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Old 1st July 2015, 07:57 PM   #1
Green
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Default Over cleaning the keris blade?

I've noticed that some keris blades on sales from western collection are over cleaned in my view. They looked shiny and feel very smooth like modern knife blades and often oiled. They looked nothing like when they were first forged which is rather dull in color and rough and grainy like fine sandpaper to the touch.

You'll never see this kind of over cleaning in any keris on sales in this region and at least to some keris collectors in my country (Malaysia) that I've met this over cleaning (?) is considered as destroying the blade and value.

I would appreciate your views on this (over cleaning).
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Old 1st July 2015, 09:56 PM   #2
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The surface of a keris is a somewhat region custom Green. Bali keris traditionally have a smooth polished finish.This tradition was actually inherited from early Javanese keris and if you look at really old Jawa pieces collected early on (1600s or so) that reside in some European museums you will find a similar smooth surface to many of them.
I have also found many Malay keris with fairly smooth surfaces since they do not usually get regular warangan treatments.
I am not sure what you mean about the finish of a keris when new. AFAIK a new keris will have a fairy smooth finish and it roughens over time through warangan treatments. Many new keris (especially Javanese style) are treated this way to create a rough finish because that is the socially acceptable look.
I have not come across too many keris where the finish has been made smooth when it is supposed to be rough. Perhaps you could post some examples. The accepted way to clean a keris with acidy liquids such as fruit juices or coconut water only tends to roughen the surface more, not smooth it.
Again, posting examples from you might help us understand what you are looking at better.
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Old 1st July 2015, 10:22 PM   #3
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I've handled once a keris from empu Djeno Harumbrodjo which has had also a polished surface. I think that the rough surface we know from old/antique Java keris blades coming only from the traditional warangan. I am sure that Alan will be able to tell us more in this matter.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 2nd July 2015, 12:32 AM   #4
A. G. Maisey
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Not really Detlef, I think David has said all that needs to be said, anything I could add would only reinforce David's comments.

I will add one comment. I have several Bugis/Peninsula keris, old ones that came into Australia around 1920, not in new condition, and with the usual signs of age in the hilt and wrongko. However, the blades of these keris, although displaying topographic relief, are smooth and polished, as if they have been etched to give the topographic relief, then polished, and then stained. Just maybe this might have been the preferred finish in at least one place about 100 years ago.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 03:21 AM   #5
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Thanks all for the explanation. Here is an example of what I would call an over cleaned blade.It looked shiny , smooth to the touch and the color is silvery. compared to what some would view as 'normal' surface which is duller original color and the surface feels somewhat like v fine sandpaper (the second pic).
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Old 2nd July 2015, 03:35 AM   #6
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Two keris of very different age and very different material:- we cannot compare apples to rambutan.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 05:58 AM   #7
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interesting comment that Mr A G Maisey. The over cleaned keris is mine and supposed to be quite old possibly late 19th century/early 20th?. Do you think this is so ?

The latter I don't know as i just pluck out the pic from the net. But be that as it may , irrespective of old or new keris, one would expect the surface look would be the same ?
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Old 2nd July 2015, 07:39 AM   #8
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Green:-

When we start to talk about the age of a keris blade, or any other tosan aji for that matter, we are moving into the area of blade classification, ie, "tangguh", and this is a field that is full of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and extreme difficulty. It is not an area that anybody with any degree of knowledge likes to get involved in when all they have to form an opinion are incomplete photographic representations of a blade.

That said, I am still prepared to make a couple of comments.

The blade you consider to be over cleaned is a relatively young blade, I'm not prepared to classify it, but it probably does come from the era you have nominated, say, later than 1850.

The other blade comes from a much older period of time.

The materials used in a blade are a major indicator in classification of a blade, and they vary from era to era. We do not expect a 17th century blade to use similar material to that which is used in a 19th century blade.

Some Javanese blades from the period after 1850 used some rather odd materials for pamor material. One such material was Dutch coinage, and blades containing this material have a smooth, greasy feel.

To understand how a keris should look takes a great many years of dedicated study, combined with the opportunity to handle literally thousands of blades. In short, a 19th century Surakarta blade will not have material that looks even remotely like a Pajajaran blade that comes from a much earlier time.

Before we can form an opinion as to whether or not a blade has been correctly cleaned, we need to know what it should look like when it has been correctly cleaned. Before we can form this opinion we need to be able to classify the blade, that is, give it a tangguh. Before we can give it a tangguh, we need to handle it.

Photos are not adequate in this instance.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 09:19 AM   #9
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As far as i know many Keris blades were often ritually washed with water. This could be one reason for the rough surface of some blades. Just a thought without evidence.

I have one old, simple Keris, never repolished, with a very smooth surface, which was obviously not often ritually washed.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 03:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Green
....irrespective of old or new keris, one would expect the surface look would be the same ?

