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Questions about fantasy weapons and weapon design

Electro Queen

Minstrel
Man its been awhile since I’ve posted anything on this website. This one’s gonna be a little different though. Rather than asking a single question in relation to a single underlying story/world building problem, this one’s gonna be broken down into a list of different questions all about a single underlying story/world building problem… ok so it’s not actually THAT much different from my other questions but w/e. Here we go:

- How could Air magic contribute to weapon design? Like, Earth magic gives you the strength necessary to bend metal (literally), and access to dozens of special materials hidden in caves and mines that we didn't discover until the mid 19's, Water magic allows you to simulate water cutting jets to cut holes in metal and cool down hot metal and Fire magic? heat up metal near instantly, cool down metal near instantly, give entropy the middle finger, cut through metal with plasma-like flames, etc. But Air magic? What could that feasibly do?
- I've heard that Titanium is a poor metal to make weapons out of since it cannot be heat treated sufficiently to gain a good edge and will not retain its edge after prolonged use. Assuming you COULD heat treat it with magic however, would Titanium suddenly become a viable metal for weapon design? Are there other problems with it that elemental magic could solve?
- Would carbon fiber and fiberglass make for good sword hilts and crossguards?
- Are swords supposed to bend slightly? Is a sword that doesn't bend at all when swung around or bashed against/slicing through flesh an impractical design?
- How much better would an 1000 degree sword (1000 degrees in Fahrenheit) cut through flesh and wood than a normal sword?
- How practical would a spear with a shaft made entirely out of carbon fiber/fiberglass encased in a thin, hollowed-out metal pole (like, as thin as 5 pieces of paper stacked on top of each other) be? I wanna equip some of my characters with metal spears and polearms cause I think it looks cool but I also want them to actually be practical

I apologise if this is a bit much btw. I tried to ask these questions on Shadiversity’s YouTube channel, but he never responded to me.
 

Nighty_Knight

Troubadour
I can answer 2 of this with a little knowledge, plenty here I’m sure can answer better and all of them.

Swords are supposed to bend. If they are too rigid it will make them brittle and they will break easier, especially with shock impacts.

Heating a sword to 1000 degrees will make it cut worse, mainly because that’s the temp that iron and steel really begin to warp. At that temp the sword will most likely permanently bend when you swing it, more so if you land a blow on someone.
 

pmmg

Vala
Where is Malik when you need him ;)

1) How could Air magic contribute to weapon design?

Have you not seen what a tornado does to a house? Or what happens if I pull the air away, and leave one in a vacuum.

2) I've heard that Titanium is a poor metal to make weapons out of since it cannot be heat treated sufficiently to gain a good edge and will not retain its edge after prolonged use.

Titanium is not great for sword. While titanium is lighter, it is not as strong, and less flexible than steel.

Steel is, so far, the best material for this because of its flexibility. It will bend before breaking. That makes it last longer, and keep its edge. Its also light weight.

Steel is a composite of carbon and iron. A composite of Titanium and something else might end up being better, but I suspect not.


3) Would carbon fiber and fiberglass make for good sword hilts and crossguards?

Fiber glass - maybe
Carbon Fiber - No

4) Are swords supposed to bend slightly?

Yes

5) Is a sword that doesn't bend at all when swung around or bashed against/slicing through flesh an impractical design?

It will break and lose its edge. Less its magical, then it would be great.


6) How much better would an 1000 degree sword (1000 degrees in Fahrenheit) cut through flesh and wood than a normal sword?

If it was able to not melt (A light saber for example), it would probably slice quite cleanly and may add extra heat related damage.


7) How practical would a spear with a shaft made entirely out of carbon fiber/fiberglass encased in a thin, hollowed-out metal pole be?

Fiberglass would be great

Carbon fiber is real strong, but can break under impact. It would not be a great weapon by itself.



I think most materials are not the best on their own. But if made into a composite or alloy, its strength and versatility can increase dramatically. Everything has its good and bad uses. Anything hard is not likely flexible, and therefore prone to damage under impact. Steel, being a alloy, is flexible and hard enough for most everything.


I apologise if this is a bit much btw. I tried to ask these questions on Shadiversity’s YouTube channel, but he never responded to me.

Why go anywhere else? We love questions.
 
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Queshire

Auror
Air magic? Hm, depends on the level of magic you want. The simplest aspect would be to replace a forge's bellows.

