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  • Vol. 127 (2015) ACTA PHYSICA POLONICA A No. 4

    Proceedings of the 4th International Congress APMAS2014, April 24-27, 2014, Fethiye, Turkey

    Microstructures Analyses of Malay Keris and Its Relation to

    Mechanical Properties

    M.J. Ghazalia,*, M. Daudb, A. Muhammadb, M.Z. Omara, C.H. Azharia

    aDepartment of Mechanical & Materials Engineering Faculty of Engineering & Built

    Environment University Kebangsaan Malaysia 43600 Bangi, Selangor, MalaysiabMalaysian Nuclear Agency Bangi, 43000 Kajang Malaysia

    The traditional steps in the fabrication of Malay Keris blades which are preserved in traditional knowledge areexplained in consistency with the modern metallurgical engineering. These are forging, quenching, tempering andetching. The material selection process for specic parts of the blade is discussed and correlated to the particularfabrication method used to produce the nal properties, which consist of the ductility, hardness and the watermarkpattern on the blade. Morphologies of the microstructure are also in agreement with the observed properties inwhich the central strip of the blades possesses some ductility to facilitate forging whereas the harder edge area ismade of steel with higher carbon content

    DOI: 10.12693/APhysPolA.127.1358

    PACS: 81.40.-z

    1. Introduction

    Keris, originally used as a ghting weapon has now be-come one of typical traditional crafts with artistic charac-teristics. This double-edged dagger with wavy or straightblade is unique because it is only found within the MalayArchipelago. However, in Malaysia, Keris making is con-sidered as a dying art [1]. To date, many monogra-phies and literature sources have been published [26]but most of them only focused on the historical back-ground, design, pattern and the blade making simply ig-noring the technology behind it, which is actually the realessence that is consistent with today's science. The his-tory of several types of iron used in Keris [7] is still in in-fancy and normally described through the eyes of ancientblacksmiths. In ancient times, blacksmiths were consid-ered among the elite occupations and assumed to be aprincipal contributors in creating early concepts [8] ofunderstanding the behavior of metals, particularly iron.It is also clear that they had enough information fromtheir forging work, the observation of color changes dur-ing spark test and heating as well as their estimation ofhardness by scratch tests, in order to determine some keyparts of the present-day iron-carbon phase diagram [8].Keris can be divided into two parts: mata/bilah

    (blade) and hulu (hilt) (refer to Fig. 1). Its distinctivewavy edges known as luk, are always odd in number, fromthree to thirteen waves. One of the most attractive char-acteristics of the blade is the watermark pattern calledpamor as shown in Fig. 2, which represents the charac-teristic deformation pattern on the blade [6, 7]. In recentreviews [7, 9] ancient Keris blade consists of alternat-ing metals that bonded at the interfaces. These materi-

    *corresponding author; e-mail:

    Fig. 1. Main component of a Keris. Numbers 19 in-dicate the total number of luk.

    als represent a unique laminated or composite structurethat is far dierent from the monolith materials with dif-fusion interfaces or layered materials. As such, it is alsoknown as the laminated metal composites (LMCs) thatcan signicantly improve many properties of metal in-cluding fracture toughness, fatigue behavior, impact be-havior, wear, corrosion and damping capacity, or provideenhanced formability or ductility, particularly for brittlematerials [10]. In many cases, the laminate architectureand the processing history of LMCs are essential and canbe engineered to produce a material with predicted prop-erties. Thus, historical studies of ancient metallurgy arean important contribution to understand, not just for thebenet of the blade making, but also to the evolution ofman and civilization. Due to an unsystematic documen-tation on Keris blade in the Malay world, an initiative


  • Microstructures Analyses of Malay Keris and Its Relation to Mechanical Properties 1359

    Fig. 2. Distinctive pamor on a Keris blade.

    has been taken to revive this dying art. In this work,the microstructural examinations and the phase diagrammodeling of two distinguished parts of the Keris blade;namely the central strip and the edge parts are stud-ied. Correlation between the blacksmiths' experiencesfrom interviews and existing iron-carbon phase diagramas well as the spark test are also discussed.

