Monday, April 28, 2008


The blade, always of steel, may be straight or sinuous; the scabbard, usually of wood, may be encased fully or partially in metal or is sometimes fully or partially of ivory. The hilt, usually of wood or ivory, is sometimes found in silver or brass and rarely, in gold or shell. The fittings are usually brass or copper, often silvered or gilded. Fittings of silver or gold are frequent, as are styles decorated with glass cabochons, or rough cut germs.

The blade is the most important part of the kris. Granting the technical superiority of the Japanese blade over all other, and the excellence of good Persian blades, the kris blade yet shows greater artistry and imagination on the forging and decoration of its many complex forms. Al three of these very different blades from quite different cultures are forged by procedures that are common in many respect.

The kris and early Persian blades were forged by a technique known as ‘pattern welding’ – one in which two or more layers of different steels were pounded together while red-hot, folded or twisted , pounded more and folded more until the desired numbers of layers, or laminae, were obtained. The rough sword blade so achieved was then filed and polished smooth and finally acid-etched to bring out the contrasting colors of the low and high carbon steels.

The pattern so obtained may be controlled by a skillful smith who produced all sorts of fanciful designs. The designs range from misty and diaphanous to bold, three dimensional textures. Some of their names are revealing: ‘rice grains’ or ‘nutmeg flower’; in Persian work, a ladder pattern called ‘forty steps’; in Japan work a superb textured wood –grain effect called mokume, etc.
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