Making keris the traditional way

ABDUL Mazin Abdul Jamil is one of the last craftsmen in Perak who still uses ancient methods to make the keris, a traditional Malay weapon. 

The 55-year-old artisan uses his bare hands to painstakingly shape and mould the double-edged dagger, and its wooden handle and sheath. 

At his Pandai Besi workshop next to his house in Kampung Padang Changkat, Kuala Kangsar, Abdul Mazin uses a machine only to cut up pieces of wood for the process. 

“The keris must be made from metals taken from seven items, each symbolising a different meaning,” he said. 

These items are nails for self-defence, fences (safety), umbrellas (preparedness and success), knives (to unite people), handles (invulnerability), chisels (to expand business opportunities) and spades (to improve business). 

Abdul Mazin showing a long keris he made.

For the handle and sheath, he uses quality wood like kemuning, sena and petai belalang.  

It takes Abdul Mazin, a fourth generation keris maker, between three and seven weeks to make a keris. 

“It really depends on what a customer wants,” he said. 

He added that each keris was sold at between RM500 and RM3,000. 

He learnt the trade from his father at the age of 12 and assisted the senior craftsman before taking over the family business. 

Since then, Abdul Mazin has gone on to become one of the most well-known keris makers in the country. 

Apart from being exhibited at the National Museum and Universiti Malaya, Abdul Mazin’s keris have been presented to the country’s royalty and leaders, including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. 

The Panca Warisan keris, which was unveiled by Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein to symbolise the party’s struggles at the general assembly in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, was also made by him. 

“The keris used to be a symbol of bravery and a weapon of self-defence,” said Abdul Mazin. 

“Nowadays, it is mostly used as a decorative item and in traditional healing,” he added.  

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