Mandau from Central Borneo is quite distinctive compared to those from West, East, and South Borneo. The most distinct characteristic is the smoothness of the handle and the sheath.
Not just the smoothness, the engraving of Central Borneo Mandau is also one thing that makes it special. The engraving can take the whole making process as long as 2 months. The makers of this sword are known to be the expert of engrave. They have capabilities and knowledge about complex engraving, which is a heritage of Central Borneo. The number of people with these special capabilities is getting less from time to time. However, there are a few number of people in Central Borneo who dedicate themselves to perceive this knowledge. They hold to the principle that this sword is a symbol of pride. By that, it is a privilege for them to make one exactly like their ancestors once possessed.
The Making Process
A Mandau maker must have different skills at once. Those skills include forging, rattan webbing, and engraving. Making one of this sword takes a lot of patience, which is also another skill. Normally, this kind of sword is made 50 cm in length and 2 cm in width. The width increase from the hilt to the pointy end, which will become 5 cm. But, some makers also choose to make the sword as long as 1 meter.
The material used for making this kind of sword is pure iron. There is only one material in Central Borneo from which the makers can extract such iron and that is called Mantikei. A Mantikei is technically a mountain rock that contains iron. By using this iron, the sword is extremely durable for hundreds of years. Before the forging process, the makers will usually do a ritual call Penyang. This ritual involves a process in which the blacksmiths meditate in order to ask for power from God. In the end, Mandau is indeed known to have some kind of magic power that will protect the owner. This sword will then be forged. The wider end is forged until it becomes extremely thin and sharp. But, the other end, the narrow one, will remain thick as it grips the handle. For the sharpness of this sword, one can chop someone else’s head in one swing. To prevent unnecessary death caused by this sword. There is one rule to regulate the use of it in Central Borneo. One can only draw a Mandau out of its sheath in a very dangerous situation. If someone disobeys and uses it in a common situation, he’ll get punishment from the head of the tribe. The handle of this sword is made of deer’s horn or wood. Because this sword has magic and artistic values, the handle is made in the form of the animal’s head. Then, the handle is added with hair on both ends to make it more artistic. For the sheath, people usually make it from Muhur wood. The sheath well is engraved with primitive Borneo pattern. It takes one month for the sheath to finish. Only after that, the sheath will be covered with animal skin or rattan.