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Old 23rd March 2024, 07:21 PM   #1
RobT
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Default Bali Keris Info & Advice Requested

Hi All,

This keris has what looks to me to be a rather straight forward, good quality, Balinese blade with good age. I count 15 luk and the blade is about 17.75” (45.085cm) long with a kelap lintah ganja. The only odd thing is the orange and black pigments in the fullers. The black pigment is barely visible and is in the fuller that terminates with the pecitan. Do the pigments have a culturally symbolic significance?
The hilt and sheath (especially the hilt) are really strange. The hilt (which appears to be on backwards) is so odd that at first I dismissed it as just something somebody stuck on the blade so they could sell it but the brass (or bronze) selut seems to be designed for a keris tang and it fits the hilt. For all its strangeness, the hilt appears to have been made with care. The brass pommel has been affixed with two screws that have been filed down so that the screw slots are mostly missing. There is a 1/8” diameter hole through the pommel that doesn’t extend into the wood. The hilt is very firmly attached. Normally, I would just use a heat gun to heat the blade by the tang to loosen the hilt so I could turn it around but, in this case I’m afraid to damage the paint on the blade. I was thinking of wrapping the blade in wet cloth and using an attachment on my heat gun to restrict the heat to the tang/selut area. What does everybody think about that?
Unless the wranka is made with an extension (like some Sumatran sheaths) that is covered by the hilt wrap, the sheath appears to be sarong iras. The front of the wranka shows kadjo pelet coloration and the back has a black pigmented inline border. The blade fits reasonably well in the wranka. The hilt wrap appears to be some sort of fabric (maybe even friction tape) that has been very neatly spiral wrapped around the gandar. There is some black pigment showing above the wrap on the back of the gandar. Something may have been attached to the bottom of the gandar (see blurry photo attached) but I have no idea what it could have been.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Last edited by RobT; 23rd March 2024 at 07:25 PM. Reason: grammar & add'l info
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Old 23rd March 2024, 08:43 PM   #2
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I feel that I am looking at an out-of-society reconstruction here.

The blade does appear to be Bali, the visible part of the wrongko could possibly have been produced by reshaping a damaged original.

The craftsmanship of the hilt is not Balinese, Javanese, nor of any other SE Asian society that I can readily identify.

The orange in the sogokan I feel was probably originally red, so with red + black + the symbolism of Siwa carried by the sogokan, we have the trimurti:- Siwa-Brahma-Wisnu. This would be a part of the out-of-culture work, it would not have been done in Bali, but could have been added by a person with some understanding of socio-religious mores in Bali.

Opinion only, I have never seen anything like this previously.
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Old 24th March 2024, 10:08 AM   #3
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incredibly strange , although I cannot claim any in depth knowledge , my gut feeling is that this is a kris which was , as A.G. Maisey writes, a heavily modified kris, by someone outside the Indonesian culture (and not only the Balinese).

The setting of the hilt with screws is absolutely incredible and the warangka was certainly reshaped after some major damage.

So all an all, a conversation piece.


Heat gun may free the hilt but then, what are you going to do? Are you going to change all the parts of this kris that are incongruous?

If you are not , then you may as well leave it as it is, and if you are going to replace the hilt, the gandar en warangka, the paint of the sogokan would be the last of your concerns (let alone the fact hat if the blade would be stained they would probably disappear in the process unless you use the brushing and tapping technique.


In my opinion you may leave it as it is af a Xenomorph ( just made this word up, as foreign form to the original culture) kris . Enjoy it for what it is


Having taken a look to your previous posts I couldn't help to notice you apparent preference for things that are best defined as oddballs , which is a criterium for collecting in its own right.
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Old 24th March 2024, 05:38 PM   #4
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Hello Rob,

Like the others I've never seen something similar. The "wrongko" is reshaped in my opinion, can you show pics from that area? But it seems that this was done very long ago. The handle is unusual too and the orange paint in the sogokan is unusual indeed.
I personally wouldn't change anything by this keris and would keep it like this as a curiosity.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 24th March 2024, 05:47 PM   #5
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I don't really have much to add here and i am basically in agreement with Alan Milandro and Detlef.
The hilt is indeed out-of-culture, but i'm not sure it is a Western design. Something about it (perhaps that mother of pearl inlays) leads me to think of the Philippines as a a possible origin. I can't place the blade, but agree that it probably Balinese.
I would leave this odd ensemble as is also.

