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Old 27th September 2021, 07:49 PM   #1
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Default Bugis or Javanese blade?

It has been slow in the keris sub-forum lately so I thought I might ask some questions without diluting the quality of the discourse. I bought this "keris," I believe it to be a keris not a keris like object (question 1), some time back as a project piece to learn skills with, such as cleaning and staining. Handle removal is an unforeseen bonus skill. It remains to be seen if it is attached with resin, rust or epoxy. It seems too soft to be epoxy. When I bought it I thought it was a Javanese keris placed a Sumatran Bugis influenced sheath (the fit isn't great). I took it out a while back to decide if the blade could withstand the cleaning and staining process and noticed that the blade was very flat and thought, "this is a Bugis characteristic." It is a very worn blade, was it forged with the flat of the blade being flat and not lenticular or did this happen due to time and erosion through cleaning, staining, and neglect cycles? Could it be a newish blade dipped in an aging chemical bath? ( I guess a sub-question of question 2) It is lacking a mendak and I began to wonder "Is this a Bugis style blade and wrangka with a Surakarta ukiran?" (question 2) Though the blade is 9 luk I have atached a picture from Tammens' De Kris vol. 1 of a 13 luk blade in which the luks have a similar profile and shape to my eye. The bells and whistles on the two gandiks are very different. Finally concerning the blade the I believe what I have seen called buntut of the ganja is split. Is this by design? If so what is it called, or is it just a failure of a weld? (question 3)

Now to take a bit of a tangent for the question 4 barrage. This group concerns the ukiran; I believe the OP example is modeled on Surakarta style. Most if not all examples in books I've found are mounted 90 degrees differently from this example with the cecekan facing the gandik. Why is this so when many other regions trun the ukiran so it faces away from the body when being carried? What makes a Surakarta ukiran well carved? I.e. I know there are several different profiles that theoretically illustrate different characters, but what lines are considered more refined? When finishing the wood is a perfectly flat plane preferred or are the slight undulations created by an obviously curly grain and a soft sanding block appreciated? What does one look for in cecekan. How does one interpret what one sees? Are questions of the ukrain's overall shape related to ascetic and more elementary significant interpretations of cecegan patterns too esoteric and personal, to be enquired about? I have not found a thread or a book that states these parameters. I think this forum group is well qualified to answer these musings.

Thanks for your consideration and any help you can provide to further my general research.

I.P.
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Old 28th September 2021, 02:05 AM   #2
A. G. Maisey
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If this blade has flat faces & steeply angled bevel to the edge, it is a Bugis pattern, which is a cultural association, not a geographic one. I have no idea where it might have come from.

As you note, the hilt is a Solo style, it does not belong on this blade, nor does the style of mendak that would normally accompany this hilt.

This keris is too eroded for any ricikan to be used in any sort of classification exercise. The Tammens picture has no relationship.

The bifurcated buntut urang of the gonjo is the result of erosion.

My response interpolated

This group concerns the ukiran; I believe the OP example is modeled on Surakarta style.

I do not understand OP

Most if not all examples in books I've found are mounted 90 degrees differently from this example with the cecekan facing the gandik.

In Central Jawa where this planar style of hilt is the norm, that hilt is rarely firmly fixed, it is usually just a pressure fit to the tang with twine or cloth or hair wound around the tang, fixed in this way the hilt is easily rotated. In Central Jawa the keris is a required part of formal dress, by aligning the hilt to be in the same plane as the blade & dress it makes it easier to wear as an item of dress.

The Javanese keris when held, either in dance or as a weapon is held by pinching the blumbangan between thumb & index finger, the other fingers rest loosely around the hilt & the back of the hilt rests against the palm of the hand, the top of the long side of the gonjo rests against the first joint of the index finger. In effect, the hilt is there to assist in removal from the wrongko, in use it acts as a balance point, it is not gripped firmly as might be expected. However, in past times when the keris was espected to be used as a weapon, the hilt was firmly fixed, and the hilt would have been firmly gripped , but still with thumb & index finger pinching the blumbangan.

