Negara near Banjarmasin on Borneo was a notable center of arms production in the 19th century. Salomon Müller surveyed the area between 1828-1836 and wrote:

Het eerste aanzienlijke dorp boven Margasari is Nagara 38), aan beide oevers dezer rivier, op omstreeks 2° 30' Z. breedte gelegen, en door zijne ijzersmederijen vermaard. Het heeft eenige duizenden inwoners, van welke zich een zeventig- of tachtigtal nagenoeg uitsluitend met het vervaardigen van onderscheidene wapensoorten bezig houden. Zij maken buksen pistolen, soldaten- en jagtgeweren, gedamasceerde sabels, degens, inlandsche zwaarden en krissen, in één woord, alle soorten van handwapenen. Zij arbeiden onderling min of meer fabriekmatig, en een hunner, een priester, Hadji Mohammad Saleh genaamd, bestuurt in zeker opzigt de gezamentlijke werkzaamheden 39). De prijzen der wapenen, die deels van inlandsch, deels van Europeesch ijzer en staal vervaardigd worden, zijn allezins billijk. De Sultan heft een tiende van de waarde op de uitgevoerd wordende wapenen.


My translation

"The first notable village above Margasari is Nagara 38), situated on both sides of this river at around 2° 30' South, it is renowned for its ironworkers. It has a few thousand inhabitants of which about seventy to eighty are fully occupied producing various types of arms. They make guns, pistols, soldiers and hunting rifles, damascened sabers, smallswords, local swords and kerises. In short, all kinds of hand weapons. They operate among each other more or less in a factory fashion and one of them, a priest named Hadji Mohammad Saleh can be seen as an overseer to the joined work 39). The prices of the arms which are partly made of local and partly made of European iron and steel, are by all means reasonable. The Sultan levies one tenth of the value of the exported arms." 1


According to Hendriks, writing in 1842, the Sultan required the artisans to work for him for free if necessary, he would provide the raw materials in that case.2


The area was most renowned for its gunbarrels, which were twist-forged, sometimes with the use of pamor, after which the bore was drilled out by hand. Hendriks marveled at the trueness of these barrels, especially given the fact that they were made by hand and using only three types of drills, where in the Netherlands no less than 22 different drills were used, in a mechanized setup that did not require and skill from the artisans hands. Among the barrels were also rifled barrels, made with an octagonal cross-section and rifled with eight grooves.3



Materials used include local iron and steel but also imported Swedish steel, and pamor (nickel) that was traded through the Chinese and Buginese. For the carving of the stocks, local craftsmen preferred a type of wood called kaijoe-bawang and then varnished with a varnish obtained from Palembang, called tjet Palembang.4

Gunbarrels bores were polished and smoothened with shark skin, blauwsteen ("bluestone", a type of sandstone) and oil.5



Some prices observed by Hendriks in 1842:

Infantry rifle, Dutch style, complete: 20 guilders.

Infantry rifle, Dutch style, complete, with pamor: 30 guilders.

A normal hunting shotgun, with pamor: 40 guilders.

A normal hunting rifle, single barrel, with pamor: 25 guilders.

A normal hunting rifle, single barrel, without pamor: 18 guilders.

A pair of pistols with pamor: 28 guilders.

A pair of pistols without pamor: 20 guilders.

A curved saber, no hilt, with pamor: 8 guilders.

A curved saber, no hilt, without pamor: 6 guilders.

A klewang, with pamor: 8 guilders.

A klewang, without pamor: 6 guilders.

Hendriks also ordered "eene prachtbuks" ("a wonderful rifle") with silver mountings, damascened with pamor, with barrel and buttplate inlaid with floral work in gold. Price 110 guilders.

Two normal rifles but made with the greatest care: 35 guilders each.

Two curved saber blades. Price 8 guilders each.6


1. Salomon Müller; Reizen en onderzoekingen in den Indischen archipel, gedaan op last der Nederlandsche Indische regering, tusschen de jaren 1828 en 1836. Amsterdam, F. Muller, 1864. Page 167.
2. A. Hendriks; Iets over de wapenfabricatie op Borneo. Part 18 of Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 1842.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.


Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

Carved with typically Dayak aso "dog dragon" motifs.


A curious slashing weapon from northern Borneo.


Of typical South Borneo workmanship, but formed like a mandau from Kutai.


Extremely large example with nearly full-length Western blade.


With wide flaring side bars that offer added protection.


With vintage silver mounted scabbard.