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Old 4th February 2018, 12:30 AM   #1
Robert
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Default Mandau With Questions

I won this piece at auction few days ago with only a few fuzzy photos to go by. Now that it has arrived I though (as I know absolutely nothing about these) that I would ask the more knowledgeable members here for their opinions on the possible age of this piece and who it was that made it. This is a very plainly made piece with its only decoration being the simple carving of what appears to be monkeys holding some unidentifiable objects on each side of its antler hilt. The blade is also completely unadorned with none of the inlay or scrollwork seen on many other examples that I have seen. Because of this I am wondering if this was made for fighting or is simply a working blade meant for general utility purposes? Thankfully the rattan weaving that covers most of the grip itself is still in wonderful condition. Sorry about the poor quality of the photos, but as the weather would not permit taking them out of doors they were the best that I could get taking them inside. It does not show in the photos, but the concave side of the blade shows clear markings of a metal plane or scraper being used to cut away and shape the metal. The wooden sheath this came with is also very simply made and other than the rattan bandings (that are in need of repair) does not exhibit any of the beautiful carving usually seen on these pieces. All comments and any information offered on this would be greatly appreciated.

Best,
Robert
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Last edited by Robert : 4th February 2018 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 4th February 2018, 07:00 AM   #2
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The handle looks newer.

Dajak
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Old 4th February 2018, 10:29 AM   #3
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Dajak, Thank you for your response and opinion on the hilt. As I know little of nothing about these swords I would ask if you might be so kind as to elaborate on how you came to this conclusion? Is it to do to the overall quality of the carving, the subject matter, the patina, all of these or something completely different? Because of the less than desirable lighting when these photos were taken the actual color of the antler is somewhere in between that shown in the photos of the complete sword and those showing only the hilt itself. Not quite as white as that shown in the full sword photos, but leaning a bit more towards that of the hilt only photos. I have read that many of these currently being offered for sale were made only to be used when preforming traditional dances and many more were made to supply the market for "those who travel". Judging from what little can be told from looking at these poor photos do you believe that this piece would fall into either of these categories? As the blade of this sword is almost razor sharp I cannot see how this would be at all helpful while dancing unless bloodletting was part of the performance.

Best,
Robert
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Old 5th February 2018, 03:09 PM   #4
kai
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Hello Robert,

Ben knows his stuff and I also believe the blade is not older than the hilt. As you noted, the concave side hasn't been worked carefully which is unusual.

This obviously isn't one of those flimsy tourist toys though! What's the blade thickness?

To me it looks like a somewhat later piece for genuine use. However, I hope more of our resident mandau experts will chime in with more details and sound age estimates!

Regards,
Kai
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Old 5th February 2018, 08:52 PM   #5
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Hi Robert the style of the hilt is not old style always difficult to date piece from photo but maybe 1970/1980.

If heads where taking there are signs on the blade .....to recognise this is one of the things what I learned on my trip in Kalimantan last year living with the Bahau people in the Kampung Long Tuyo hunting with them....and where my friend Frans ( he did invite me to make the trip on the Mahakam about 950 km long on the river visiting Kampung overthere) did make it possible that they adopted me overthere where I get my dayak name also.

Here an pic of an old style Handle this one was taken in the 1930 from Borneo.

Laong Kawit
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Old 5th February 2018, 10:10 PM   #6
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Hello Robert,

I guess (hope) you did not pay a huge amount when buying without knowledge from fuzzy pictures

The scabbard is indeed very plain, this is not always an indication of age.
But this scabbard I would guess to be 2nd half 20th century.

The blade is also very plain, but than again, I have seen mid 19th century blades that where very plain as well. If this blade was well maintained I would not be surprised if it was around 1900. It can be more recent for sure.
But the lack of decoration is not the only age indicator imo.
This blade was definately made to be used. For work and if needed for battle.
As for the crude finish of the concave side. I am posting one of my mandau's
,not a recent piece imo, but also with a unusual and crude concave side.

The handle. that is a real puzzle. The "monkeys" are unusual. I sooner would think they represent the aso / dog. The style is unusual, but I don't use the terms "old style / new style". I really don't see the point of comparing this handle to one of an over the top decorated handle from the 1930's. the craftmaship of the carver can not be the only age indicator.
The rattan on the handle looks rather old and elaborate. based on that I would age the handle pre ww2.
The resin (structure of the surface) on the handle also looks old and authentic.
However, the shape/size of the resin is unusual. this section is very large.
Also the angle between handle an blade looks a bit out of line. And the heavy blade with the small handle are a bit to far out of proportion imo.

Could it be that the blade and handle where fitted recently


Where did you buy this blade from ? Indonesia / Malaysia ?