All of this means that when the Central Javanese keris is removed from its wrongko for use, the angle of the hilt alters and will usually fall at about a 45 degree angle from blade.

The Javanese hilt that is mounted on the keris you have shown is mounted at an angle that reflects the way in which a hilt that was correct for this blade might be mounted. Bugis keris and Bugis influenced hilts are held and worn in a different way to that of Javanese keris & hilts.



Why is this so when many other regions trun the ukiran so it faces away from the body when being carried?

As above

What makes a Surakarta ukiran well carved? I.e. I know there are several different profiles that theoretically illustrate different characters, but what lines are considered more refined?

We can ignore the Central Javanese hilt forms that are small sculptures of various characters or that are abstract representations of those characters. Considering only the planar hilt style --- "planar", ie. with planes --- there are a number of planar style hilts, both in the Surakarta style and the Jogjakarta style, any hilt of this style should conform with the dictates of style for the type of hilt it is supposed to be, for example, there are 8 reasonably common forms of the Surakarta planar hilt, without extended and extensive specialist training it is not possible to differentiate between these different forms. The same situation applies with the Jogjakarta planar forms.

If we consider just one of the Surakarta forms, say, Yudowinatan, that hilt will have been carved to precisely pass through the templates applicable to each orientation.

The carver of hilts (tukang jejeran) has several templates, usually cut from cardboard, and the profiles of the hilt will fit those templates exactly. Some tukang jejeran might specialise in only one form.

The appraisal of a hilt is not so much a matter of refinement, but rather of correctness for the applicable situation, to explain this requires much more space & time than this forum is designed for.


When finishing the wood is a perfectly flat plane preferred or are the slight undulations created by an obviously curly grain and a soft sanding block appreciated?

When the new hilt leaves the carver's hands the planes should be perfectly flat, but of course they do reflect the contours of the style. The slight undulations that occur in older hilts with a waved grain only reflect the passing of time.

What does one look for in cecekan.

See below

How does one interpret what one sees?

I think of this type of question as a "nature of the universe" question.
I do not understand precisely what is meant by "interpret", and to give an answer that covers all possibilities would take me probably 10,000 words --- and I would undoubtedly miss a few things along the way.


Are questions of the ukrain's overall shape related to ascetic and more elementary significant interpretations of cecegan patterns too esoteric and personal, to be enquired about?

The overall shape of a hilt is dictated by tradition, as applied to defined styles

I have not found a thread or a book that states these parameters.

In summary, the major considerations in appraisal of a Javanese planar hilt are that it must conform to the intended form, that execution and finish must be perfect, and the quality of the material used should be in character with the keris and wrongko that the hilt will be used with.

Without a lot of training nobody can apply these parameters.

If you do not know what the hilt is supposed to look like, it is not possible to know all of the things that follow. So what somebody who simply collects and does not want to spend an extremely long time in gaining the foundation knowledge that will permit relevant appraisal needs is a quick & easy way to form some sort of opinion. That shortcut is to consider overall balance of form & execution, and excellence of craftsmanship, and these things are pretty much universal across most detailed craft & art.

Lift the hilt to eye level and turn the cecekan away from you, you are now looking at the back of the hilt, and the profile should be precisely the same on each side, it should have a waist, chest and hips; look at the two cecekan carved into the front of the hilt, they should be precisely the same and the right & left half of each cecekan should be balanced, one half should be a mirror image of the other half, in other words they should be perfectly balanced, they should be cleanly & precisely carved and relatively deep. The finish might be either varnished/french polished or burnished, generally speaking a burnished finish ranks higher than one with a coat of something over it; orientation of the grain can be a consideration, but I don't want to comment on this because it would take too long, and in any case opinions vary. The surface must be free of tool marks and the planes should be flat with defined sharp corners, you should get the impression that the carver managed the material, the material did not manage him. Dense wood is preferred to lighter woods. Looked at with an untrained eye the appraisal of a keris hilt uses pretty much the same universal criteria that we would use in appraisal of any detailed hand work.
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