Last edited by David; 24th March 2024 at 07:22 PM. Reason: typing error
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Old 24th March 2024, 05:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
I can't place the blade, but agree that it os not Balinese.
I would leave this odd ensemble as is also.
Hello David,

To my eyes the blade looks Balinese/Lombok.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 24th March 2024, 07:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
Hello David,

To my eyes the blade looks Balinese/Lombok.

Regards,
Detlef
Sorry, that was a typing error. As you may have noted, i was trying to agree with the consensus, not disagree. LOL! Not sure why i stuck that "not" in there. But yes, possibly Lombok also. Hard to say.
I will adjust my post. Thanks for pointing out may error.
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Old 24th March 2024, 08:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
Sorry, that was a typing error. As you may have noted, i was trying to agree with the consensus, not disagree. LOL! Not sure why i stuck that "not" in there. But yes, possibly Lombok also. Hard to say.
I will adjust my post. Thanks for pointing out may error.
Hi David,

I was guessing like that and was jarred by your post!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 24th March 2024, 09:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
The orange in the sogokan I feel was probably originally red, so with red + black + the symbolism of Siwa carried by the sogokan, we have the trimurti:- Siwa-Brahma-Wisnu. This would be a part of the out-of-culture work, it would not have been done in Bali, but could have been added by a person with some understanding of socio-religious mores in Bali.

Opinion only, I have never seen anything like this previously.
Hello Alan,

Why should someone with a deep knowledge in Balinese Hinduism come to the idea to paint the sogokan red? I've read, that's your opinion only!
The scabbard is reshaped when I am not wrong but it looks to my eyes very well patinated so I guess it was done in the culture. In my opinion there is a good possibility that all modifications could originate in Bali or Lombok.
Also opinion only!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 24th March 2024, 10:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
In my opinion there is a good possibility that all modifications could originate in Bali or Lombok.
Also opinion only!
I don't know about the hilt. I really can't see anything Balinese in that. It seems very well made though. But i have never seen mother of pearl and nail decorations like that on Balinese or Lombok hilts. It puts me a little in mind of this type of decorations from recent Luzon knives, though perhaps a bit classier.
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Old 25th March 2024, 12:38 AM   #11
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Detlef, my phrasing was:-

"--- some understanding of socio-religious mores in Bali. ---"

I did not say, nor think, that the person who applied the red paint might have had a deep knowledge of Bali-Hindu religion.

However, if we look at the possible intended symbolism that could be attached to the paint job & its placement, what we have is this:-

sogokan> lingga> Siwa

red> Brahma

black> Wisnu

and there we have the Trimurti.

Whoever wielded the paint brush could very probably have had sufficient understanding to think that he was doing something in tune with Balinese mores.

In respect of these modifications being carried out in either Bali or in Lombok, in my opinion that is a total impossibility.

In Bali & Lombok the keris is a clearly defined item of dress, it MUST comply with certain specific standards, this keris under discussion is totally outside of the required parameters, not only that, but the hilt in particular is quite ludicrous in an indigenous context.

As others commented, for a collector outside of the relevant societies, this keris as presented is quite collectable, but for wear in Bali or Lombok?

I rather think not.
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Old 27th March 2024, 08:21 AM   #12
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Hello Alan,

I just was going with the well patinated reshaped scabbard. Such a patination doesn't happen in a short time.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 27th March 2024, 11:40 AM   #13
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I agree Detlef, the scabbard has some age, but that is not really relevant.

That scabbard could have moved to anywhere at any time, & if it had been damaged in Bali to the point where it could not have been worn, it would have been replaced, not cobbled up into some outlandish shape that fits nowhere.