For a more fantastical angle it might be neat to give the air mages steam punk or mad scientist level tech while the other mages have more of a traditional fantasy level tech.

I can imagine a powerful air mage taking control of the atmosphere as a form of TK in order to assemble precise clockwork parts, if air magic includes lightning then you've got electricity to play around with and if air mages can produce winds strong enough to spin turbines then they can use that as a source of power directly.
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
@Nightly_Knight

“Swords are supposed to bend. If they are too rigid it will make them brittle and they will break easier, especially with shock impacts.”

Wait. Are you saying that a sword that doesn’t bend even a little bit is less durable than a sword that does? How?

“Heating a sword to 1000 degrees will make it cut worse, mainly because that’s the temp that iron and steel really begin to warp. At that temp the sword will most likely permanently bend when you swing it, more so if you land a blow on someone.”

I see. I mainly asked that since I often cook meals in Steel trays heated up to 250 degrees (my ovens don’t specify if that’s 250 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit) and even after doing so for 3 years with those same exact trays, their structural integrity remains strong.
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
pmmg

“Where is Malik when you need him ;)

Who’s Malik?

“Have you not seen what a tornado does to a house? Or what happens if I pull the air away, and leave one in a vacuum.”

I didn’t explain this thoroughly enough. Of course elemental magic users can just use their powers to defeat their enemies. I still want to equip them with well-designed weapons though since they might not always have access to their element (Earth and Water), or may want to avoid using their powers as much as possible as to prevent weather patterns changing or people getting hurt (Air and Fire). Making weapons back in the medieval period was a long and challenging ordeal that was limited by olden-age technology, but elemental powers have the potential to Trivialise the weapon building process quite a bit. Earth bends metal and mines specialised materials, water cuts and cools metal and fire does almost everything you could ask for. What about Air though? How would that particular form of magic make designing weapons less of a hassle?

“Titanium is not great for sword. While titanium is lighter, it is not as strong, and less flexible than steel.”

“Steel is, so far, the best material for this because of its flexibility. It will bend before breaking. That makes it last longer, and keep its edge. Its also light weight.”

“Steel is a composite of carbon and iron. A composite of Titanium and something else might end up being better, but I suspect not.”

You misunderstand. I’m perfectly aware of Titanium’s undesirable qualities that make it an inferior metal to build weapons out of than steel. My question was, could Magic potentially make building with Titanium easier as to justify it over steel? Like, Titanium is difficult to sharp into something sharp right? What if you used fire Magic (or heat Magic in this case I suppose) to give it the heat treatment you just couldn’t physically do as easily in real life? Weapons made out of magic is a fairly popular trope in the world of fantasy, but what about weapons made WITH magic using traditional materials?

“Fiber glass - maybe”
“Carbon Fiber - No”

Ngl I was actually expecting the opposite answer. Like, a sword with a wooden crossguard and hilt isn’t exactly a particularly practical design in real life but would Carbon Fiber really be worse?

“It will break and lose its edge. Less its magical, then it would be great.”

I’m kinda confused by how you’ve worded this. Are you saying that a sword that doesn’t bend at all is an impracticality designed one?

“Fiberglass would be great”

“Carbon fiber is real strong, but can break under impact. It would not be a great weapon by itself.”

Really? A spear shaft made out Carbon Fiber encased in a thin metal pole would be less durable than a wooden one? That’s not what the internet has led me to believe. Like, my characters aren’t whacking their enemies with the shafts of their polearms. They’re actually using them like spears (you know, staby, staby with the occasional slash). Spears aren’t exactly good for blocking enemy attacks anyway.

“Why go anywhere else? We love questions.”

Thx for all the help 😊
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
Queshire

“Air magic? Hm, depends on the level of magic you want. The simplest aspect would be to replace a forge's bellows.”

That could work. Thanks 😊
 

Nighty_Knight

Troubadour
@Nightly_Knight

“Swords are supposed to bend. If they are too rigid it will make them brittle and they will break easier, especially with shock impacts.”

Wait. Are you saying that a sword that doesn’t bend even a little bit is less durable than a sword that does? How?

“Heating a sword to 1000 degrees will make it cut worse, mainly because that’s the temp that iron and steel really begin to warp. At that temp the sword will most likely permanently bend when you swing it, more so if you land a blow on someone.”

