Tag Archives: blacksmith

Bidor Blacksmith

 


Lets have a look at the Bidor Blacksmith!

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Bidor Blacksmith by now. There has been many blog writings on them and their blades are sold worldwide. From a small family shack, they are now one of the leading parang / agricultural tools in Malaysia. Their expertise lies in their heat treatment – their blades are  easily sharpened and able to hold an edge for a long time.

Recently on our last trip, we took some pictures of the workshop and this post will be pretty picture heavy .

Here, they earn their living from making agricultural tools – from sickles to kitchen knives , and most things in between. Hence to live of this , their setup is pretty much bigger and is a stark contrast with the traditional makers. Here you can see half a dozen power hammers and tons of steel stock.

This post on the Bidor Blacksmith will be less wordy and will be mostly pictures. Pictures are worth a thousand words, therefore I won’t bore you much with lengthy explanations.

bidor blacksmith 022Signboards showing you the way to the factory

bidor blacksmith 001The factory main entrance

bidor blacksmith 002Some of the various agricultural tools you can find made there. 

Late 2013, they purchased two gas forges, as you can see in the picture below. Apparently they have been having trouble sourcing for the right type of coal, and the gas forge is a very much welcome upgrade. Gas is much easier to obtain and more consistent in supply . They however, do not use it to heat treat their products. This is because the gas forge heats up the whole blade, and not only the cutting edge. This is true, since you only need to harden the edge only.

bidor blacksmith 004Brand new gas forge next to the charcoal forge

bidor blacksmith 018Their stockpile of charcoal. Ah Pin once told me if I can source this particular type of charcoal, he’d buy any amount I can supply him.

bidor blacksmith 019The plastic handles everyone seems to hate. Waxy, Slippery , obnoxious colours , but hey, it’s practical and easily seen on the jungle floor!

bidor blacksmith 005One of the tools they make – a betel nut cutter. You don’t see them much anymore.

bidor blacksmith 016The steel stock they use come directly from the steel mill, and not from the recyclers. Recycled steel ( ie. leaf springs ) differ in composition and will result differently after the heat treat.

bidor blacksmith 020Here is a stockpile of scrap steel which they used back then. There are various files , chainsaw bar guides, recycled leaf springs etc , which are not used anymore.

bidor blacksmith 026Here workers pound the hot and soft steel into a shape .

bidor blacksmith 025Some of the blacksmith’s tools hanging . Some are made by themselves.

bidor blacksmith 003Some of the semi finished products left to cool on the factory floor

bidor blacksmith 017A worker rough grinds the worked steel into its final shape

bidor blacksmith 007A Parang blank ready to be sent for heat treat bidor blacksmith 010Ah Ming firing up the forge to heat treat some blades. Note that he uses the charcoal forge and not the gas. bidor blacksmith 011Heat treat done in Oil .

bidor blacksmith 012Heat Treat done with water

bidor blacksmith 027Mr. Pin showing how it’s done – hardening a parang blade in water.

I asked Ah Ming when he was demonstrating the heat treatment if there was any difference in using water or oil. He said no, but he mentioned that the oil is much messier , as it leaves a greasy surface on the blades.

bidor blacksmith 013    After treat, the blades are left at the side of the forge to temper.

bidor blacksmith 008A worker sharpens the blanks – in this case a rubber tapping knife .

bidor blacksmith 028Here Mr. Pin showing the ability of his hand – hardened blades. Chopping steel pins with ease.

 bidor blacksmith 021 The packing center. Where orders are packed and kept for customers. 

 The picture below shows the old address of the Bidor Blacksmith. Beware, as there are fakes make now days which uses this old address. When I spoke to Ah Ming, he mentioned that he knows about the fakes. He said they started when customers requested for Bidor made parangs , but the shops and their suppliers were too lazy to get them from Bidor itself, so they asked their  blacksmiths to copy to name and stamp it into their products. Really , anything can happen in Malaysia!  bidor blacksmith 015

edit 5/11/2014 : We have added a good video by the cool guys at ” Bush Channel ” on you tube.

