Story and Photos by Reuben Bolieu
Parangs are one of the most mimicked long blade styles of Southeast Asia. Although there are many on the market, none of them come close to the authentic parangs made in Malaysia!
MyParang.com offers Malaysian made parangs done right—convex edges, stick tang handles, and distal tapers. This is how most authentically forged blades are made, as opposed to parangs made in the USA or UK.
Parangs hail from the Malay Archipelago, a vast, oceanic, tropical region situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Malay Archipelago are home to over 25,000 islands including Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and East Timor.
The jungles of Southeast Asia and the Malay Archipelago are generally more “woody” than the jungles of Latin America. The parang and Golok are designed for stronger chopping—which is why the parang blade is heavier than machetes—and with a broader bevel angle, to prevent binding in the wood when chopping.
I received a number of parangs from MyParang.com, including traditional patterns like the Duku Chandong, Lading and two Golok style parangs.
I wanted to spotlight the smaller, less publicized parangs of the bunch, keeping them under the more typical 12-inch-long blades. The Golok 125 with an 11-inch blade, and the Duku Chandong with an 8-inch-long blade would be used on a variety of camp chores utilizing bamboo.
All blades were made in Bidor, Malaysia from 5160 carbon steel and had a one-piece, Beech wood handle (from Croatia) with copper bolster. Included was a black nylon sheath with belt loop and MOLLE webbing.
Duku actually means parang in the Iban language, so it basically means Chandong parang. There is no specific shape for the Duku Chandong, as it is a very common knife in Borneo, also known as Sabah and Sarawak. MyParang.com offers three sizes: 12-inch, 10-inch, and 8-inch-long blades. I was sent the 12- and 8-inch versions.
The Duku Chandong has a sheep’s foot blade tip, not pointed like other traditional parangs and Goloks. The tip needs to be strong to split and flatten bamboo, as well as for prying and digging into wood (looking for grubs). The Duku Chandong really is the iconic parang shape, made popular by survival and bushcraft authorities throughout the years like John “Lofty” Wiseman and Ray Mears.
The Golok is a very common design seen in West Malaysia and Indonesia—its influence can even be seen as far up as the southern tip of the Philippines. Goloks can be characterized by their recurved blade and pointed tip. The tip is pretty strong, and the point makes it easy to dig and drill holes. MyParang.com offers four different Golok style parangs, with the smaller 125 Golok being more suitable for lighter work than its larger brother, the 135 model.
Apparently, these numbers are somewhat universally known throughout Malaysia. A 125 Golok bought in different states will be the same design and same length and weight.
During the testing portion of the parangs, I was spending time in Georgia at Patrick Rollins’ (of Randall’s Adventure & Training) place, where we always seem to get up to some type of building, crafting, and grilling. He really took a liking to the 12-inch long Duku Chandong while I gravitated towards the smaller 8-inch-long bladed version.
The first thing I did with the Duku Chandong was quarter a whole chicken with it. I am used to a Chinese cleaver in the 8-inch range, so this wasn’t a far cry from my usual blade size. However, a cleaver is straight and flat, while a parang has a slight sweep to it. Being that the blade of an 8-inch-long parang has a few inches of unsharpened area just above the handle—for choking up—the actual cutting portion is closer to 4 inches. It really felt like a kitchen knife, with a thicker spine.
I started with the legs, removing the thighs (with drumsticks attached) and quartered the legs as they’d be bought in the store. I then separated the drumsticks, as they’d be used for something else later.
After the legs, I removed the wings and set them aside. Breasts were last, leaving the backbone for making stock. Of course, the meat from the backbone would be used for shredding—all the possibilities.
The dish for that day was Filipino chicken kabobs. After sectioning the breasts and thighs, I used the parang to debone the thighs and dice up the meat into one-inch squares. I also fashioned some bamboo skewers, as we were bamboo rich from making a quick withdrawal from the bamboo store.
I would say that our main building and crafting material was bamboo from a thicket that Patrick had access to. With their permission, we made a few trips to harvest some pieces that we’d use for rebuilding the camp—hence the term ‘bamboo store.’
We used the pair of Duku Chandongs for a table we were building, using a technique to flatten the bamboo. By carefully holding the bamboo, several short, quick chops were made in the bamboo parallel with the tip of the parangs, making sure none of the splits line up. This weakens the bamboo and makes it pliable.
The short parang seemed easier to use than a longer bladed one, as there was less mass to move, equaling less weight. The sheepsfoot blade seemed perfect for this task as it naturally dug into the bamboo.