At the end of the day we have what I think is probably a pretty nice blade that drifted away from its place of creation & somehow, in someway, got itself dressed up in secondhand clothes from a Salvation Army Store --- so to speak.

These outlandish clothes have covered its nakedness, so its not going to get itself arrested for indecent exposure, but dressed as it is, it really doesn't fit into any decent society.

Seems everybody wants to leave it as it is, maybe because as it is, it is really quite amusing, but if it were mine I'd burn the stuff out of the Salvation Army Store & give it clothes that would not embarrass it.

But then again, I do have a soft spot for the down and outers of this world.
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Old 29th March 2024, 01:12 AM   #14
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Hi All,

Thanks to all for all the input.
When I first saw this piece, it was in the sheath and I thought to myself, what a small and slender Moro kris. Then I saw the blade and realized it was Balinese.
So, what we have here is a Bali blade that has been painted by someone with enough knowledge of Hindu religious belief to choose colors evocative of Siva but without enough knowledge of Balinese culture to know that his paint job was inappropriate. On top of that, we have a hilt from goodness knows where and perhaps made from variously sourced parts but with a selut and tang hole that will fit an Indonesian keris. Thereís one thing I would be willing to bet. If the hilt was added in the Southern Philippines, it wasnít by the same guy that did the painting (unless the colors were chosen for some other and non-Hindu reason). Finally, we have what appears to be a sarong iras with a very badly damaged wranka that somebody thought enough of to modify and then add an inline border to the back side. I would love to see a picture of what the wranka looked like originally because, even with parts missing, itís bigger than any Balinese wranka I have ever seen. Because itís so big, I could see someone in the Southern Philippines wishing to repair and keep it. I can see the fabric wrap around the gandar as having been added in the Philippines also.
I am partially leaning toward A. G. Maiseyís advice. I think that someday an appropriate hilt and uwer would be nice but I think I will keep the sheath as is. When I eventually use a heat gun to remove the hilt (or at very least turn it to face properly), I will wrap the blade in a wet towel in an effort to preserve the paint. I know that the things chosen to keep and chosen to change are rather skewed (especially when viewed from the prospective of the original culture) but thatís what Iím thinking I may do someday. Iím in no hurry.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 29th March 2024, 01:44 AM   #15
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Rob, I would not use a heat gun, in my experience the heat generated is spread too widely.

I have on occasion used a heat gun as a heat source, but I am very selective in what I use it on.

If I were remove the hilt on this keris I would probably use a gas flame, but I seldom recommend this to other people --- I have removed at least hundreds of hilts from keris, pedang & other blades, for a first up, one off attempt I would never recommend a gas flame.

What I have used many times is the flame of a candle, it is a bit dirty, but the soot washes off easy with turps, and the blade needs a clean & stain in any case.

