In today’s modern world that is obsessed with automation, mass production and time saving, you might be surprised to know that the authentic Nepalese Khukris are still hand-made using the exactly similar tools and techniques that has been used for hundreds of years now, in order to maintain the legacy, grace and excellence of the famed “Gurkha Khukri”.
Authentic Gurkha Khukris are made in the hilly regions of Nepal by a limited number of skilled blacksmiths called Kami (Bishwokarma) who have inherited the prized knowledge of Khukri making from their forefathers over the centuries. In the historic Nepal, the country’s population was divided into different castes – each assigned with a specific role in the society. As such, it was the Kamis who were the designated craftsmen in charge of the foundry and were entrusted to create this fierce battle weapon for the legendary Gurkha worriers.
The descendents of this craftsmen community still use the same traditional tools that include charcoal ovens and heavy hammers and handcraft Khukris using the same techniques of beating, hammering and shaping.
Each steps of the Khukri making process is discussed below:
Steel selection and Weighing
The first and probably the most critical step in making an enduring Khukri to ensure its strength and quality is the proper selection of the steel used in its making. The received batch of the steel is thoroughly examined by the craftsmen to confirm no cracks or punctures are present. Once the steel passes the stringent examination, steels are weighed and selected according to the type of Khukri being made. Usually steels weighing higher than the final product are chosen in order to factor in the weight loss during the making process.
Measurement, Marking and Cutting
The chosen piece of steel is then carefully measured and marked depending upon the design of the final product. Here again, few inches are added to the measurement to cope with the loss during the making process and the steel is then cut as per the measurement and marking. To cut the steel, it is first heated in the charcoal oven then repeatedly hammered using the hammer against a sharp chisel.
Beating, Hammering and Shaping
The molecular compactness in the steel is what gives the Khukri its renowned weight and strength and such compactness is achieved by repeatedly pounding the steel with a heavy hammer for hours on. During the process, the steel is continuously red-heated and beaten with the hammer on each side over and over again until the steel achieves the unique curved shape of a Khukri. It is the unparalleled ability of the skilful craftsmen that allows such a beautiful and elegant Khukri to be produced by such repeated and rigorous hammering.
Similar hammering process is used to inlay patterns in the Khukri. However, the hammer is used against the chisel to mark such patterns and artworks in the steel – a process that requires both strength as well as delicate touch.
This very tantalizing yet important step includes pouring cold water over the edge of the heated Khukri and it further ensures the strength and endurance of the Khukri. However, craftsmen need to pay extra attention to make sure that the water is poured only on the edges and the body parts are avoided to come in contact with the cold water.
The handle of Khukris are carved out of either buffalo horns or bones, rosewoods, hardwoods or even sometimes metals – depending upon the model of the Khukri being made. The Khukri and its handle is fixed together using heated laha (Himalayan Epoxy) which helps hold the Khukri’s tang firmly within the handle. This is another piece of centuries old Nepalese technology and methods still being used to create the authentic Gurkha Khukri.
Smoothing, Sharpening and Shining
The rough Khukri is now first smoothed using filers which also gives the basic inclined shape to the blade of Khukri. It is then further sharpened using the sanding device that is based on the centuries old Nepali technology of wheel and chain. The sanding device literally uses fine sands from the local river which is mixed and cooked in the gluey laha – spread over the wheel of the device and let dry. After the famous razor sharpness is achieved in the blade, it is then run under the rolling buffer to get the perfect shine to ultimately create the gorgeous but equally deadly Khukri.
Scabbards or the holders for the Khukris are typically carved out of buffalo hides or woods covered with buffalo skins. A well designed and well crafted scabbard further adds to beauty of the marvelous Khukri.