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Old 23rd June 2018, 09:35 AM   #1
Anthony G.
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 107
Default Malay/Bugis keris ID needed

One of my friends owned this keris. I have been given permission to ask fellow members for advice and I mentioned it rare because of the metal used which I never seen before. Firstly, do you think it is wootz steel?
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Old 23rd June 2018, 11:06 PM   #2
A. G. Maisey
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,121

Anthony, I am not able to know with any certainty exactly what metal, or for that matter, any other substance is, simply by looking at it. It is even more difficult to know what a substance is just by looking at a picture, especially a picture on a computer screen.

But I can look at a picture, take what I believe to be true about what I see in the picture, and then take a guess.

So what I am doing here is guessing.

Here is what I believe to be true:-

1) it is not possible to know exactly what any ferric material is unless that material is subjected to laboratory testing

2) wootz steel has been identified in the gonjo of a keris

3) a type of iron was produced in Jawa, and possibly some other places in SE Asia, that resembled wootz steel in appearance, but was not wootz

4) all keris from all areas used various kinds of iron and steel, some imported, some locally produced

5) when bloomery iron is worked in a forge and turned into wrought iron by a process involving folding and welding the process produces a layered billet that will show a surface grain, the nature of the grain can vary, depending upon the way in which the billet has been worked.

6) the construction of a keris blade depends upon a thin wafer of steel that has been sandwiched between much softer layers of ferric and alloyed ferric material, steel is avoided for the external pamor layers of a keris blade, these layers contain iron, not steel

7) wootz steel contains carbon, iron does not contain carbon.

8) the keris blade under discussion has the appearance of having been made by a competent craftsman, and at a time in history when the keris was intended to function as a weapon

9) no competent craftsman would ever use steel in a weapon quality keris

10) the heat treatment of a keris blade involves only quenching a blade that has been brought to critical temperature, the blade is not drawn, the durability of the blade depends upon the layers of iron, layers that do not contain carbon, and thus do not become hard as does steel; however, in some cases a blade, that has been heated to a point where the central body of the blade has risen to a temperature approaching critical, will retain some heat after the blade edges, because they are thinner and have reached critical, have been quenched, thus there will be a transference of heat from the blade body to the edges when the blade has been removed from the quench medium, this will provide the edges of the blade with a degree of draw.

11) if a keris blade has the outer layers of the blade made from steel rather than from iron, and it has been heat treated in the customary way, that blade will be highly likely to break in use.

12) wootz steel is not easy to work in a forge and requires both skill and experience with the material to work successfully

13) wootz steel was not generally found in weapons made in SE Asia, thus it is highly unlikely that there have ever been smiths in SE Asia who were skilled in the working of wootz steel

14) in light of the above, my final belief in respect of this keris is that if this blade were to be subjected to laboratory examination, the external layers of the blade would be shown to be bloomery iron that had been subjected to working in a forge, they would not be shown to be wootz steel.
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Old 24th June 2018, 07:25 AM   #3
Anthony G.
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 107

Hi Alan

Good day. Thank you for your valuable advice. It was profound study and will take me sometime to digest it. Many thanks.
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