Zulah Zaab is a 75 year old Bajau tribe parang maker. He's been making parangs, or machetes, for more than 50 years, just like his father before him and his father before him. We met Zulah at his workshop in a village near Kota Belud in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We were staying at a homestay, and Ismail the owner has brought us to meet Zulah and watch him make a machete.
Back in the day parangs were used as weapons in battle with other tribes, but now they’re used in farming and agriculture, from chopping the hard bones of animals in slaughter, cutting trees and gardening.
Zulah can make up to 10 parangs per week which he sells at the markets, and customers also come directly to him for special requests like double blade and samurai swords, and patterns they’ve designed on the blade and cover.
He finds or buys hard metal pieces like old chainsaw bars or car tire springs, which he cuts to length with another tool.
He then heats coals using an old forge and bellows which blows air onto the coals, igniting them and keeping them burning.
He puts the metal he is working on into the coals and when it is red with heat he moves it onto an anvil where he bashes it into shape with a metal hammer.
When finished it is attached to a handle made of and placed in a wooden ‘sarong’ or cover. Ebony sarongs are sought after and are considered the quality goods.