Join Date: Dec 2004
Having restored, polished, and cut things with a lot of antique and recent-vintage SE Asian and especially Filipino knives and swords over the years, I can say that they all, being handmade by craftsmen, are highly individualistic in terms of their metallurgical quality. It's almost impossible to generalize by type.
I've worked on old Moro kerises that would truly impress the Spanish colonizers of centuries past for their resilience and temper, not to mention the pattern-welding. Others have less going for them -- forging flaws, or excessively soft cores that take a set easily. Some edges are quenched and tempered very hard like Indian crucible steel, others have a softer and tougher edge like a machete, and a few are just plain soft. And there is no hard-and-fast correlation between steel quality and the artistry of the hilt. Campilion blades are prone to even more variation, understandable since it is quite difficult to temper such long and thin blades in pre-industrial conditions.
Some collectors tend to disparage central and northern Philippine knives for the less-careful finish quality, but many of these are really well-tempered, sturdy, and efficiently designed. It's hard to beat a good talibong for a combo of cutting and stabbing efficiency. Battara is right about the availability of industrial steel in the 20th cent. contributing to greater consistency in the finished product. Nothing wrong with jeep and truck spring steel... A Thai knifemaker told me that Japanese leaf springs from light trucks made up through the 1970s are lamellar, a type of "san mai" construction and that is why they were popular material for dha blades made in Aranyik.