Once the bamboo seemed pliable, one decisive cut was made lengthwise, opening the bamboo up. The section containing the nodes had to be trimmed, minimizing their thickness to make them easier to flatten. This is the type of work that parangs have been doing in Malaysia as long as parangs have been around!
When it came to more typical woodcraft, the small Duku Chandong was used to split kindling and shave feather sticks for fire. Choking up closer to the sharpened section made the large knife feel less unwieldy. In consideration of fire craft, I used a bastard mil file to sharpen up a small section on the spine of the parang to use as a striking surface for a ferrocerium rod or as a tinder scraper.
The handle remained secure and super comfortable throughout use. The sheath, as simple as it was, had a general good fit for the parang. I attached a carabiner to the belt loop of the sheath and attached it to my belt loop when wearing it. It was a lot easier to take on and off this way!
The smaller Duku Chandong would be a good one tool option for a backpacker who wanted to cook and craft, without weighing themselves down with a lot of tools. Definitely worth looking into this small powerhouse for lightweight trips in many environments.
There is a certain look to the recurved edge and pronounced belly, combined with its weight forward design, that draws me to the Golok. I couldn’t wait to use it on bamboo—and use it I did. Bamboo cooking and camp building was exactly what we were up to in Georgia.
Cooking in bamboo while discussing plans for the new editions to Patrick’s camp was first on the list. Two green, Y-sticks and two long lengths of green bamboo were needed, along with a pilot stick for the Y-sticks, which the Golok provided. The green sticks were easily snipped off with the sweet spot of the Golok, just on the inside bend of the belly.
A stout, hardwood stick was cut and roughly sharpened to pound in the hard ground and dig pilot holes for the uprights. The Golok served as the hammer, on the broadest part of the blade.
Next, one long length of bamboo was chopped in a fashion I learned in the jungles of the Philippines. I held the bamboo with my left hand as if I was going to throw it like a spear, elbow bent. My blade hand made four, short chops in the bamboo, close to a node, as my left hand rotated the bamboo. This gave me a clean cut with no splits resulting in a boiling container.
The serving platter was another length of bamboo where I made two angled chops and used the point of the Golok to stab into the side walls, prying the lid off. With the Golok in hand we chopped kindling and fuel for our small cooking fire. Seafood was then boiled in the bamboo container and instant noodles were cooked with the hot water from the boiled seafood. I carved out a couple of quick bamboo spoons, and we were eating like kings!
To complete the bamboo table, we used wrist thick green pieces of bamboo for the legs. The Golok easily sliced the tops at a steep angle and gave the bottoms a rough point, to stick in the ground. They would act as the supports and are often used as the basis of most jungle foundations in Southeast Asia.
Completing the table was a dual effort between both parangs and Golok!
The Golok 125 and Duku Chandong performed incredibly well and remained comfortable in every grip, with no loosening of the handle. The 5160 easily sharpened up on a puck/stone and strop. These were the real deal Malaysian Parangs!
If you want to try out a parang, get a real one to ensure an authentic, realistic experience with the tool. MyParang.com offers Goloks and parangs made in Malaysia; however, they are easier than ever to obtain online here in the states and well worth it! K&G
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Duku ChandongBlade Material: 5160 Carbon SteelBlade Length: 8 InchesOverall Length: 14.7 InchesBlade Thickness: 0.19 InchesHandle Material: Eco Beech WoodHandle Length: 6.5 InchesWeight (Blade): 11.8 OuncesTotal Weight: 16.9 OuncesSheath Material: NylonMade In: MalaysiaMSRP: $90.00
Golok 125Blade Material: 5160 Carbon SteelBlade Length: 11 InchesOverall Length: 17.5 InchesBlade Thickness: 0.16 InchesHandle Material: Eco Beech WoodHandle Length: 6.5 InchesWeight (Blade): 14 OuncesTotal Weight: 19 OuncesSheath Material: NylonMade In: MalaysiaMSRP: $99.00
Duku ChandongMy Parang
Golok 125My Parang
Adventurer, writer, photographer, gear designer and survival instructor for Randall’s Adventure & Training, Reuben has spent most of his life hiking and backpacking through the wildernesses of the world. He has traveled abroad in extreme environments, from Alaska to the desert heat of Egypt – as well as the humid conditions of Southeast Asia and South America. He continues studying primitive survival techniques, construction and uses of knives and edged tools from places such as: South America, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, and numerous countries in the South Pacific and Scandinavia. Reuben has published many articles on survival, knife and tool use, woodcraft, shelters, and remains a lifetime student of survival.
I have one of the 12″ versions and love it
I don’t have any of these personally, but I would probably go with the 12″ as well. Very versatile.
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