If you are like me and have done a search online for authentically made Malaysian parangs, then you likely share the same frustration. You probably found a few scattered photos, mostly from people overseas, or American custom makers’ versions of the parang. Sure, they may be of parang design, but not real Malaysian parangs that can just be ordered like machetes or any other knives.
Originally, I had planned a trip to Malaysia, make my way up through Thailand, and then into Cambodia. Through a series of emails, I found the name of a guy, Ahmad Nadir, who runs a company called Outdoor Dynamics in Penang Malaysia, which was nowhere near Kuala Lumpur that I was flying into. I looked at his website and there they were—curvy, medium long/bladed knives with that blunt-tip design and raised handle, the parangs.
A worker using an automatic hammering machine to pound out the shape of a blade while it is still hot. This is quicker than doing it by hand and enables the factory to produce blades faster than the traditional method.
Change of plans, add Penang to the list. I met Nadir early in the morning and we went on a little road trip a couple of hours north to Perak where the parangs are made by the Bidor blacksmith. Upon arrival, I noticed how different the scene was from the forges I have visited. There was no guy sitting on the floor over a fire with a pair of tongs heating the steel and cooling it down in a bamboo log filled with water. There were no guys swinging hammers repeatedly over an anvil. Instead, it was a small factory with a small storeroom that also doubled as a showroom with a variety of parangs and tools.
The Kota Belud styles parang (top) with a 12-inch blade and the Cap Pedang…
by Fred Demara / Jul 1, 2012