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Old 2nd November 2015, 04:53 AM   #1
ariel
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Default How did Empus obtain steel?

I looked in several books and couldn't find an answer.
Did Empus of Indonesia and Philippines make their own steel?
If no, where did they get it?
If yes, where did they get iron ore? What method did they use to make steel?
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Old 2nd November 2015, 06:28 AM   #2
A. G. Maisey
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Actually the question is probably :-

where did they obtain iron?

It depends on the period. In the period through to, and after, European contact, there was a lot of trade with other parts of Maritime SE Asia, China, India, and the Middle East. It is known that tools were imported from China, and the material from these tools was used in weapon production. Ferric material would probably have come into Jawa and Bali from the other trading partners also.

Iron bearing sands exist in a number of places in both Jawa and Bali, and smelting of these sands continued in some parts of East Jawa through into fairly recent times.

In Colonial times iron from European sources was used. In the late 19th and early 20th century the Javanese smiths had a great fondness for Dutch railway lines. These bules were incredibly stupid to put such valuable material out on the ground in isolated places with no guards --- difficult to understand how they think.

Much more recently the great grand sons of these smiths were removing the rivets from the new bridge between Surabaya and Madura, and for the same reason:- excellent material for free.

The production of local smelting operations was bloomery iron, which can be processed to produce steel. Only the core of the keris is steel, the outer faces of the blade are iron, in early blades the pamor effect was produced by forge welding local poor quality high phosphorus iron with the better quality imported material, this was done to extend quantity, but had the effect of creating pamor.

In later periods nickel bearing material from Luwu in Southern Sulawesi was used to produce the pamor effect.

Prof. Jerzy Piaskowski carried out a lot of research on the material of early keris. Most of his research centered around gonjos, and one of his interesting findings was a gonjo made from wootz. Whether this was local production or import we don't know, but there is a type of Javanese pamor material that has a very similar appearance to wootz. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that wootz was produced in Jawa.

A few years ago Dietrich Drescher carried out one or more successful smelts in Solo, with the assistance of a local pandai keris. I believe he used iron sands from the south coast of Jawa.

So, where did Javanese smiths obtain ferric material?

From local production and from imported tools and other imported goods.
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Old 2nd November 2015, 08:40 AM   #3
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Excellent! Many thanks!
Can you direct me, please, to Piaskowski's data?
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Old 2nd November 2015, 10:10 AM   #4
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Jerzy received his promotion some time ago and now dwells in a higher realm.

Much of his work was not published.

I have probably everything he did on this analytical work, and I would be happy to make copies available to you, except for his draft, unpublished work.

I cannot do this immediately because I will need to find it first, and at the moment I have a few difficulties which make finding and copying something of a major task.

Please PM me a postal address and I'll do what I can, when I can.

Here is a link to something that is available:-

https://books.google.com.au/books/a...AAJ&redir_esc=y
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Old 2nd November 2015, 06:41 PM   #5
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For the Philippines, there are and have been iron ore mines in the islands.
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Old 2nd November 2015, 10:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
In the late 19th and early 20th century the Javanese smiths had a great fondness for Dutch railway lines. These bules were incredibly stupid to put such valuable material out on the ground in isolated places with no guards --- difficult to understand how they think.

LOL! So glad i wasn't drinking anything when i read this or i may have ruined my keyboard snorting out the liquid.
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Old 4th November 2015, 11:26 PM   #7
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I forgot to add that in later years steel also came from truck and car springs as well.
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Old 5th November 2015, 12:15 AM   #8
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Yes, spring steel is usually very good material for knives, and for some other tools as well, but it is no good at all for keris.

What is required for keris is high quality wrought iron, or low carbon mild steel for the outer faces, either mixed with contrasting material to create pamor, or not, and a high carbon mild steel --- these days called a medium carbon steel --- of say around .5%C for the core.

The keris does not need high carbon material for its core, in fact, such material is not at all a good choice for the core of a keris. The keris as a weapon is used to thrust, it is not primarily a cutting weapon, and it is certainly not a tool, all that is required is material that will take an edge, not necessarily hold an edge. The softer material permits greater protection against breakage.

It could be argued that a high carbon steel, something like 01 (1%C) can be hardened and drawn to a spring temper (blue/straw) and that will provide flexibility, however, very few Javanese smiths seem to have an understanding of this today, and my guess is that in the past even less understood this. The traditional heat treat for a keris is a simple water quench not followed by a draw. This type of heat treat works very well for steels of less than .6%C.
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Old 5th November 2015, 03:08 AM   #9
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I agree Alan. That is why earlier Moro and Filipino smiths also blended layers of soft and harder steels for strength and impact resilience, especially since they did not use thrusting as much as slashing and cutting.
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Old 5th November 2015, 04:33 AM   #10
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If you forge weld layers of steel with varying content of carbon, what you're doing is producing mechanical damascus. The technique was known in a number of places throughout the world, and although one of the benefits is a product with a more aggressive edge than homogenous steel, as well as a high durability factor, the big benefit in times past when quality steel was not so easy to get hold of, was that by combining the varying qualities of material it permitted the cheaper, often locally produced material to be used to extend the quantity of the the more expensive material.

