“If you want something done well, do it yourself.  This is why most people laugh at their own jokes” (Bob Edwards)

You can spend a lot of time (and money) looking for the ‘ideal’ piece of kit when all that is needed is to modify an ‘off-the-shelf’ product instead.

If you have a well equipped workshop and a sewing machine there isn’t much camping equipment that you can’t improve on or customize to your particular requirements.

However, not everyone has the tools that are needed and to go out and buy them specifically for a single project can make any cost saving quickly disappear.

Last year OGM (Outdoor Gear Malaysia) opened up a workshop at their retail outlet in Subang so that their customers could modify equipment for themselves.  I think this is a great idea as it means that anyone now has access to the tools and machines needed for customization projects and can get advice and guidance from the staff at OGM if they run into problems.

I decided to test out the concept with an old parang I had lying around: I wanted to put a wood handle on and make a sheath for the parang.

The first stage was to get the handle made.  Stem, an Orang Asli living in Bera, is a craftsmen whose carving abilities far exceed my own so I decided to get him to do the handle.  Alternatively you can simply buy an ‘off-the-shelf’ wooden handle for around RM10 but the advantages of having one made are that 1) it will fit the tang of your parang correctly and 2) you can specify how you want the handle shaped.  If you want a customized handle made by Stem the cost is around RM30 and OGM can arrange for this (it will take about a month or so).

The next stage was to fit retaining pins – this can be quite tricky with the narrow, rat-tail tang of most Malaysian parangs and a bench drill is a huge help (vs trying to use a handheld drill).  Keong, at OGM, has fitted retaining pins so often it is second nature to him and a task that can be difficult and time consuming was completed in less than 20 minutes.  Once the pins are made and holes drilled you can epoxy the whole lot together at your leisure.

I also wanted to try out a Kydex sheath for this parang.  Kydex is expensive stuff RM 80 (for black) – RM 180 (for cammo) for a 2 by 1 foot sheet but the end result is a sheath that looks as good as a commercially made injection moulded sheath.  Kydex is very easy stuff to work with and you could simply buy a sheet, take it home, and do-it-yourself.  If you’d rather have OGM make if for you they can do this (for a fee of around RM45).

All in all the cost of this parang project was (roughly): parang (RM 25), handle (RM 30), Kydex, eyelets, screws (RM 100), OGM fee (RM45) = RM 190 (= approx USD 60).

So, if you live in Malaysia and have an old and trusted parang that you want to rehandle and make a sheath for then this is an great way of doing it (and a fun project to do!)