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Old 19th November 2021, 12:02 AM   #1
Godfried
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Default Question about black mandau

Underneath a mandau of which the blade is black. It doesn't seem like a pamor to me because the drawing of pamor is created by forging different types of steel together. I don't see any of that. nr-1 is the mandau, nr-2 and-3 are details so that the iron can be seen better and nr-3 is the "white" sample of a Jimpul to see the color differences well. Meteorite steel is found by dayaks in riverbanks and beds and is black. Does anyone have another explanation or is this indeed meteorite steel? At the time I bought this mandau with the mention "pamor".
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Old 19th November 2021, 05:23 AM   #2
Battara
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Actually I do see different colors of steel which might indicate that there are different carbon steels laminated together.
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Old 19th November 2021, 08:57 AM   #3
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Hello Godfried,

Seems you have been really busy in acquiring niece pieces - please keep them coming! Josť, can we get this new member off probation for improving the flow of communication here, please?

Most certainly this blade is laminated - as pretty much all (traditionally forged) Dayak blades are. In this case, it's a bit difficult to discern since different surface treatment as well as cleaning prior to etching and uneven staining may all contribute to the shades visible in the pics. How about the other side, Godfried? Close-ups along the blade would be great and very likely help to get a better understanding.

The typical bladesmithing approach in Borneo seems to be to only fold the obtained mild steel upon itself, multiple times. Pretty much identical to what is done in Japan. Thus, there usually is no contrast between the layers and the layers tend to be quite thin resulting in an almost homogeneous appearance

Despite many people expecting pamor to be bold and contrasting, neither layers of contrast, nor complex pattern welding, nor actual etching/staining define a pamor blade. Any laminated blade can be argued to have pamor.

In this case, the blade seems to have been treated with arsenic (warangan) as would be typical for some keris. It will probably prove impossible to determine when and where this was done; the style of etching looks almost Balinese (with lesser prior surface finish though). One might be inclined to believe that this result is pretty unlikely to be achieved by the warangan commonly done in Java/Madura. Tougher to rule out someone in the Netherlands trying to improve the appearance - however, there don't seem to many examples like this. A tough riddle!

Regards,
Kai
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Old 19th November 2021, 10:17 AM   #4
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Hi Kai,
Your explanation got me thinking and I scratched a tiny bit off the back of the sword. Indeed, "bare steel" emerged. Then wonder why Dayaks want to blacken the steel. At least it didn't happen in the Netherlands because I bought this sword at a foreign auction. For the time being I think that it was then glazed and blackened in Borneo itself because the pamor looks much worse than, for example, the blackening of the pamor on Javanese and Balinese krisses. the steel and color on the back looks the same as the front i.e. some areas of the blade are quite rough while most of the blade is polished smooth. I still have a question about the sheath. Is this the "Aso" or maybe "Mata Kalong" or some other stylized creature? Thanks for your explanation.
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Old 19th November 2021, 11:25 PM   #5
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Others have addressed other aspects of your post, but not your remarks about meteorite.
Firstly, if Dayaks used meteorite in their blades (which i am not aware of), it would not be in amounts large enough to forge an entire blade from it. Firstly meteorites are rare to begin with. Iron bearing meteorites are even rarer and the right meteorite that lends itself to forging rarer still. You do not find meteorite steel. Steel is an alloy of iron with carbon. Iron bearing meteorites would probably appear black, but they would not remain so when you forge them. So there is no reason why a black blade would be a sign of steel made from meteorite. I am not aware of Dayaks traditionally darkening their blades, but this may well have been done by a collector outside the culture who hoped to show off the lamination of this blade by etching it with some sort of warangan substance.
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Old 19th November 2021, 11:41 PM   #6
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In a Russian book by the doyen of Russian bladesmiths and damascus steel makers Mr. Arkhangelsky, he describes his attempts to forge a blade from a meteorite. It crumbled almost immediately, and things did not get better with multiple attempts to modify forging condition. Eventually, he had to take garden variety steel and add minute fragments of meteorite. AFAIK, Javanese smiths used tiny amounts of meteorite from Prambahan for their most valuable krises.
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Old 20th November 2021, 12:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
Others have addressed other aspects of your post, but not your remarks about meteorite.
Firstly, if Dayaks used meteorite in their blades (which i am not aware of), it would not be in amounts large enough to forge an entire blade from it. Firstly meteorites are rare to begin with. Iron bearing meteorites are even rarer and the right meteorite that lends itself to forging rarer still. You do not find meteorite steel. Steel is an alloy of iron with carbon. Iron bearing meteorites would probably appear black, but they would not remain so when you forge them. So there is no reason why a black blade would be a sign of steel made from meteorite. I am not aware of Dayaks traditionally darkening their blades, but this may well have been done by a collector outside the culture who hoped to show off the lamination of this blade by etching it with some sort of warangan substance.
I thought of meteorite steel because the book of "the pagantribes of Borneo Volume 1" by Charles Hose on page 194 states that "thirty years ago nearly all the iron worked by the tribes of the interior was from ore found in the river beds and possibly from masses of meteoric iron "
But as I already noted, I think that after reading the posts, nijn mandau is just white steel and then blackened.
Whether this was done by dayaks or by a collector will never be known.
I do want to mention that A.Hendriks remarked in 1842 that the "doessonsch iron" is divided into 2 types. "bassie-hitam" black iron and "bassie-wadja" steel iron.
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Old 20th November 2021, 11:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfried View Post
Is this the "Aso" or maybe "Mata Kalong" or some other stylized creature? Thanks for your explanation.
Hello Godfried,