Meeting a Blacksmith in Pekan Darat

In my last trip, I had the opportunity to meet Uncle Sobri who is currently working full time as a blacksmith. Uncle Sobri has his own shed which he shares with some other blacksmith. I was pretty amazed at the amount and variety of machinery he has. Although the place can be quite rickety, you can see that a lot has happened there. Some tools are really worn out and I am sure have been used very very well.

Uncle Sobri mainly makes rubber tapping knives now, as he needs to make something that is able to sell . However, all the rubber tapping knives he makes are sent further north like Baling and Betong, as Kedah itself does not have much rubber plantations anymore. According to Uncle Sobri, most have converted to Palm Oil.

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Uncle Sobri making Rubber tapping knives

When I dropped by on the second day of fasting, i did not see anyone else working, but Uncle Sobri. He was hammering his rubber tapping knives in his simple forge and anvil , tucked in one corner of his shed. He was gracious enough to take a short break and show me the shed and it’s surroundings.

The shed is pretty well equipped , and there are at least 3-4 furnaces , and about 8 power hammers and about 10 anvils scattered around . All are in working order except for one power hammer which has been dismantled for servicing, and a few other small machines where parts have been stolen.  Sadly, not many are used anymore, as the youngsters prefer to work in the factories now.

an old power hammeran even older pwoer hammer
One of the power hammers                         And an even older one

Some machines I noticed were bench grinders, a small wood lathe machine ( probably unused for 10 years ) , metal cutting machinery , hydraulic press, circular saw  and many more. I’d say this shack is pretty well equip. Only problem is there is no one using it.
anvilmore anvils
Anvils and more anvils

Waking around the shed, you can really see that this place has been used very well. According to Uncle Sobri, this shed was used by his late father. At that time, blacksmithing  was one of the main industries in Pekan Darat , and this place was bustling with activities. He said then, youngsters would come over after school and work at the forge for some pocket money, as well as to learn the tricks of the trade. Even the womenfolk would sharpen newly made knives and parangs in front of their houses for a few ringgit.

uncle Sobri with a Kacip
Uncle Sobri with a kacip.
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Uncle Sobri’s small workspace , with the furnace ahead and anvil on the left.

Below is one section of the shed that really amazes me. This section is where they clamp the rubber tapping knife to be ground down . Check out the amount of metal shavings! It looks like a huge pile of sand and even  like a sculpture . They must have not cleaned this place for ages, and I’m sort of glad actually. Even the wooden bench used to clamp the rubber tapping knives is very worn out. Try and count the number of nails holding it together and you should be able to guess it’s age!

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The sharpening / grinding section

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The clamping bench

Just about 2 meters away from Uncle Sobri’s workspace, there is another shed with another blacksmith. Unfortunately, when I was there, he was not around and I did not get the chance to meet him. From what I understand, this guy does make parangs . So i hope to come again soon and get some made up. I’m keen to see if he can make some nice and good pieces.
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Another workshop just nearby

 

A recent visit to the Pekan Darat Blacksmith

Pekan Darat blacksmith shed
The Old Building in front and the newer one at the back

Recently I had the opportunity to drop by Pekan Darat again. It looks like PERDA has some big plans for Pekan Darat. It is reported that they have spent rm 1.5 million to bring the Blacksmithing industry back to it’s glory days.

Perda has extended the original metal working building towards the back , with lots of space for new machinery and tools. As of my visit in July, all they are waiting is the arrival of the machinery . Even the smaller shed on the right got a new cemented floor. From my first visit, it looked like it was being used regularly, but now most of the tools are missing .
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The Smaller Shed

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The signboard at the front of the shed.

I think it’s a good call to bring back the Blacksmithing industry to Pekan Darat . We’re keen to work together and see what they are able to produce.

Here is a link to a newspaper report to the Project by Perda – http://www.theborneopost.com/2013/03/17/rm1-5-mln-allocated-to-develop-blacksmithing-industry-in-pekan-darat/