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Discussion in 'World Building' started by WeilderOfTheMonkeyBlade, Aug 13, 2014.

  1. So I'm thinking about a world, where there is more tin and copper than iron, way more.

    Weapons are mostly made of bronze, only the best and richest people with weapons of steel, next to no one with steel Armour.
    I wanted to know if there way anyway to mix bronze and iron, to form some sort of alloy that would make a weapon, mostly of cheap, available bronze, but strong enough to form great sword length, or able to make plate Armour from it.

    I know that bronze is technically better than iron, but iron is easier to make, which is why it supplanted bronze, but bronze isn't strong enough to form anything longer than a short sword, right?
    That's why I'm thinking about this Great-Bronze.
    Is this possible?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    From what I've just read [Is an Iron/Copper alloy possible? (and useful?)], it isn't really possible to make an alloy of copper/bronze and iron... and if it was made it would be a pretty crappy alloy.
    I don't vouch for the accuracy of what is written - but they seem fairly certain... I especially like the graph that I don't really understand - not having done metallurgy in the last 30 years [or really ever...]
    You could add a dash of Unobtanium [or other none branded mythical element] to make it work...
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm with CupOfJoe. Make your Great-Bronze an alloy of bronze and Unobtainium. That way you can make the other substance as rare or common as you like, place it where the story needs it to be placed, have it come with whatever consequences you please, and so on. You could even have the resulting alloy turn out to be lighter (and tougher, of course) than bronze. Or it's the only thing able to stand up to dragon fire. Or ....

    I like the idea, not least because bronze gives such a look. Great Bronze could be valued in the decorative arts as well, like gold.
  4. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello, Wielder of the Monkey Blade =)

    I am a great admirer of the history and applications of Bronze. The metal is very beautiful and frequently under-rated when it comes to discussions about weapons and armor, even to the point that some people think it's too soft to be used for anything.

    While it's true that most Bronze age swords were short, there have been some examples of bronze blades reaching a length of a yard or even more. The problem is not that the longer blades would break, but that they would bend more easily than a short sword made of the same type of bronze.

    As far as I know, alloys between copper and iron do not exist for some reason. There are other metals that can form strong alloys with copper, like aluminum, silicon and nickel.

    I recommend that you check the article right here.

    Bronze is great not only for short swords, but also for arrow heads, shields, helmets and plate armor... not to mention that it was used to make all sort of household objects as well, like needles to sew clothing and some of the first mirrors of the world.
  5. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    I'm with Sheilawisz on this one. Why do away with iron just to replace it with unobtanium? It seems pointless.
    Accept the limitations of bronze - after all it's no handicap if everyone else is in the same boat - and it will help make the setting special. It's too easy to add unobtanium-like metals into fantasy - so it's totally lost any importance and credibility (which I think is important even in fantasy). The few iron weapons that are out there in your world are then incredibly special.
    arboriad and Sheilawisz like this.
  6. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

    Sheilawisz likes this.
  7. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Thank you for sharing links to those Skallagrim videos, Bortasz.

    Skallagrim is really learned on Swords, and I am happy that he has created those videos to demonstrate the true capacity of Bronze blades. I would like to add that those swords were made by the famous Bronzesmith Neil Burridge, so they are as close as possible to what Bronze age crafts really were.

    @Wielder: I really like the idea of a world where copper and tin are more abundant than iron.

    Maybe they have developed the complex methods needed to produce good quality steel, but those weapons would be reserved for wealthy families and elite fighters simply because of how rare and expensive they would be.

    You could also give a new, fantasy-like name to Bronze in your world, even though it would be the same metal that we know.
  8. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    But if you rename bronze, most readers won't understand that you're just showing the same metal's potential. (Okay, you could drop a prominent "Or as the southlanders call it, bronze" reference, but every time you use the cooler name you're distracting from the realism of it.)

    It seems to me the whole point of writing about bronze, rather than familiar steel or the unobtanium of your choice, is to explore what bronze can really do and get your readers interested in it. If you change how it works, you have to decide if that's a fun variation on the theme or a distraction; making tin more available might only free bronze up to do what it had already been doing in history, but adding alloys means you're creating whole new territory for it. When are you still exploring bronze and when are you remaking it?
  9. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

    Bronze is not a metal, it is already an alloy; and there are literally thousands of different bronzes with different trace elements and different characteristics. Bronze from different regions will be different, because there were no metallurgists checking traces of wolfram or zinc (or whatever) getting into the mix. But with some of them you could quite definitely make a two-handed sword, because I've seen one. It would probably be more brittle than its steel equivalent (though not necessarily than a forged bog-iron (high carbon) blade, nor keep an edge as long, but it could kill people all right. The major reason bronze went out of fashion was cost and availability- economics, not physics.

