Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
The car was parked on the roadside near the old town of Pasir Penampang, which is a stone's throw away from SRJK (C) Kai Chee. The sound of antiquated machines could be heard vividly.
More than a century old, the old town of Pasir Penampang used to be called the "coconut foot," which could be related to the coconut grove which predated the town.
Compared to the bustling and flourishing city, the old town is much quiet and lonesome since half a century ago. Although some of the residents have refurbished and renovated their shops or embarked on different businesses, some still look pretty old and worn out.
Following the sound of the machines and people chatting, we could see a traditional tea house and two blacksmith and aluminium shops.
Sin Chew Daily visited the only blacksmith shop at Pasir Penampang called "Chuen Li Zhan." We could see iron bars and debris scattered all around the shop. A burning hot stove with the coals was located on the left, and the "blacksmith hero" was standing in front of the stove, tapping the iron bars.
The stove was connected to an electrical plug and when the "blacksmith hero" pressed the button, the built-in exhaust fan lit the fire became more violent.
Looking up towards the wall was hung different types of knives. There were sickles, choppers, parangs, kitchen knives, etc. Some of the iron materials were purchased from the factory and some were hand-made.
74-year-old "blacksmith hero" Lim Chang Wan is still energetic and enthusiastic in delivering his unique traditional craftsmanship. However, well aware of his own ability and current physical state, he does not intend to take more orders except those from his regular customers.
"Pasir Penampang used to have three blacksmith shops but only two are left today, the reason being they are not as competitive and productive as the huge factory. These blacksmith shops could only churn out twenty to thirty sets of knives while the factory could produce around a hundred each day.
The process of burning, tapping and grinding is complicated and time consuming. Only five or six sets of complicated knives such as choppers, palm oil knives or those used by Hindus for praying could be made in a day."
Not far from the blacksmith shop is an aluminium shop. Coincidentally the owner Lim Shi Peng not only shares the same surname as the blacksmith hero, he is also the second generation successor of an aged business and is in the same age bracket. Lim works every day throughout the year from 8am till 5.30pm except Chinese New Year. He seldom walks out from his shop and treats the shop as his own house because he lives inside the shop.
There was a 5 ft height steam lid in front of his shop, which he completed within one day. This rare hand-made steam lid is worth RM380.
"I picked up the art of making aluminium from my father after I finished Standard Six. I could make or repair anything if you give me the shape of the object. I would spend more time if my clients require that I follow their measurements.
"Normally I would be asked to repair. For instance, modifying aluminium pan edge, repairing steel pot handle or custom make the steamer, containers or scoops.
"I am the youngest in the family. Both my brother and sister have passed away. Three of my sons and two daughters have their own careers and refuse to take over my business. No one is willing to become my apprentice because of income uncertainty and the hard work."