If you decide to buy your parang when you arrive, what sort should you go for?

Firstly I would recommend going for a blade length of 10-12 inches, particularly if you are new to using a parang.

The parang I’m using (in the photos below) is a little bit too long (14 inches) which does have some advantages but the downside is it’s heavier (more tiring for the wrist) and less manoeuvrable.

Secondly, go for one with the same type of handle as the one in the photo.  These parangs come without a sheath (I’ll show you how to (quickly and easily) make one later) and are presented to you wrapped in old newspaper that’s held on by an elastic band!

In Malaysia there is one parang maker who does provide a sheath and their parangs are easy to identify as they have a pointed tip.  I don’t rate these parangs and strongly recommend that you avoid them.

Below are the specifications for the parang in the photo:

Weight = 530g

Blade length = 14 inches

Back blade width (where meets handle) = 7mm

Back blade width (at parang tip) = 2mm

Cost = Ringgit 20 (about 4 UK pounds/ about USD$6)

Handle = Moulded polyurethane

When you buy your parang, pick up a sharpening stone as well 

Sharpening stones cost about Ringgit 10 (i.e. 2 UK pounds / $US3) and have both a rough and smooth side.

Although the handle on local parangs is an excellent shape for chopping, it is also the main weakness of these parangs: the blade is held in the handle only through its grip with the polyurethane and by a worryingly small pin (see photo below).  To make matters worse, these parangs have a ‘rat-tail’, pointed tang rather than a full tang.

As a result the tang of the blade will sometimes work loose within the handle and the parang gets the ‘shakes’ as it can now pivot slightly about the retaining pin.

I would normally rehandle a new parang or, at least, drill through and put in another, more secure, retaining pin.

However, if you are coming from abroad you probably won’t have time or the access to the  drills and pins and epoxy resins and all those other useful things you need so, for the purposes of these articles,  I’ll use the standard, unmodified handle and we’ll see whether any problems develop (and what can be done about them if they do).

As a side project I’m going to rehandle a small parang using the traditional method which, as far as I can ascertain, doesn’t use any glue or even a retaining pin! (yet another good reason to stand well back when someone in front of you is using a parang!)

The photo below shows the parang tang with an extra hole drilled through (and the teaspoon I used to make the pins).

The next thing you need to do is sharpen the parang.  The first time you do this it will take some time (maybe an hour or so) as the edge of the blade needs to be profiled (shaped), after that sharpening the parang will be quick and easy and I’ll show you how I do this in the next video.