Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Magical Mastery of Kris

Kris are considered to be magical. They are typically asymmetrical and 30 to 40 centimeters long.

The blades — which are sharp on both edges — are forged on an anvil with a rounded surface to create the wavy pattern on the blade, also known as pamor.

“This rounded surface is useful when I pull the iron to make it long before folding it,” Pardi says.

“The iron and pamor material needs to be stretched and folded again and again many times. Some kris have more than 4,000 layers of metal. These layers make the designs of the pamor, which contrast with the iron that goes black when it is given an arsenic bath.”

In the workshop, the workers use long-handled pliers, an assortment of hammers and a stump of an anvil — all of which are handmade. In fact, everything in the smithy is as a traditional besalen was centuries ago, except Sungkowo’s bellows no longer work.

The bellows are made of two hollowed-out tree trunks and stand in one corner with a bamboo bench in front of them. A young apprentice would have sat there in the past, pumping wind on to the teakwood charcoal to bring the temperature of the furnace up past 1,300 degrees Celsius.

“Now we use magic. Look,” Pardi says, as he flicked a switch and an electric blower began to blow on the fire.

“The problem with the traditional bellows is that the operator must be very constant, and that is not easy,” says Sungkowo, taking a moment’s break just before midday. “Now we use the electric blower because the results are better.”

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