Kris Blades

Kris blades vary considerably in shape and size. Original kris majapahit blades are only six or seven inches long and must have been almost useless for fighting.

Yet one would have thought that if they were used only as charms there must have been a still earlier kris of proper utilitarian value for their efficacy to be recognized.

The rapier-like kris panjang of Sumatra and the sword-like kris sundang of the Celebes, over two feet long from handle to tip. If extremes like these are excluded the length of the normal kris blade may be taken as twelve to sixteen inches.

The cross section of the blade may be almost flat as in many undamascened types or slightly elliptical or diamond shaped as in the kris panjang.

In heavily damascened ornamental blades it may a series of shallow steps up to the mid-point from either side.

Sometimes there is a raised rib (tulang, kuku) running down the center with a shallow groove (lurah) on either side of it. One type kris (kris teterapan) has narrow channels running down the whole length of the blade.

Cracks (retak) on certain positions on the blade are thought to be lucky. The kris retak bandut with cracks near the pointed end of the base and the kris retak dagu burok with cracks near the blunt end appear as famous weapons in Malay folklore, conveniently disposing of the craftsman’s lack of skill.

The grooves, called retak mayat ‘corpse grooves’ started from the base of the blade, the damask called pamur janji appeared half-way up and the damask called lam jilallah at the point; the damask alif was there parallel to the edge and where the damasking ended the steel was white.