborn rust spots needs overnight soaking in the solution of citric acid, but diluted before leaving it overnight.

The second stage is where the blade is whitened. There are many variations of substances used for this, and I use either plain ash, or a kind of fruit called "buah mengkudu" in Malay. Here the balde is again throughly scrub using the ash and water or citric acid. It should make the blade silvery white in colour.

The third stage is the most sensitive one and you also need to get some refined arsenic, which may be a problem getting due to it's poisonous nature. The arsenic is mixed again with citric acid but this mixture must be left to "mellow" before it can be used. The blade is "massaged" in this solution and this process will bring out the contrast in the paor patterns.

There is also a good write up about how the above is done at Paul's kris page. I had included the URL below. Just for your info, the person washing the krises in the pictures is yours truly.

[This message has been edited by Adni Aljunied (edited 03-02-2001).]

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 03-03-2001 20:00     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom Anson,and anybody else following this thread:I`ve posted an answer to Tom`s questions on the "Part 2" thread.I have done this as I consider this thread to be more appropriate to the nature of Tom`s questions.

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posted 03-04-2001 14:42     Click Here to See the Profile for Kiki-Gonn   Click Here to Email Kiki-Gonn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the post. As long as I've found an expert, allow me to try and get clarification on some things:
1) Does the traditional cleaning method lower the value of the piece in the West? I personally would gladly sacrifice monetary value for the pleasure of seeing the acutal pamor but just want to see if I'm understanding this correctly.
2) Is this process designed to remove the patina or preserve it while still cleaning the blade (again, I've gotten some seemingly contradictory information from different places)?
Thanks so much.

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Senior Member
posted 03-04-2001 21:54     Click Here to See the Profile for Federico   Click Here to Email Federico     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Patina will be removed in cleaning, if not then well its probably not been cleaned well enough. As for value it depends on who youre selling to, what the quality of the blade already is, and how well you restore it. Also as long as youre not trying to sand the blade down or something along those lines the surface texture should be fine, unless you "over-etch" in an acidic solution. Acids basically burn off surface material, and so the danger with over-soaking a blade (even in lemon juice) is that too much steel will be "burned off". However this shouldnt be too much of a concern. When using acid try warming the acid or the blade itself with a blowdryer. It helps the chemical reaction along. 15min to a 30 min soak should remove all stubborn rust. If you can find a source for arsenic in the US, Id be interested in knowing where you get it.

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Senior Member
posted 03-05-2001 11:14     Click Here to See the Profile for DAHenkel   Click Here to Email DAHenkel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is just a stab in the dark but I remember once reading that a woman who tried to kill her husband bought the arsenic she used from an arbor shop. Apparently its used to kill creepy crawlies in the garden. Might be worth looking into.

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posted 03-05-2001 14:05     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the stuff falls under the Hazmat. (hazardous materials) regs. I have spent a looong time looking for a supply. The powers that be seem to keep a close watch on the stuff. Anyone know a chemistry teacher ?
Pretty dangerous stuff; the fumes from the etching mixture can be extremely toxic in a confined space; or so I have read.

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wong desa
Senior Member
posted 03-05-2001 16:05     Click Here to See the Profile for wong desa   Click Here to Email wong desa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are several traditional ways to clean and stain a keris blade,and the method described by Adni is one of them.
His caveats on the use of the acidic liquids used for cleaning are wise,however,my personal experience with tinned pineapple juice is that no matter how long you soak a blade in it ,it never damages the blade.It is a very slow ,very gentle cleaning agent,and with a particularly dirty blade,it could take up to a couple of weeks ,and a couple of changes of juice ,to get the blade clean.I know that Alan Maisey has been using pineapple juice for about 40 years,and yesterday I confirmed with him that he has never had any unfortunate experiences with it.The blade should,however be monitored,and removed from the juice once or twice daily for a rinse and brush under running water.
The arsenic that is used in Jawa is a natural,unrefined substance.It comes in lumps that have to be ground up for use,and is a mottled yellowy-orange in colour.It contains impurities.This is the very best arsenic for staining.
Obviously we don`t have access to this,and as already noted,arsenic of any type is difficult to obtain.
Regretably any old arsenic will not necessarily do the job.
If you use industrial,or commercial arsenic,you run the risk of getting some pretty funny colours in the finished blade.Colours like reds and yellows.
The arsenic you require is laboratory quality arsenic tri-oxide(white arsenic).
Up to about ten years ago it was relatively easy to purchase this in Australia.These days it is necessary to obtain a licence from a Govt. dept.,and you have to satisfy all their requirements for accountability and safe keeping.In my opinion,it has become a case of protecting fools from themselves.
However,it would surprise me if a similar system does not operate in the U.S.,and other parts of the world.Provided you play these bureaucratic games according to the rules,you can do and get just about anything.
Arsenic is a very dangerous substance.It will kill you.So will alchohol,unless it is used correctly.
People in some industries handle arsenic all day long.In these industries,in Australia,it is necessary for these workers to be tested periodically to monitor the arsenic levels in their bodies.If the level gets too high ,you get sick,keep working,you die.Additionally,arsenic is a carcinogen.So is tobacco.
In Jawa there are many people who stain blades as their regular job.Every day they have arsenic on their hands.Most of these men have been doing this work for years.Most of them are quite old.
So, I wouldn`t be too worried about handling arsenic.Treat it with respect,don`t eat it,and wash your hands when you finish using it,and always keep it locked up,away from little hands.

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