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 6th February 2018, 03:48 AM   #7
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First thank you all for the information, the photos for comparison and your thoughts on this piece. After my misadventure in purchasing the two VOC swords a few years ago I have tried to be much more careful when purchasing something I am not at all familiar with from fuzzy photos. I should have given the measurements of this sword in my original description and they are:
Total length 26-1/8 inches
Blade length 21-1/4 inches
Blade thickness at hilt is slightly over 1/4 inch
Blade at widest point 1-13/16 inches
Blade width at hilt 13/16
Hilt 4-7/8 inches
The seller who lives in Florida here in the U.S. really offered little information on this piece neither in the auction description or when I contacted him about it before the auction closed. The only information of any real value I received from him was after I had won the piece when he warned me to be very careful when removing the blade from the sheath to avoid being cut. I had sent him another message a few days ago asking for any other information such as how long he had owned this item and how he had originally come to own it, but have yet to hear back from him. The only marks on this blade are on the spine right before it starts dropping to form the tip. I wasn't sure if these marks were intentionally made or were just damage from something striking the blade in that area. I have added the best photo I could take of these marks and a few of the hilt wrapping. These once again had to be taken indoors under inadequate lighting. I do not believe that the hilt to blade fitting is a resent marriage, but from what I can tell I believe they have been together for quite an amount of years. Thank you all once again for your help. I hope that this latest information and photos will be of some help.

Best Regards,
Robert
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Old 6th February 2018, 10:48 AM   #8
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Hello Robert,

The resin looks old and authentic indeed.
Not a recent marriage imo.

small decorations on the spine are good. You can find them in all kinds of variations. I dont think they are damage but intended decoration.

Looks like a good ol mandau in a more recent scabbard. nice find

best regards,
Willem

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Old 7th February 2018, 02:53 AM   #9
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Thank you for your thoughts and opinion on the hilt and other aspects of this piece Willem. They like all the other replies that have been posted so far are greatly appreciated. It has been suggested to me by a very good friend that this mandau could possibly have been made by the Kutai people, but he was not positive. Would anyone else care to give an opinion on who it was that made this as well as the possible age of this piece? As this is very possibly the only mandau that I will ever have in my collection (unless I win the lottery) I am looking forward to hearing any additional information or opinions that anyone would care to offer on it.

Best,
Robert
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Old 10th February 2018, 08:22 PM   #10
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Hello Robert,

a very good buy! It look much better as on the auction pictures. And it seems to be a fairly old one. Also better to have a more recent scabbard with it as no scabbard. I really like your mandau, special by the price you paid for it!

Best regards,
Detlef
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Old 11th February 2018, 03:37 PM   #11
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Hi here I found one with similair blade this is the old style how an Mandau looks like.

The one Willem shows maybe same period as yours Robert.

Dajak
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Old 11th February 2018, 10:46 PM   #12
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After 20 years collecting mandaus, I am getting a bit confused by this thread.

According to Ben, the top handle is old style, I assume the rattan work is also the old style, old patina, old resin.

The lower handle of Roberts mandau is a recent one, according Ben 1970 / 1980. The rattan also must be new. the differences between the two should be Obvious
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Old 12th February 2018, 04:13 AM   #13
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Willem take an good look at the rattan not the same.
same style but not so fine.

Hope you can see it know they put dirt to hide it.

This Mandau came from Steen Strombergs private collection.

Dajak
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Old 12th February 2018, 04:49 AM   #14
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What you are most likely seeing is not dirt but a coating of old varnish applied by a previous owner. If you look closely right above the rattan you will see a small darkened area left from where I had sealed the rattan from the exposed antler before I removed the varnish from it. The entire sword was covered in a thick coating of it when it first arrived. I removed it all from the blade as well but was leery of trying to remove it from the woven section of the hilt for fear of causing damage to either the rattan or resin. If you could possibly recommend a safe way to remove it without causing any damage I would be very grateful for the information.

Best,
Robert
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Old 12th February 2018, 07:00 AM   #15
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Quote:
a very good buy! It look much better as on the auction pictures. And it seems to be a fairly old one. Also better to have a more recent scabbard with it as no scabbard. I really like your mandau, special by the price you paid for it!


Detlef, Thank you for your kind words. I totally agree that even a more resent replacement scabbard is much better than no scabbard at all. I was worried mostly that this would turn out to be just another piece made for those who travel. If it was meant as more of an everyday work tool than as a weapon is fine with me as well. As I mentioned earlier if it was not for how cheep that I was able to win it for I doubt that I would have been able to add one of these very interesting swords to my collection.