    2. Materials and method

    Discreet interviews with several Malay blacksmithsproved that there are many methods available to createa thorough understanding of iron and the Keris blade.In general, three principal guidelines were followed: a)observation of the colour of iron as it is sectioned andheated for forging and heat treatment, b) determiningthe strength of iron, that could be characterised by theease of forging, with a function of temperature, c) de-termining the strength and hardness of iron at ambienttemperature, by bending the iron, depending on the forg-ing temperature and the cooling rate. An assumption ofirons having two distinct structures; high and low carboncontent was also applied to this guidelines. The followingmetals were commonly used in a Keris blade manufactur-ing; (a) iron mainly for the bulk of the blade, (b) steelfor the sharp edges and (c) nickel steel for the patterns(pamor) on the blade surface. The selection was madebased on the good mechanical properties like strength

    and ductility. In general, the iron bar was hot forgedand folded into two equal pieces (U shape) before in-serting a pamor sheet. The most striking feature of theKeris is the damascene pamor or most precisely `alloy'that designates both the nickel steel used for Keris mak-ing and the type of damascene steel in the blade. Theword pamor comes from the Javanese word which meansmixture; describing the manufacturing procedure of theKeris [11, 12]. This proves that a Keris is not made froma homogenous piece of metal. The iron/pamor combi-nation was remelted, hot forged and folded again into 2pieces, resulting in 4 layers of iron and 2 of pamors. Theprocess was repeated and may reached up to 128 layersof pamor. In making the wavy luk eect, a lateral hotforging was utilised with help of a cylindrical tool. MostKerises have fewer than 13 luks and there will always bean odd number [12]. Some smiths may reheat the blade tored hot color and tempered in a container with coconutoil, for extra toughening. Finally, the blade is treated(etched) with a mix of lime juice to bring out the pamorcontrast, whereby the nickel alloy content will suer lesschemical attack than that of iron and the steel cuttingedge [12]. Normally, the base iron may turn black in thesolution while the nickel remains unaected; emerging assilvery lines against a black background.

    In the old days, most of forging works were carriedout in a dark setting [10] in order to identify the changesof temperature with ease. First, the blacksmith notedthat the wrought iron became weaker (easier to forge)as the temperature increased. That is the reason whytraditionally, hot forging is most recommended for thedeformation of metal that features a high formability ra-tio. Figure 3 illustrates the temperatures of forged bladeby appearance, which can be assessed by their colour.The blacksmith noted that the properties of wrought ironchanged when the iron combined with carbon. New tem-peratures were observed for every glitter eect, indicatingthat the colour description was a strong function of theamount of charcoal (carbon) [10]. It is understood thatmost iron and steel become softer and forgeable whenheated to red and higher temperature. Normally, a goodrule of thumb for most steel and iron is to work when itis heated to yellow colour.

    TABLE IChemical composition of the as received blade elements.

    Average element content [wt.%]

    Cn Si Mn P S Ni Cr Cu Mo V Co Mg

    Edge 0.80 0.565 1.27 0.036 0.057 0.430 0.171 0.125 0.108 0.10 0.29 0.41

    central 0.317 0.165 0.407 0.024 0.017 0.142 0.084 0.405 0.021 0.008 0.015 -

    2.1 Raw materials

    Composition of as-received raw iron that normally usedfor the central and edge strips was analysed and recorded,as shown in Table I.Clearly, the edge strip comprised of higher carbon con-

    tent than those of the central parts, supporting the state-

    ments of the bushy spark pattern observed by the localsmiths whilst examining the samples. Other elements likeSi, Ni and Mn also played important roles, particularlyin giving higher strength, hardness and ductility to theblade, respectively [10]. Thus, this proves that embeddeddeep into the material of the blade are dierent types ofsteel and iron, each contributing to the blade's eective-

  • 1360 M.J. Ghazali et al.

    Fig. 3. Colour vs temperature (C) of forged blade.

    ness and its unique design. From the composition, severalconclusions can be drawn particularly on the fact that thesteel is basically iron, in which when adding a little bit ofcarbon, greater strength than the iron would have by it-self can be achieved. Figure 4 shows the morphologies ofboth irons with dierent carbon content. Microstructuralobservation conrmed that the structure of edge part waspredominantly hypereutectoid steel (with approximatelymore than 0.77 wt.% C) due to the presence of pearlitewith small grains of iron carbide (Fe3C) also known as ce-mentite, scattered throughout. Thus, with higher carboncontent at the edge part of the Keris, it would suit bestfor the purpose of stabbing rather than the low carbon ofcore parts that normally used to absorb impact withoutbreaking [13]. The ancie

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