When I use a candle I hold the blade in my hand and gently work the hilt back & forth until it lets go.
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Old 29th March 2024, 07:44 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT View Post
Hi All,
Thanks to all for all the input.
When I first saw this piece, it was in the sheath and I thought to myself, what a small and slender Moro kris. Then I saw the blade and realized it was Balinese.
So, what we have here is a Bali blade that has been painted by someone with enough knowledge of Hindu religious belief to choose colors evocative of Siva but without enough knowledge of Balinese culture to know that his paint job was inappropriate. On top of that, we have a hilt from goodness knows where and perhaps made from variously sourced parts but with a selut and tang hole that will fit an Indonesian keris. Thereís one thing I would be willing to bet. If the hilt was added in the Southern Philippines, it wasnít by the same guy that did the painting (unless the colors were chosen for some other and non-Hindu reason). Finally, we have what appears to be a sarong iras with a very badly damaged wranka that somebody thought enough of to modify and then add an inline border to the back side. I would love to see a picture of what the wranka looked like originally because, even with parts missing, itís bigger than any Balinese wranka I have ever seen. Because itís so big, I could see someone in the Southern Philippines wishing to repair and keep it. I can see the fabric wrap around the gandar as having been added in the Philippines also.
I am partially leaning toward A. G. Maiseyís advice. I think that someday an appropriate hilt and uwer would be nice but I think I will keep the sheath as is. When I eventually use a heat gun to remove the hilt (or at very least turn it to face properly), I will wrap the blade in a wet towel in an effort to preserve the paint. I know that the things chosen to keep and chosen to change are rather skewed (especially when viewed from the prospective of the original culture) but thatís what Iím thinking I may do someday. Iím in no hurry.
It might be helpful if we knew the dimensions here. How long is this blade? Is it bigger than the average Bali blade. Obviously a sarung (wrongko) needs to be large enough to house the blade, but i'm not sure why that sarung would be bigger than most unless the blade also is. I'm not sure this is an iras sarung considering that the stem is covered and may be hiding the joint. You say this is fabric? From the photos it appeared to be some kind of tape.
I know that i suggested that the hilt looked like something that may have been made in the Philippines and it still does to me. But regarding your desire to preserve the black and red paint, how likely is it for someone in the Philippines to want to add Hindu symbolism to this adapted keris. The Hindu population in the Philippines is rather small, largely confined to the Indian Filipinos and the expatriate Indian community. I'm not sure that just because this is a Balinese blade that we can assume it was adapted to this dress by a Hindu. Still, i understand that you want to preserve the pigment. If i were to restore this blade i would be more focussed on staining it to bring out the pamor than saving these pigments. But i respect that you would rather save this aspect. But i believe you will find that wrapping the blade in a wet towel to protect the colours will work to your disadvantage while trying to remove the hilt with heat. It is the blade that needs to heat up to soften the adhesive and i would think a wet towel around the blade would make getting it to a high enough temperature a problem. Perhaps there is some other way to protect the paint.
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Old 29th March 2024, 09:43 PM   #17
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How this keris is treated from this point forward is very largely dependent upon the orientation of the collector who has it.

If a curio collector, then leave as is, if a keris collector, redress as Bali.

The blade is 17.75"long (post 1), taking into consideration the garap, most certainly this is a Bali blade.
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Old 29th March 2024, 11:59 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
How this keris is treated from this point forward is very largely dependent upon the orientation of the collector who has it.

If a curio collector, then leave as is, if a keris collector, redress as Bali.

The blade is 17.75"long (post 1), taking into consideration the garap, most certainly this is a Bali blade.
Thanks Alan, i must have missed the measurement. I wasn't asking about size to determine if the blade was Balinese or not. Just trying to understand why Rob thought the sarung was extra large for Bail keris.
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Old 31st March 2024, 04:24 PM   #19
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A. G. Maisey,
I understand your concern about the heat gun but, after having dismantled and stripped all the woodwork in our Victorian house (including the stairway), I can say without boasting, that I am rather expert in the use of a heat gun. There are attachments for my gun that can concentrate the heat on a very small area. Setting the gun on low heat and directing that heat onto the selut/tang/ganja area will loosen any native cutlerís resin. I know that I can do this without damaging the blade or hilt. My main concern is with the paint. It doesnít take much heat to pop paint off of a substrate. If more than a minimal amount of heat travels from the ganja to the blade proper, the paint could be compromised (either discolored or loosened from the metal). The strategy of wrapping the blade with a wet towel is (hopefully) my take on the Japanese method for differentially heat treating a blade edge. I would use wet clay but I donít have any. My other fear is that someone used a modern glue or (worse yet) epoxy to secure the hilt. In that case, the amount of heat I will be using will likely be insufficient to loosen the hilt.

