The lost of art of traditional Malaysian parang-making is seeing a revival

  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 28 Jul 2020

Parang-smithing is something of a lost art these days. But the love of it has resulted in the partnership of an unlikely duo.

The parangs by Ahmad Nadir Askandar, 43, and Chin Pin Yon, 79, are in demand not only in Malaysia but from as far as Russia and Guam.

Ahmad Nadir, from Penang, has been selling parangs online since 2014. He is the owner of MY Parang, a business that is enjoying brisk sales across the world.

The blades for the MY Parang machetes are forged by Chin, a metalsmith from Bidor, Perak. Chin has been running his family business Kilang Besi Bidor, Cap Dua Pedang Silang for over 40 years.

Despite the differing backgrounds and even generations, the two recognised the opportunity to get together and come up with a new business model, in which they jointly conduct research and development and employ talented bladesmiths to keep up with the increasing demand.

Ahmad Nadir started his own business in 2008, selling items related to outdoor and recreational activities. It was then he started receiving requests from overseas customers for parangs with wooden handle.

There is a cult following for the Malaysian parang overseas and with the advent of social media, interest in the machete steadily grew.

Contributing to the popularity of the parang is its mention in the SAS Survival Handbook as an effective and all-purpose weapon. The book, written by former British special forces officer John Wiseman, is considered by many as the ultimate survival guide.

Recognising the business opportunity, Ahmad Nadir decided he would venture into the business of selling parangs made of the Bidor metal blade and wooden handle.

The biggest distributors of MY Parang, said Ahmad Nadir, are from Britain and the United States. This is where the bulk of weapon are shipped to.

A video screen grab of Chin, a metalsmith from Bidor, Perak, who has been in the business for over 40 years.A video screen grab of Chin, a metalsmith from Bidor, Perak, who has been in the business for over 40 years.

Other distributors are based in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Russia. In Malaysia, there are 14 retailers carrying MY Parang machetes.

“The farthest we have shipped our parang is to Canada while the most remote area would be Guam. The white folks love Malaysian-made parang because of its workmanship – it is handmade and hardy, lasting a long time.

“Traditional parang-making focuses more on the front edge of the machete, not the handle, ” he explained.

The parang typically has three different edges with front being very sharp and designed for skinning, the middle being wider for efficient chopping and the back end – closer to the handle – meant for carving.

Meanwhile, Chin said that the main product manufactured by his factory in Bidor is the oil palm knife (knife used to harvest oil palm fruit) and blades for all-purpose knives.

However, his factory specially makes the Duku Chandung blades for the MY Parang machetes, using a technique called “sepuh” to produce stronger blades with sharper points.

Chin is enthusiastic about his business with Ahmad Nadir as it has brought the Bidor-made parang across the world.

On an average, MY Parang produces around 300 parangs monthly.

There was a time when they had difficulty sourcing quality metal to make the parangs, Chin recalled. In the early days of their venture, the metal was sourced from the spring coils of old lorries.

Today, the metal used is imported from car manufacturing plants in China.

Chin said aside from the skill level of a bladesmith, good quality metal was also instrumental in making a good parang.

Ahmad Nadir echoed this sentiment and added that it was the level of local craftsmanship that earned the praise of international buyers, who leaned heavily towards authentic handmade Malaysian parang. – Bernama

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