Pamor

"Pamor" refers to a pattern in the blade made by means of forging together various metals, typically layered billets of steel and nickel alloys (see pattern-welding).  Many Javanese pamor motifs are found, each with its own meaning, magic and value.

The word Pamor comes from the Javanese word “Wor” or “Awor” and it means “mixture”.  This exactly describes the manufacturing method of the keris blade:  the forging together of various metals using a technique called “pattern welding”. Layers of different metals are pounded and fused together while red hot, fresh from the forge. The layers are pounded, folded, shapes, polished and acid etched to bring out the pattern. The decorative effect in a good pamor is beautiful and fascinating.

The core of a keris is the only layer of steel. What you see in the pamor are visible layers that are comprised of iron or nickel.  Different eras (tangguh) had different number of layers and in different combinations.  Welding, carving, cleaning and other processes can cause layers to be lost — but this is how the pamor is revealed.

Unlike Damascus (or “Damast”), which arises through a chemical process in the melting-pots (rare metals such as vanadium and molybdenum cause the damast), pamor arises from the technique of forging and welding.  Like damast, pamor patterns are a consequence of the fact that the blade is not made from a homogenous piece of metal - it is made from alternating layers of different irons.  For example, normal iron and iron containing nickel (the highest value pamor arises from the use of meteoric iron, and is very rare).  Irons contain high and low phosphorus also yield pamor.  Iron with a high phosphorus content is quite pale and sometimes referred to as "white iron".  Different eras (see Keris Tangguh) had a standard different number of layers of pamor. 

The “Empu”, a term of respect for keris smiths, is able to influence the pattern of the pamor by twisting, bending, turning and eventually drilling into the iron bar.  Each step is followed by welding.  The decorative shape is brought out by filing and grinding, and a wash in a solution of arsenic and lime juice brings out the final pamor pattern on the blade.  The precise mixture of materials is said to have an effect on the energy of the final blade:  iron and nickel will be different from iron, titanium and nickel.  A well-ranged composition of the materials is said to automatically gather energy from nature.

IDENTFICATION, NAMING AND CLASSIFICATION *

Some pamor patterns are very difficult to identify, either because they are new, a blend of more than one known type, poorly executed, or even some combination of all these possibilities.  

Furthermore, there may be multiple names given to any given pamor. This may result, for example, from local or tribal differences, linguistic distinctions (e.g., alternative transliteration), and not least, reasonable differences of opinion among people including experts.  

There are multiple ways to classify pamor patterns as well, and this is another topic of study and debate.  There are different schemes for different purposes.  It is certainly multi-dimensional.

So, please consider the names and classification scheme you see here as just a starting point for study!  My only claim is that it has helped me to begin to understand the great variety and quality of different pamors.

TYPES OF PATTERNS

              Planned vs.Unplanned, Method of Creation, Added Decoration, Localized Patterns

** Planned vs. Unplanned

Pamor Rekan is a pre-planned pattern

Pamor Tiban is an unplanned or uncontrolled pattern, said to have more energy than pamor rekan. Pamor tiban is regarded as a gift from God.  

Examples:

  • Beras Wutah or Wos Wutah
  • Sumsum Buron
  • Jung Isi Dunya
  • Kulit Semangka or Ngulit Semangka 

** Method of Creation

The pamor itself can generally be divided into two kinds according to the method of its creation:

  1. Pamor Mlumah:  for luck and tranquility (for example, wos utah, bonang renteng, kulit semangka)

  2. Pamor Miring:  for glory and “guno sentikan” (for example, bulu ayam, blarak sineret, banyu mili, kenongo ginubah, sekar mangar, sekar lampes, nogo rangsang, ambeg toyo, ganggeng kanyut)

** Added Decoration

Pamor Titipan: After a Keris 90% finished it may be further decorated, for example, with gold leaf.  Pamor ceblokan means “encrusted goods”.  

** Localized Pattterns

Pamor on the Sor-Soran is a pattern that appears only at the base of the blade.


*Tip 'o the hat to A.G. Maisey and other members of the Ethnographic Arms & Armour Forum