I see. I mainly asked that since I often cook meals in Steel trays heated up to 250 degrees (my ovens don’t specify if that’s 250 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit) and even after doing so for 3 years with those same exact trays, their structural integrity remains strong.
Yes, less durable. Because it will hold its shape much better, but when it does reach a point it has to move it will crack, break, or even shatter. That’s a big reason sword steel is hardened between HRc45 and HRc65. Too much higher than HRc65 or so and it will be too brittle. Less than HRc40 and it’s just iron. Some swords like katanas often have two different steel hardness, the sharp blade will be about 60 or so and the spine of the blade will be more like 45 or 50. That way the blade sharpness will retain better but the overall blade will still have some flex to it.

Also, lot depends on the steel being used to begin with. I don’t know enough about the metallurgy but as I understand spring (like 9260) and tool steel (such as T10) are used in some of the highest quality swords these days.


As for the heat, steel can withstand 1000 degrees, but it have already begun to expand at that temp. Heat treating is often done less than that, so a blade at 1000 will have its heat treatment ruined. Basically the sword would be damaged to the point it would ruined.

I’ll also add. There is a huge difference between 250 or 450 and 1000. I’m a firefighter and rooms in burning houses often get to 250 or more. 1000 degrees is how hot a flashover gets (when everything including the air in the room, which is mostly smoke gases, goes up in flames) and that is a death sentence even with full gear on.
 
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Mad Swede

Maester
Fibreglass and carbon fibre don't have much resistance to being struck, so they aren't much good for sword hilts and crossguards. More than that, carbon fibre tends to delaminate when struck by lightning, so anyone using a weapon or armour made of it is vulnerable to a mage who can use lightning bolts or smiliar. Fibgreglass is also flammable because of the resins you use in making it, so users are vulnerable to a mage using fireballs.
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
@Nightly_Knight

“Yes, less durable. Because it will hold its shape much better, but when it does reach a point it has to move it will crack, break, or even shatter. That’s a big reason sword steel is hardened between HRc45 and HRc65. Too much higher than HRc65 or so and it will be too brittle. Less than HRc40 and it’s just iron. Some swords like katanas often have two different steel hardness, the sharp blade will be about 60 or so and the spine of the blade will be more like 45 or 50. That way the blade sharpness will retain better but the overall blade will still have some flex to it.”

“Also, lot depends on the steel being used to begin with. I don’t know enough about the metallurgy but as I understand spring (like 9260) and tool steel (such as T10) are used in some of the highest quality swords these days.”

I’m gonna be honest chief. I don’t know nearly enough about sword making and metallurgy to understand what terms like HRc45 mean, but from what I gathered from your answer, swords need to flex a little bit in order to avoid breaking from being swung around to aggressively. Am I correct in saying this?
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
Fibreglass and carbon fibre don't have much resistance to being struck, so they aren't much good for sword hilts and crossguards. More than that, carbon fibre tends to delaminate when struck by lightning, so anyone using a weapon or armour made of it is vulnerable to a mage who can use lightning bolts or smiliar. Fibgreglass is also flammable because of the resins you use in making it, so users are vulnerable to a mage using fireballs.
Tbh, I’m not planning to design any one handed swords with hilts and cross guards made out that stuff. Just bows, polearm shafts and greatswords. Also Don’t worry, fire and electricity are the last things any one using weapons made out of this stuff has to worry about.
 

pmmg

Vala
Seems I did not understand a lot...

I didn’t explain this thoroughly enough...

If there is a role for wind mages in the crafting of weapons, the things I am thinking of would seem only be a stretch to make it useful. I don’t really think they would be needed. But...

I suppose they could help if there was an issue with air bubbles in the melts, or create a vacuum to prevent impurities. Maybe in the shaping of things, but I would think fire would be better for that. Would there be a use for a wind tunnel to test aerodynamics?


My question was, could Magic potentially make building with Titanium easier as to justify it over steel?

I don’t think it would matter how easily I improved its construction. In battle, it would still have the properties of titanium. It would be inflexible, take damage from impacts, and be more prone to cracking or breaking, and not bending or denting. These weapons would also be lighter, which is not really an advantage. Weapons with weight can use weight as a force multiplier. Which would you rather be hit by? An axe with a heavy axe head, or an axe with a light one?