    And iron wasn't understood straight off, either. Smiths were still improving their techniques when firearms were coming in - probably still are. And carbon content, tempering, the particular ore that contained cobalt or vanadium, all 'magic' making for unpredictable results.
  10. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  11. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I think its a very interesting idea to let bronze be the main type of metall used in this setting. Would the setting socially and technologically alos be stationed in the Bronze Age or still have moved forward to a late time?
  12. Hey all, thanks for all these replies. I've been off on holiday (Wet and misty wales! (living the high life :) ), so I haven't had time to check this thread.

    This is all really useful, and thanks for the videos and stuff.

    Gurkhal, I don't want to make it traditional "Pseudo-High Medieval" I avoid that like the plague. I'm still playing about with the whole idea/concepts. I do know that the four biggest countries, the Walled Lands, because they're surrounded by massive walls, are sort of like post roman Britain- Romanesque style overtones, with countries made up off different tribes and lords and kingdoms, each united under a High King. The fighting style- I write Military Fantasy, will be like the Roman republic, better to feel authentic with bronze weaponry- no point in taking the whole pike and knight system and replacing high quality steel with bronze; wouldn't really work well.
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Why add iron? It's generally not a good mix with copper for some reason. And there are better options. The two best known are probably phosper bronze and tin bronze. However, less well known is aluminium bronze. And in point of fact sometimes aluminium bronze contains trace amounts of iron, as well as silver, nickle, manganese. And I'd add that as Chrispenycate bronze is already an alloy that has hundreds of different possible compositions.

    My thought would be to make up a name - say the smith's name who smelts the metal, and then just hint at the recipe. So Psychotickian Bronze, primarily made of copper and tin but with a pinch of aluminium (bauxite), half a pinch of chromite (chromium) and a trace of silver for colour - though of course the true recipe for this wondrous metal is a closely guarded secret!

    Cheers, Greg.
  14. evanator66

    evanator66 Minstrel

    You could have weapons/armor with iron cores. Although that would be difficult for armor. You could have another made up element that alloys well with bronze but is weak on its own or something. There could also be a way to compress/harden/enchant bronze to make it more durable and stay sharper.
  15. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Ok, I'll take that as a "yes". :)
  16. I've been working on this idea for a while - book 3 of the Strings of Holly and Oak series is doing my head in. I can 't be doing A- levels and then come home to write about high philosophy and the human condition.

    What I'm going to do is use normal Bronze as it is - but with thick ribs either at the center or back. Weight for length as it were. And yeah, I've been watching a ton of Skallagrim's vids. Great stuff.

    I'm also adding in a type of rock called Dragon Stone. It's got a low melting temp so high caste wyverns, - with fire breath, can melt it to do art. Dragonstone is harder than steel, and with it's low melting point can be forged/ cast. But it's heavy as hell. Only massive people and mages Aspected either to Earth or the sub Aspect of Stone can weild or wear the stuff- thier magic reacts with it and makes it lighter. Dragonstone can also be melted into melted bronze, cooled and then forged, which gives longer weapons more rigidity - but not as much as steel. Bronze swords can actually straighten themselves out after being bent. This will allow flacatas and flaxs to be made. Which is good. Because they're important to fighting systems.
  17. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

    Hi Wielder! I'm also setting my novel in a bronze society, I'm making it akin to ancient greece / mediterranean. To get over some of bronze's downsides I'm proposing to introduce orichalcum as the super/magic metal as it already has some mythic foundation with bronze/copper.

    One thing to bear in mind is that if iron is rare and copper/tin more common this might change the rocks/look of the world and even the animals. Gone are magnets/lodestone and red rocks (gosh Australia would look different!) and a lot more greens and blues I guess. I remember that Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series had the animals with copper based green blood rather than red blood from iron in the haemoglobin. But I wonder would this mean that her humans living in Pern would struggle to get enough iron in their diet? I could be dragging too much science into this but it is a world building forum!
  18. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage


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