Federico's Moro Swords

The Making of a Moro Kris

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Despite the adoption of strict Quranic laws by the Moro's, like most Filipino's native animistic beliefs were, and to some extent still are today, strong features within their culture/society. Like the Malay keris it was believed that only men of great strength and character could properly make a kris infusing it with a jen (spirit). Only after much prayer and meditation and dependent on certain astrological factors the kris blade would be made.

Again, like their Malay cousin the antique Moro kris blade consisted of two parts, that of the blade proper and the seperate gangya (guard). On Kris made before the late 19th century this seperate gangya was evident by a straight line parallel to the guard, however at some point in the late 19th century the line went to a sharp angle when nearing the outer end of the guard. After the 1930s the seperate gangya dissappeared and the blades were made in one piece. On some modern kris there is an engraved line to symbolize the gangya but on many there is no de-marcation of any kind.

Broken Down Kris

A kris broken down into its various parts.

Like the Malay keris Moro kris blades were made in a laminate construction in which steel and iron (though ocassionally nickel) was combined to form the blade. Stories of leaf springs being used in their construction while true for some more modern blades is not applicable to those kris that are truly antique and certain modern blades. Various ingots were heated in a charcoal fueled fire that was fed air manually via bamboo bellows. Occasionally some Moro pandays (sword-smiths) would twist the metal billets during forging to create a pamor like textured center, but this was not typical. The Moro kris blade was generally triple-laminated consisting of softer metals in the thicker inner core and harder steel for the edges. Unlike their Malay cousins the Moro kris blade has a larger thicker rectangular tang versus the skinny cylnderical tang found on the Malay Keris.

Moro Forge

Typical Moro Forge

After the pattern welding was complete the kris would then be sent to a different craftsmen so the forge scale and hammer marks could be removed. This was traditionally done using a draw-knife, but now is often done with a file. After the blade was sufficiently shaped it would be sent for hardening. Generally only the edges of most kris are hardened while the inner core is relatively soft.

After hardening decorative filework was done to the blade before it was sent to other craftsment for hilting. Other craftsmen would then carve out the handle and sheath out of various indegenous hardwoods or other material such as water buffalo horn and ivory. After the completion of the handle and sheath fittings such as baca-baca (clamps) were made.

Now the blade was ready to be merged with the handle. Some have thought that the baca-baca (clamps) served to secure the blade to the handle. While partially true in the sense that they do give support, the primary purpose of the baca-baca was to insure the mating of the ganya and the blade. It is possible that this was important as to make sure that the Jen (spirit) that inhabited the blade and gave it its superior abilities would not escape. The primary means of securing the blade to the handle was through natural resin.

After the blade was attached to the hilt it was ready for sharpening. A kris was always maintained to have a keen edge and be functional as a weapon. Even the most beautiful Datu kris could be used in battle.

After sharpening the kris was then set in the hot sun to warm the blade. After a certain amount of time the blade was ready to be etched using various acidic citrus fruits. This etch would darken the blade as well as revealing the damascene pattern created by the Panday. It is said that the darkened blade was preferred as it would not glint in the sun thereby revealing a concealed Warrior.

Now the kris was finally completed and ready to be sent to the owner. Each kris was the product of many craftsmen, and individually made to suit the needs of the customer.