Another stunning mandau. Thanks for sharing.
The figure on the scabbard is different from what I have seen before.
Although the variation in carvings seems endless.

I think that is an aso figure. His head on the bottom side, and the mouth towards the left side.

But it also looks a bit like a prawn motif.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 21st November 2021, 12:38 AM   #9
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Would there be any reason to think that the "blackening" of the blade was intended to function as a rust preventive, similar to the bluing or browning of Western firearms?
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Old 21st November 2021, 10:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif View Post
I think that is an aso figure. His head on the bottom side, and the mouth towards the left side.
But it also looks a bit like a prawn motif.
Best regards,
Willem
Goeie dag Willem,

I understand you are thinking of the crab motif because both the sheath and your drawing have "teeth" on one side. However, I also go for the Aso motif because (as far as I know) the crab motif is used more on Ikats than on mandaus. The tattoo motifs of the Aso below also look a lot like the carving on the sheath. Thank you, you have hopefully set me on the right track.
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Old 21st November 2021, 10:30 PM   #11
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Would there be any reason to think that the "blackening" of the blade was intended to function as a rust preventive, similar to the bluing or browning of Western firearms?
Could be but usually put with it then in the fat or oil. I personally think it was done in Borneo itself. If you are a european collector why would you blacken that mandau when e.g. the handle is very finely carved and, as you can see in the photo, complicated rattan buttons, etc., you have "raped" as a collector, in my opinion, a beautiful sword.
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Old 21st November 2021, 10:55 PM   #12
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I'm still wondering if the former owner etched this in this way to bring out the brass inlays on the blade surface. When Balinese do this and there is nickel present in the blade, the nickel stands out prominently. Perhaps the former owner who got this to the auction market thought this was common throughout the entire Indonesian peninsula and would enhance the value by bringing out the inlays making it more attractive (if not incorrect).

I've seen this a lot on other pieces, for example, Moro kris being etched in a Javanese fashion. Looks great to some, but destructive and incorrect, and a mess that I have had to repair in the past.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 01:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Battara View Post
I'm still wondering if the former owner etched this in this way to bring out the brass inlays on the blade surface. When Balinese do this and there is nickel present in the blade, the nickel stands out prominently. Perhaps the former owner who got this to the auction market thought this was common throughout the entire Indonesian peninsula and would enhance the value by bringing out the inlays making it more attractive (if not incorrect).

I've seen this a lot on other pieces, for example, Moro kris being etched in a Javanese fashion. Looks great to some, but destructive and incorrect, and a mess that I have had to repair in the past.
The previous owner brought 34 Mandau's to Czerny's auction in Sarzana Italy. This was the only mandau that had the description PAMOR. That is all I know.
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