Best,
Robert
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Old 12th February 2018, 10:45 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert
If you could possibly recommend a safe way to remove it without causing any damage I would be very grateful for the information.

Best,
Robert


Hello Robert,
I would not try to remove varnish from the rattan.
Either mechanical or with detergents, it will not improve the condition of the rattan imo.
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Old 12th February 2018, 03:43 PM   #17
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Thank you Willem. I was worried that when trying to remove it from that area of the hilt that even using a mild chemical remover (as I did on the blade and exposed antler) that it might possibly cause damage to the rattan or resin.

Best,
Robert
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Old 12th February 2018, 06:55 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert
What you are most likely seeing is not dirt but a coating of old varnish applied by a previous owner. If you look closely right above the rattan you will see a small darkened area left from where I had sealed the rattan from the exposed antler before I removed the varnish from it. The entire sword was covered in a thick coating of it when it first arrived. I removed it all from the blade as well but was leery of trying to remove it from the woven section of the hilt for fear of causing damage to either the rattan or resin. If you could possibly recommend a safe way to remove it without causing any damage I would be very grateful for the information.

Best,
Robert


They put it on to hide the poor craftmanschap of the rattan binding .....if it is old the resign it wil come of by it self.
Don t try to remove it .
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Old 12th February 2018, 07:37 PM   #19
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Hello Dajak, I hate to disagree with you on the craftsmanship of the rattan binding, but if you had it in hand you would see that it is just as nice as that on the one you have shown. As this was supposed to be a WWII bring back I do not believe that the varnish was put on it to try to hide anything but was applied to help protect it as was the fashion of the time.

Best,
Robert
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Old 13th February 2018, 03:16 PM   #20
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Hello Robert,

I'm not a great expert but I saw many Mandau in the Internet and books.

In my opinion your blade is at least 80 years old.

1: The shape of the blade and its size
2: The unusual handle, which I like a lot. All modern Mandau I know have either a poor handle (tourist swords) or a traditional handle.
3: The fuller seems old style

I believe your sword is old and was probably pretty early collected by western traveller/ missionars.


Roland
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Old 13th February 2018, 04:56 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert
Hello Dajak, I hate to disagree with you on the craftsmanship of the rattan binding, but if you had it in hand you would see that it is just as nice as that on the one you have shown. As this was supposed to be a WWII bring back I do not believe that the varnish was put on it to try to hide anything but was applied to help protect it as was the fashion of the time.


Agree complete with you Robert!
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Old 13th February 2018, 08:19 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert
Hello Dajak, I hate to disagree with you on the craftsmanship of the rattan binding, but if you had it in hand you would see that it is just as nice as that on the one you have shown. As this was supposed to be a WWII bring back I do not believe that the varnish was put on it to try to hide anything but was applied to help protect it as was the fashion of the time.

Best,
Robert


If you clean the rattan with with nail remover with out oil than we can see.

use ear sticks with little remover.

the other thing the rattan is for have an good hold on it if you cover it with resigin it will be slippery in your hands ......I was in the jungle at the Mahakam
if it is like that you have no good hold just think about that......

it will be different.

Dajak
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Old 13th February 2018, 09:33 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dajak
If you clean the rattan with with nail remover with out oil than we can see.

use ear sticks with little remover.

the other thing the rattan is for have an good hold on it if you cover it with resigin it will be slippery in your hands ......I was in the jungle at the Mahakam
if it is like that you have no good hold just think about that......

it will be different.

Dajak


Always good to know, I don't want a mandau with a slippery grip.
I live in the urban jungle
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Old 14th February 2018, 10:24 PM   #24
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Quote:
If you clean the rattan with with nail remover with out oil than we can see.


Thank you very much for the advice on how to hopefully remove the varnish from the rattan weaving on the hilt without causing damage. As I have other items that have had varnish applied as an overall protectant, I believe that I will try the method you have suggested on one or more of them before I try it on this piece.

Best,
Robert
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Old 15th February 2018, 10:45 AM   #25
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Hello Ben,

Quote:
If you clean the rattan with with nail remover with out oil than we can see.

Is there a reason why you suggest nail remover without oil? Wouldn't that make the rattan very brittle?

Robert, what kind of varnish has commonly been utilized in the US? Maybe alcohol will do and be a bit gentler on the rattan?

Thanks for any input!

Regards,
Kai
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Old 18th February 2018, 08:02 AM   #26
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I've used acetone for a similar problem with very good result. After the removing I've oiled the cleaned parts.
See attached pictures, first picture show a barong handle from my collection, the complete sword was covered with an unknown coating (not shellac), the second one the cleaned handle.
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