Green, it's not even just a matter of old or new, though that is obviously a factor. Since you live in Malaysia you must know that the country that is Indonesia is made up of numerous cultures with varying customs. So how the surface of a keris looks depends not only upon the exact materials used, how old it is and how many times it has been acid washed, but also the tradition of treatment for that particular area and local culture. Though the keris as we know it began it's life in Jawa, as it spread throughout the archipelago differing local customs were applied to it's treatment and care. Some areas are more aggressive with the acid washing of blades than others. Some areas like Bali polish blades to a smooth surface after washing and staining. Some areas do not stain their blades. It all depends on the area and time period that the keris is from.
Here is an example of a Balinese keris (late 19th to early 20th Century) with a traditional smooth surface and stain as well as a keris from the Malay Peninsula with a smooth surface. Both these smooth surfaces are correct surfaces for these types of keris IMO.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 06:33 PM   #11
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I would like to express my personal opinion.
I think that, when finished by the empu, the blade is smooth. In fact, when making the chiselling (prabot), one has to employ files, sand or sanding paper, which tend to smooth the iron. The subsequent treatment with warangan has the effect of altering somewhat the surface of the blade, but not necessarily to make it rough. (see Balinese blades).
I think that Green intends another characteristic, which is not obtained during the forging or the etching of the blade. I was once shown an old Javanese keris with the full surface of the blade evenly showing an aspect of very fine sandpaper. The blade was absolutely black.
My personal opinion is that the blade, after being finished smooth and shiny, was dipped into some kind of chemical agent with the result of transforming the smooth surface in a sandpaper-like one. This kind of surface could also explain the very dark colour of the blade, since the warangan would more easily grip on the surface.
I can only express an opinion since nobody explained me the process.
I shall contact the owner and see if I can obtain a picture to show in this thread, meanwhile any comment would be welcome.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 08:50 PM   #12
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I have handled a number of blades that were made by Surakarta Keraton pandai keris & empus during the late 19th century and early 20th century. These blades were held in a Keraton store-room and had never been used.

All were polished smooth.

In the museum attached to the Keraton Surakarta there are a few old keris on display. Some have polished blades.

I have also handled a number of keris which entered Europe pre-1700. All were polished smooth.

When I was taught how to make keris by Empu Suparman I was instructed to do the final polish with a paste made from dust of ground terra-cotta and water, using a piece of coconut husk as a rubber. Once the final polish had been completed I had the option of treating with a compound to produce an aged finish, or leaving as it was in a polished state.

Today, most Javanese people prefer a slightly aged finish on even a brand new keris.

My feeling is that this practice of producing an aged, slightly roughened finish is a comparatively recent tendency, possibly not more than a couple of hundred years old at most. I feel that in the distant past, blades would have been polished clean and then re-stained, rather than being acid cleaned before re-staining.
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Old 3rd July 2015, 07:54 AM   #13
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I agree with Maisey that these days empus/pandai besi tend to make keris with 'aged' look. I just came back from visiting a pandai besi in Kelantan (North east of Peninsula Malaysia about 20 km from Southern Thailand border/Patani) and the new kerises that he make look like antique ones to my untrained eyes.

He even claimed that even keris experts can not distinguish between old and new kerises that he made. When I inform him about mine which I feel overcleaned he mentioned that he could easily turn that into 'aged' look by a process of immersing into some kind of acid(?) solution. FYI , I did not take his offer.
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Old 3rd July 2015, 10:04 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Green
Thanks all for the explanation. Here is an example of what I would call an over cleaned blade.It looked shiny , smooth to the touch and the color is silvery. compared to what some would view as 'normal' surface which is duller original color and the surface feels somewhat like v fine sandpaper (the second pic).


Hello Green,
IMO and by Indonesian standards your blade is not over cleaned but poorly maintained, it has several rust spots and the pamor pattern looks indistinct probably because the blade surface was polished with fine abrasive materials.
Personally I would have it professionally cleaned and stained, see an example of a blade before and after treating it with warangan.
Regards
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Last edited by Jean : 3rd July 2015 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 4th July 2015, 07:17 AM   #15
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Jean,

this is precisely what I am talking about. the pre cleaned pic of the blade you posted is what I would think is the one intended to be and preferred by many collectors in this region (?). At best it should be only lightly cleaned without destroying the texture and color of the blade.

The cleaned blade you showed whould be considered 'overcleaned' and destroyed the surface of the blade in my untutored opinion.

This is only my uneducated view but based on the kerises I've seen in museums here I've not seen any keris that are cleaned as such and they all are left rusty and looking 'aged'.
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Old 4th July 2015, 10:11 AM   #16
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Hello Green,
Thank you for your views on the subject and other opinions will be welcome. There seems to be some differences in the kris culture between Indonesia and Malaysia?
Regards

Last edited by Jean : 4th July 2015 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 4th July 2015, 10:32 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Green
This is only my uneducated view but based on the kerises I've seen in museums here I've not seen any keris that are cleaned as such and they all are left rusty and looking 'aged'.

Green, you would not likely see keris in museums presented in the way Jean's stained blade is because it is not generally the practice of museums to restore a keris, but rather to conserve it, to preserve it at the same level as when it was received at the time of collection.However, when a keris of this sort was actively being used within the culture it would be part of a regular ritual process to clean and re-stain the blade.
Likewise collectors have different approaches for the care of keris dependent upon how they relate to the weapon culturally. Some like to keep keris at the same condition as when collected, other treat the keris as if it is still active within the culture and give it the treatment that would be expected of someone's personal keris.
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Old 5th July 2015, 12:43 PM   #18
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Hello Green,

I think that Javanese collectors will clean and etch their keris blades as well. A keris from Java, Madura and Bali has pamor and to show the pamor is what it is to intended to do IMHO. A Malay keris don't have pamor normally and don't get a warangan normally.
I agree also with the statement from David in up.
Here is a blade from Java from my collection before and after cleaning and warangan.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 8th July 2015, 01:54 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen

A Malay keris don't have pamor normally and don't get a warangan normally.



I have seen and own some malay keris with quite elaborated pamor, which have old staining with strong contrast, and own a Pandai Saras blade without contrasting pamor, which has an old staining, completely black.

Perhaps the best Cherita blade ever (in the most elaboarted Tajog dress) from Basel, which is depicted in Kerners book of Keris hilts, is polished like a Balinese blade and is stained dark, without showing different materials in he blade.

The light grey staining prefferred by collectors for malay blades is a relatively new tendency in my oppinion.
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