Javanese smiths used the same rationale of extending high quality material by adding low quality material to it, but they used a much more economical method by constructing the body of the blade from iron, and the cutting edge only from steel. This cutting edge was not always a wafer that went the full width of the blade, but in older blades was frequently only a thin wafer that ran around the circumference of the blade, as with Viking blades and Merovingian blades.

In my previous post I was talking about keris construction, but other old Javanese blades also can be found to use this same method of construction where only the edge is steel. Pretty much like some Scandinavian knives of today.
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Old 9th November 2015, 07:38 PM   #11
Tatyana Dianova
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The Pamor on this Balinese Keris looks like it was made of some kind of crucible steel, although a metallurgical analysis is needed to be sure...
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Old 19th November 2015, 08:44 PM   #12
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Default Crucible steel

I red an article from a Dutch scientist visiting one of the islands (Sulawesi?) and describing that there they were making crucible steel. They used the material for their plows.
I cannot find the article but will look further for it and post it as soon as i find it.

Furthermore there is an article that describes the way of making iron/steel by the Dajaks.
They put a layer of charcoal on the bottom of their furnaces. On this way they add carbon into the bloomery iron and can make a kind of steel.
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Old 24th November 2015, 01:33 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatyana Dianova
The Pamor on this Balinese Keris looks like it was made of some kind of crucible steel, although a metallurgical analysis is needed to be sure...

This seems unlikely to me Tatyana. Pamor is generally not steel. The word literally means "mixture" and it is generally a mix of various iron ores with varying ferric and/or nickelous content.
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Old 24th November 2015, 03:39 AM   #14
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Old 24th November 2015, 04:24 AM   #15
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Wow, brilliant find Alan, thanks!
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Old 24th November 2015, 05:32 AM   #16
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Got lots of these papers David, both online stuff and hardcopy.

There's a good one done by an Aussie team, but I forget the details, it might be in hardcopy, not online, don't have time to look right now.

edit:- Land of Iron, Bulbeck & Caldwell

This is actually an archaeological investigation of settlement related to Luwu, but included in results is mention that iron smelting in Luwu might have begun as early as 600CE, and was certainly under way between 1480 and 1630, they hypothesise that most of the production was exported to Jawa and talk about use in keris & etc. In any case this work supports the fact that iron was imported into Jawa.

For anybody with an interest in this sort of thing, a good place to start is probably "The Bronze-Iron Age of Indonesia". van Heekeren

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 24th November 2015 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 26th November 2015, 01:09 PM   #17
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The folly of the Dutch in laying good raw materials on the ground that could be used by the locals was repeated elsewhere by the British. Railway tracks were used in India and Burma for making steel tools and weapons, and the Naga were known to appropriate plantation tools to create their dao. The Burmese also used anchor chains as a source of high quality iron.

Resourceful folks.

Ian.
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Old 27th November 2015, 09:56 AM   #18
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Not about keris, but while we are in this topic, I think I'll include this discovery as well.

Iron smelting site in Peninsular Malaysia dating 3 - 5th CE. Artifacts that had been found include 1.7 tonne of iron slag, 800+kg of iron tuyere and 150kg iron ore.

Research paper entitled "THE ANCIENT IRON SMELTING IN SG. BATU, BUJANG VALLEY, KEDAH"

http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/ant/Postgrad...AkmaMOKHTAR.pdf

The following is a documentary about Sungai Batu. It is in Malay, but it have a reasonable English subtitle.

Very interesting as this civilization is actually older than Angkor Wat where some sites may go back as old as 500BC. 2500 years old.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oAbe-mKxSE

Last edited by rasdan : 27th November 2015 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 14th December 2015, 10:03 PM   #19
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Traditionally there are said to be 16 types of besi available to empu and they would make a keris by blending three or more of these besi, thats what I was told anyway. Some of those besi came from Cambodia (Kamboja besi).

1 Karang kijang = like the sound of buzzing bees
2 Puraseni = Gurrr
3 Mangkang Laki Laki = Drung
4 Mangkang Perempuan = Like rubbing salt together
5 Walulin = Gung
6 Ktub = Kun
7 Kamboja = Hub
8 Ambal = Da
9 Windudi = Kha
10 Tumpang = Aba
11 Werani = Um
12 Welangi = Om
13 Tarte = Jan
14 Melelo = Za
15 Kenur = Mak
16 Palitung = Va
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