Join Date: Dec 2004
I thought that I would address the "tool" versus "weapon" issue in a separate post.
What we are talking about is not a strict division between blades that are tools and blades that are swords. Rather, there are dha that are intended for use, and routinely used, for both, and there are dha that are intended for use solely as weapons, at least from the symbolic/status point of view, and are never used as tools.
Then there are blades that are basically intended to be used as tools, though of course they can be used as weapons if needed. The shorter choppers (dha-mauk) fall into this category, as they are distinguished by the Burmese as a separate type of blade that is essentially utilitarian and not seen as a "sword." The villager of Southeast Asia will seldom be without the dual purpose blade, as it serves as jungle knife, hunting knife, butcher knife, and as a weapon of defense or offense (the jungle is a dangerous place). The single use "weapon" dha are usually more carefully made, more carefully finished (such as with polishing) and can be more elaborately decorated (such as with engraving, inlay, koftgari, etc.). They are not subject to the wear-and-tear of the duel-purpose blade and so the owner invests more in it. The tool/weapon dha are generally less finished (though often of very good workmanship and steel, with laminated construction and/or edge hardening), ususally just roughly ground with file/stone marks still visible, and fittings of simple material -- plain wood scabbard and handle, rattan wrappings, etc.
So there is at least a functional, and in many ways interesting, distinction between the two types of swords. What I find most interesting is the utilitarian aspect of what really appears to be a weapon. I guess a machete is a good analogy. Is it a weapon? Is it a tool? Hm ....