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Old 30th September 2020, 12:01 AM   #1
xasterix
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Default Tboli Kampilan for Assessment

Greetings everyone. Just sharing pics of a piece I got recently. Would like to gather estimates on probable age. The tip of the blade has silver inlay dots, and the left-facing side of the blade has what seems to be rasp. The hawk bells are strung to the hilt with beadwork. Blade length is 21 inches; I've cleaned up the hilt (it had a lot of muck) and reset the blade (it was wobbly when I got it). TIA!
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Old 30th September 2020, 03:06 AM   #2
Ian
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Hi Xas,

That's a nice looking Tboli tok. As to age, it's always hard to say. However, one pointer is the degree of rubbing and wear to the brass/bronze hilt. Here the hilt shows little wear, while the blade shows no knicks or signs of repeated sharpening to indicate use over a lengthy period of time. The inserted dots towards the end of the blade are similar to the plugs seen on other tok, and these are copper or copper alloy in composition. It's possible you are looking at so-called white bronze if they appear to be "silver." I've attached an enhanced view of the blade and it appears these plugs have a yellowish hue.

The scabbard is atypical in some ways for a T'boli scabbard. In particular, it appears to lack the geometric carving seen on most tok scabbards and the textile wrap does not look T'boli to me, although Marbel can give you a better read than I can on the textiles. The scabbard textiles do show some rubbing, which one sees on older pieces, but rubbing can be created to give the impression of greater age. In the early 2000s I was told by a trusted dealer in Manila that the T'boli were getting children to wear swords around so that the scabbards could "age." Obviously some of these were being produced with the object of selling them to collectors and others interested in cultural items. [As an aside, well provenanced pieces from pre-WWII are particularly difficult to find.]

The use of bead strings to attach the hawk bells is seen occasionally, and may be a recent form of adornment. The traditional means of attachment is with brass chain links. Incidentally, the type of hawk bells shown are made by the T'boli from brass/bronze wire.

My best estimate for age of this one is late 20th C (say, 1980s on). The good news is that the blades on those made in the late 20th C were still good quality.

Ian
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Old 30th September 2020, 03:38 AM   #3
Ian
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Hi Xas,

Just to expand a little bit on a couple of points.

The effects of repeated handling of the hilt during use of the tok can be seen in the attached picture. Note the rather blurred appearance of the cast designs and a loss of crispness to the detail. Also the grip feels slimmer in the hand than later examples.

In addition, this one has strings of beads that were probably added shortly before I acquired it in the late 1990s.

I believe this one is likely from before WWII, but I don't have a firm provenance.

Cheers,

Ian
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Old 30th September 2020, 05:45 AM   #4
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Hullo Ian thanks very much for the thorough assessment- I agree this is somewhat recent, the previous owner acquired this in the 80s, so your estimate is spot-on. I was also thinking it's recent since it's non-laminated (would lamination be a good indicator for age in lumad weaps?). The scabbard is indeed atypical- I had a load of swords to choose from, but I chose this because it fit my hand nicely (again, probably another indicator of recent-ness). Most of the older-looking ones seem to have smaller grips.
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Old 30th September 2020, 02:15 PM   #5
Ian
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
... I was also thinking it's recent since it's non-laminated (would lamination be a good indicator for age in lumad weaps?). ...
After about 1935, and definitely post-WWII, leaf springs from cars and trucks became more readily available leading to fewer blades with laminated patterns. However, in the late 20th C, there were still village panday who could forge weld and fold pieces of steel and iron, to create laminated patterns in their blades. This was especially true in more remote areas, including parts of Mindanao and neighboring islands. Sadly, as we have discussed before, those skills are dwindling.
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... I chose this because it fit my hand nicely (again, probably another indicator of recent-ness). Most of the older-looking ones seem to have smaller grips.
Yes, I would agree that the older ones often had slimmer (and maybe shorter) grips than more recent examples.
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Old 30th September 2020, 03:28 PM   #6
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Default Tboli

Hello Ian & Xas,

In terms of the textile, it's abaca but doesn't appear Tboli. It actually looks like Subanen. I'd be interested in seeing what's underneath the textile and if the scabbard has any markings or carvings.

Your thoughts on the hilt are quite accurate I think. While he's not likely too old, he was crafted and cast very well, nicely detailed. It's nice to find the old ones, which as you both noted seem a bit thinner and smaller and usually show nice wear or patina from use.

One thing to keep in mind on these Tboli hilts is that the availability of different metals or alloys was always changing. Softer bronze or brass blends created better casts and lovely patina after use. Harder or more coarse alloys created rough casts and didn't wear well over time. In the mountains, the brasscasters did their best with what they had at the time.
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Old 30th September 2020, 05:42 PM   #7
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Very nice example.

Based on the patina I would say that there is a mix of bronze dots on the bottom and silver dots on the top.

Ian and Marbel - would you say that the addition of beads on T'boli hilts like this are a later 20c development? Have never seen this on older pieces.
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Old 30th September 2020, 06:19 PM   #8
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Default Tboli

I personally don't think much information can be gathered from anything attached to a Tboli hilt - chains, beads, bells, etc. They are obviously easy to attach and detach any time. Traditionally, brass chains and bells would be used. I think the use of beads - with or without bells attached - is probably meant to make a Tboli hilt look more attractive or authentic to a buyer, but in actuality makes it less so.
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Old 30th September 2020, 09:39 PM   #9
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The blade could be an indicator of its age. I have a panabas with a similar pattern on the blade; it was made from a huge rasp file as yours may be as well. As a result of the Spanish and the American presence in the Philippines, a large chunk of good steel taken off one of their ships would certainly be tempting. Ships needing a wood rasp probably pre WW2, so in my completely uninformed opinion, the blade could date between 1890-1939; after that, there were plenty of leaf springs as already mentioned.
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Old 2nd October 2020, 12:44 AM   #10
Battara
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Thank you Marbel for confirming my suspicions.
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Old 5th October 2020, 01:50 PM   #11
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Default tboli kampilan for assessment

Hi,

The info on this piece is great. But IMHO the abaca textile on the scabbard is most likely called Dagmay- and this type of abaca weave comes from the Mandaya tribe. My father showed me his very old piece of dagmay and it matches the design on the abaca weave.

Just my observation.

Yves
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Old 5th October 2020, 06:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanaruz
Hi,

The info on this piece is great. But IMHO the abaca textile on the scabbard is most likely called Dagmay- and this type of abaca weave comes from the Mandaya tribe. My father showed me his very old piece of dagmay and it matches the design on the abaca weave.

Just my observation.

Yves


Many thanks for this info- yet another possible twist in the confused identity of this particular blade. I'll look into dagmay patterns.
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Old 5th October 2020, 10:18 PM   #13
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Default Dagmay

I would agree with tanaruz, that dagmay is a good possibiity for the textile on this scabbard. Good call. Mandaya weaves are very distinctive and when seen on their own are quite easily identified - as are most other textiles from the area. When viewing only a very small piece of a larger textile it can get a bit tricky.
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Old 5th October 2020, 11:16 PM   #14
Ian
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Thanks Yves and Marbel for identifying the abaca textile as Mandaya. It highlights to me how widely the T'boli tok was traded and used. The finding of it in the dress of several different Lumad groups (so far I've seen it with Bagobo, B'laan, and now Mandayan features) suggests to me that the tok was a widely regarded sword of good quality, and that fits with my own direct examination of these swords.

Xas, I think you have a good cutter there.
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