Keris Wood Materials


Across the world, wood is both an exceptional material and a symbol. In the Indo-Malaysian culture of a magical world, wood has a priviledged position among other materials. Grain, fiber, perfume (odor) are key features. A great many woods are used in making keris, some widely and others in very distinct regions. Both hardwoods and softwoods are used. Three of the woods most preferred are described below. At the bottom of the page is a list of additional woods chosen for keris. Please see the excellent article by Marco Briccola for more information (download pdf). In Malaysia, all the woods were considered as having a spirit but none stronger than the power of Kayu Kemuning.

Kemuning Wood

Kemuning Wood Hilt
  • Species: Murraya Paniculata Jack
  • Descripton: A tropical evergreen plant found across the south and southeast Asia. In addition to its use as a wood, a crude extract from the plant is used in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes. The wood is in the Rutaceae family which also includes citrus such as orange, lemon, and lime.A similar wood is Kernong Akar (Murraya Exotica).  Both known as Chinese Mytrle. It has a faint yet pleasant citrus scent
  • Appearance: Kemuning wood is prized for the beautiful blazes. These emerge from the fiber called “doreng”, distinctive in that it reflects light in every direction. Kemuning werut has distinctive reddish stripes.
  • Significance: In Malaysia, the Dewi tree was reserved for the nobility and the wood worth more than gold. Kemuning with nice features is especially difficult to obtain.

Tayuman Wood

Example of Keris hilts made with Tayuman wood
  • Species: Cassia Laevigata Willd (a synonym for Senna septemtrionalis (Viv.) H.S. Irwin & Barneby) 
  • Description: A woody shrub or tree known by a large number of synonyms throughout the world. In English, the preferred common name is “smooth senna” or arsenic bush. In Java, it is also known as senting/tayoomas/trembalon. Tayuman is increasingly difficult to obtain. Rarely is the trunk of the bush large enough with which to fashion a keris sheath. It is mostly used for hilt.
  • Appearance: Unlike Kemuning, Tayuman usually has a dark reddish color with no visible grain (sera). It is quite smooth.
  • Significance: Tayuman is the first choice for use in keris hilts at Jogjakarta dan Surakarta. It is a very dense wood and therefore shifts the balance of the keris back into the hand. 

Timoho (Timaha, Timanga) Wood

Timoho Wood Hilt
  • Species: Kleinhovia Hospita Linn
  • Description: An evergreen tropical tree native to Indonesia and Malaysia. All parts of the tree are used in traditional local cultures for purposes of medicine, rope-making; young leaves are eaten as a vegetable. In Bali the tree is called Purnama Sadha. In Lombok and Sumbawa the wood is called Kayu Berora.
  • Appearance: Timoho wood shows a slightly pinkish buff and is moderately fine in texture. A key characteristic is the appearance of dark brown “stains” known as “pelet”. The pelet form intricate patterns which are both beautiful and inform the unique magical significance attributed to a keris with this timoho clothing. Characteristic patterns are belts (stripes) of various light and dark colors, circles (clear or fuzzy), dots, all of which may be sparse or dense.
  • Significance: Unlike other woods used in keris, Timoho is believed to be possessed by a spirit whose presence is revealed in the patterns of the dark brown pelet features of the wood. The patterns recur and are given individual names. The most prized is “kendit”, a pattern that appears as a dark horizontal stripe in the wood. It is often chosen for royal keris. Other patterns include gandrung, ceplok banteng, segoro (segara) winotan, sembur, tulak, doreng, dewandaru

Other Woods:

Cendana varieties (known as sandal wood), Trembalu (species Dysoxylum Actuangulum Mg. - Cassia Glaauca), Jati (Tectonia Grandis) commonly known as teak in many varieties. Cukila, Ambon (Aleurites moluccana), Kayu Arang/Hitam known as ebony, Manikara Kauki (non-traditional), Kayu Sawo Manilia (Manikara Zapota), Kendayaan (Bauhinia malabarica), Keyu Celagi (Tamarindus indicus), Kayu Gmia (Bouea macrophylla), Kayu Awar Awar, Kayu Serut (root wood of Mawar Hutang), Kayu Akasia, Kayu Kelengkeng, Kayu Asem, Kayu Sangkuriyang. The very hard wood Sawo is known as Ciku in Malaysia.

Softwoods found in decorative parts of the keris include Nibong, Bamboo (buloh), and Rattan. 


Briccola, Marco A. “Beauty, Charm and Spiritual Aspects of the Keris Hilt Materials”. Unpublished Manuscript.