David,
In my initial post I had mentioned the possibility of the wranka having a stem on the bottom that would attach to the gandar (like some Bugis sheaths). I have never seen this feature on a Bali sheath but Iím no keris expert. My problem with the wranka is that it is far deeper than on any Bali sheath I have ever seen. The deep warnka is needed because, if it were not so deep, the gandar would have to be much longer than it is now. I have taken a new picture that shows this. I also mentioned in my first post that the fabric hilt wrap may be friction tape. This is something I have seen on a number of Philippine sheaths. In my second post, I mentioned that I thought it unlikely that, if the piece had wound up in the Philippines, the paint was added there unless it had some non-Hindu meaning.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 31st March 2024, 09:53 PM   #20
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Rob, my concern with a heat gun is mostly because of the possibility of damage to a hilt or uwer, this keris does not have a hilt that needs to be preserved if it is removed. There is no possibility of affecting any heat treatment that the blade may have been subjected to, because the lower part of the blade will not have been hardened.

Removal of the hilt would only be necessary if the blade was to be stained, staining of the blade would only be necessary if the keris were to be redressed in Balinese dress.

If I use a two part epoxy adhesive I use Araldite, usually 5 minute, this has a service temperature to 100C, it will lose adhesion at 100C, there is a high temperature type that has service temp. to 400C, I believe it would be unusual to encounter this, but even so, 400C would still be OK to release with heat.

Equally, the paint has no place at all on the blade, sure, in can be hypothesized that a previous owner thought he was doing something in tune with Balinese mores, but he was wrong. If the decision is to restore, the paint must go.

If you're comfortable in using a heat gun, then use it. I have demounted more hilts than I can remember, certainly well into the hundreds, maybe more, keris & other blades. I've used candles, kerosene lamps, propane torches, & yes, heat guns, but it all comes down to one thing:- get heat up into the tang so that the adhesive lets go, there no great degree of skill required, but a strong wrist & a bench vice can help.

I see the whole matter very simply, as in an earlier post:-

If a curio collector, then leave as is, if a keris collector, redress as Bali.
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Old 1st April 2024, 11:38 PM   #21
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Quote:
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I see the whole matter very simply, as in an earlier post:-
If a curio collector, then leave as is, if a keris collector, redress as Bali.
I do have to say that Alan that it's not necessarily such a simple matter. Rob lives on the east coast of the USA and you can't just run out and hire a mranggi to make you a new sheath. Finding old sheaths that are the general right size that can be adapted for your keris is no simple task either. Send blades back to Indonesia can be a risky affair in both directions. And even if you are a good woodworker, or know a good woodworker, have a sarung made in the States for this is not likely to produce a product that would suit as an authentic Balinese sarung.
Finding a suitable hilt and uwer for the blade is, of course, a much easier proposition.
I currently have two unsheathed Bali keris that i would love to fully dress one day. It is not an easy task outside of the culture.
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Old 2nd April 2024, 12:03 AM   #22
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I agree David.

But really, it is perspective:- if you cannot get the blade dressed easily, it is a simple decision to let it stay as is.
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Old 2nd April 2024, 07:59 AM   #23
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I have had one bad experience sending through a friend 2 blades to an address in Bali the blades got lost, but actually it was largely my friend's fault.

On the contrary I have had several successes in sending the measures (it is not easy but can be done) of the blade to a carver in Bali and they have made the dress for me , it needed minor alteration to fit and I am very happy with it.


It surely can be done , but one has to want to do it.
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Old 6th April 2024, 10:10 PM   #24
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Hi All,

I got the hilt loose. The round tang hole was tapered to fit a keris tang, so the hilt appears to have been deliberately made for a keris. The hole is a hair less than 3Ē (7.62cm) deep . The kris tang measures 2-11/16Ē (6.82625cm) long and is 23/64Ē (9.118mm) in diameter at the base. When I took the hilt off, I found some ťcru colored thread wrapped around the end of the tang, so whoever mounted the hilt had some knowledge of how kris hilts are affixed. The oval shaped, brass selut is plain save for a rim at the top. There is also a brass ring below the selut that may have been soldered to it at one time but is now separate. The brass ring had the same orange pigment found in the blade fuller and some of that pigment was on the top of the ganja right around the ring. Why anyone, with enough knowledge to fit a keris hilt properly, would make such a bizarre hilt assemblage is anyoneís guess. The same question can be asked about the ultra deep wranka on the sheath.

Sincerely,
RobT
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