Materials used in the manufacture of the Omani khanjar
There is a diversity of khanjar types and denominations in Oman. Most khanjars, however, belong to particular types associated with the different governorates of the Sultanate. In part, this diversity of types of khanjar reflects the Sultanate's geographical and environmental diversity of desert environments, the marine environment as well as mountains and plains. This geographic diversity in turn led to cultural diversity and practical differences in the detail of khanjar and thus to the specific characteristics that define different types of khanjars. This latter is reflected in materials used by khanjar makers to create the particular regional types of khanjar. The materials include:
· Decorative yarns
· Flux powder and liquid
· Tung fruit and lemons
· Battery acid
Silver is the primary material in the manufacture of many Omani khanjars. It is used in the manufacture of many of its most visible parts including the handle, ferrule, scabbard upper cover, rings and chape. Silver is also used in the manufacture of accessories of the khanjar such as: knife, wallet, tweezers, eyeliner and holder.
Silver in sheet form is used for large components of khanjar such as the ferrule, scabbard upper cover, chape, and front and back faces of the handle along with decoration to the top of the handle (shamarikh), studs and covering of some leather parts. Silver in cast form is used for bosses on the handle, particularly in Al Saidi khanjars, for making rings for the belt holder, for the buckle and sometimes for rivets.
Gold is also widely used in khanjar making. Its two limitations compared to silver are that it is a softer metal and not structurally as strong or stiff, and it is more expensive. Gold is a relatively common material in the manufacture of Al Suri khanjar, and some types of Al Saidi khanjar. Gold is used to replace silver in part or whole in the manufacture of most decorative khanjar parts including parts of the handle, ferrule, scabbard upper cover and chape. Gold is also used for manufacture of the secondary accessories of the khanjar to complete the aesthetic side.
Horn is one of the most common materials for the handle of expensive higher quality khanjars. The choice of material used in the manufacture of the handle depends on the desire of the owner of the khanjar. Traditionally, horn handles for khanjar have been made from rhino horn known locally as (zaraf – giraffe?) and elephant tusk, ivory. These materials are now subject to international controls on being traded internationally and consequently have become difficult to source by khanjar makers for their clients.
Wood is used in the manufacture of khanjar scabbard cores and some khanjar handles. Any type of wood can be used in the manufacture of the scabbard, providing it is reasonably hard, does not have structural flaws such as knots and cracks, and does have an easy cutting nature.
For khanjar handles, the two main woods used are high quality samples from the sandalwood (Santalum) species and bitter wood (Quassia amara). Sandalwood is heavy, yellow and fine-grained and has a pleasant aromatic fragrance that is emitted for decades. It adds fragrance to cloth items the khanjar is stored alongside. Sandalwood also has antimicrobial properties. Bitter wood (Quassia amara) has an attractive coloured grain for a khanjar handle.
Marble is increasingly used in recent modern khanjar handle production. It has also occasionally been used in the manufacture of scabbard cores and covers, which is down to the wishes of the owner of the khanjar.
A variety of plastic materials are increasingly used in the recent modern manufacture of khanjar handles. One of the advantages is the ability to have a large colour range of handles and to embody decoration into the handle during the plastic moulding processes and thus reduce the work of the khanjar maker.The most common colour choice is for a two-colour black and white design.
Steel is used in the manufacture of khanjar blades. Traditionally, the quality of steel from which a khanjar blade was created was highly valued. An Omani man was judged on the quality and value of the khanjar blade he carried, so the khanjar maker or owner was keen to choose the good type of steel to give the blade strength and rigidity, and sharpness and the ability to keep a good edge. Steel is also used in the manufacture of the small knife that is one of the common accessories for the Al Nizwani and Al Suri khanjars, and used in the manufacture of other accessories such as the tweezers, eyeliner and holder. A sample of steel used in the manufacture of a contemporary khanjar blade is shown in .
Leather is used in the manufacture of several essential parts in the Omani khanjar including the belt holder, the scabbard cover, belts and belt components. Leather from different animals is used. Typical sources of leather are cows, sheep and goats, although occasionally more exotic leathers may be used ().
Khanjar makers keen on producing every part of the khanjar aesthetic form would use luxurious brushed fabrics in various colours as the rear lining of the scabbard cover and the inner lining of the belt parts.
In some types of khanjar, decorative yarns are used in conjunction with other material to decorate scabbard covers and belts. The various design provide aesthetic touches on the khanjar in line with the decorations on its other components.
Nylon filament in silver, gold and other colours are increasingly used to supplement the decorations on khanjar scabbard covers and belts.
The golden colour yarn blends with the silver in decorating Al Suri khanjars. The increasing use of silver, gold and other colours of synthetic yarns has led to new decorative developments in khanjar.
Supporting materials in Khanjar making
Glue is used to fix many parts of the khanjar in its final form. For example, glue is used to fix the blade to the handle; to install the scabbard cover to the scabbard core; to fix the belt lining to the rear of the belt components; to attach the belt holder to the scabbard, and to install the chape at the end of the scabbard.
The most common glue used in khanjar making currently is a synthetic rubber-based contact and PVA adhesive .
Lead is melted to the space in the centre of the ferrule, scabbard upper cover and chape to protect them from damage whilst they are being embossed and engraved. The lead is melted out of the silver pieces and reused.
Flux powder and liquid
Flux powder, typically borax, is used during the process of soldering silver pieces. It is used to line crucibles and to speed up the process of melting silver and lead.
: Flux powder
Flux liquid (non-borax) is increasingly used during the process of soldering in the areas of meeting the end of the silver pieces. This liquid is used to speed up the process of melting silver when it was formed when manufacturing the ferrule, scabbard upper cover, chape and rings.
Shellac resin (derived from an insect) is used as filler, as a coating for wood and to help bind the blade to the handle
Hot resin, tar or bitumen is poured onto a wooden holder in which items to be engraved are set. Pressing the items into the hot liquid and allowing them to cool provides a way of holding them for embossing and engraving without damage. The pieces are released from the holders by reheating the resin. Tar or bitumen to a liquid state.
Tung fruit and lemons
Dried Tung fruit are used in polishing and preserving silver pieces after the completion of the etching process. Tung fruit is a type of acid fruit that also contains usefully preservative oil that can also be used by the owner of khanjar during cleaning on a regular basis to maintain the silver sheen for a long time. Tung fruit are, however, highly poisonous.
More recently, some people have started using lemon juice (also acid) to clean khanjar due to its easy availability.
Sulphuric acid from old vehicle batteries is used to clean and polish the different silver parts at each stage of manufacture. After the completion of soldering the silver pieces are directly placed in battery acid to remove the blackening caused by the flame. Battery acid is also used by some khanjar makers to clean their khanjars.
Water is used to cool newly soldered pieces and to temper the khanjar blade. It is also used for removing flux from newly soldered parts and removing battery acid.
Soapy water with soap powder is used in cleaning khanjar parts, particularly removing the resin after embossing and engraving by scrubbing them with a stiff brush.
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