Titanium is good because it hard and keeps its shape, and is light weight. So it would be good for things where something hard and light weight is ideal---like making planes and rockets. As something meant to impact things a lot, its not ideal. Would you want a titanium hammer to pound in nails? No...you want something heavier, and less fragile.


“Fiber glass - maybe”
“Carbon Fiber - No”

Ngl I was actually expecting the opposite answer. Like, a sword with a wooden crossguard and hilt isn’t exactly a particularly practical design in real life but would Carbon Fiber really be worse?


Crossguards in particular are going to take a lot of impacts. So, any material prone to cracking and breaking would be less than ideal for this. What advantage would this achieve in a hilt? If the hilt is too light, and weight is the best reason to use these materials, it will not act well to balance the blade. It would also add to the construction cost, something people who buy in bulk, like armies, don’t desire.


“It will break and lose its edge. Less its magical, then it would be great.”

I’m kinda confused by how you’ve worded this. Are you saying that a sword that doesn’t bend at all is an impracticality designed one?


Yes. Swords bend and then flex back into shape. That is why its very good for its role as an impact weapon. Things that don’t flex, break instead.


“Fiberglass would be great”

“Carbon fiber is real strong, but can break under impact. It would not be a great weapon by itself.”

Really? A spear shaft made out Carbon Fiber encased in a thin metal pole would be less durable than a wooden one?



I would have to ask what is the advantage they are seeking with this? Changing materials to make them harder, also makes them less flexible. What advantage is there to a non-flexible spear?

In practice, the spear head, and the housing that fits over the pole is made to be long enough that one could not easily reach over the strike the pole. So the spear head would matter more.

The spear pole may take impacts, and its ability to absorb those goes back to its hardness and its flexibility. The best spear pole is the one that finds the right balance of both. And better still if it does the job and is inexpensive. Using two materials seems like a lot of effort, and its not easy to hack through hard wood as it is. If I make the shaft of the spear too light, it will lessen its striking inertia and hurt its ability to damage.

Anyway...Fiberglass is more flexible than carbon fiber, it would perform this role better than carbon, I think. If I hit the pole, and penetrate the metal outside, what advantage does the carbon inside afford? I would likely crack and shatter more easily. And if the spear flexed, the carbon would become weaker as it would get micro cracks and such.

The best use for carbon fiber is for objects that are meant to be hard, keep their shape, and be light weight. So for one use weapons, okay, but a weapon that may suffer many impacts, why make it? Wood and steel are sufficient. Maybe better cause they are heavier.

Carbon might be good if I had a projectile. Say a ballista bolt. The head made of steel, the shaft steel over carbon fiber, and then a weight on the back. At impact, it would resist flexing and the weight might increase its PSI. It would likely break and shatter, but maybe after the impact had occurred.


However, I am not a metallurgist, or materials specialist. I would defer to any with greater knowledge.

I might look up Titanium alloys. If titanium could adopt more desirable properties when mixed with carbon or such, it might become a better material. I suspect Titanium mixed with iron (or steel) is its best condition.
 
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pmmg

Vala
I brought up Malik. I will say most of what he posts on metal has been highly educational, and has actually changed forever how I look at platemail and other tools. I cannot say highly enough that Malik really knows that well.

But, he has faded as a member, and people drift off. If you have time, he has a lot of good posts on metal, combat, injuries, and military stuff.

But enough Malik. He need to come speak for himself, I have my own things to say ;)
 

pmmg

Vala
I might also add, if I read a story, and the people where fighting with titanium hilted swords, it would not draw any questions from me. I would assume they had it all figured out, and it was effective.
 

pmmg

Vala
A last thought on the air people.

In the Last Air Bender series, the MC had a kite like thing he used to fly around, and used his air power to give it lift. So, maybe if there were different sorts of weapons, the air power might play a greater role in their construction. At least in the R&D part, an air user might be useful.
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
pmmg

“Seems I did not understand a lot...”

No problem. All my fault really for not being specific enough.

“If there is a role for wind mages in the crafting of weapons, the things I am thinking of would seem only be a stretch to make it useful. I don’t really think they would be needed. But...”

“I suppose they could help if there was an issue with air bubbles in the melts, or create a vacuum to prevent impurities. Maybe in the shaping of things, but I would think fire would be better for that. Would there be a use for a wind tunnel to test aerodynamics?”

I like the air bubble and vacuum idea. I’ve actually heard stories about how Titanium requires an air-tight chamber in order to actually build with so having the ability to create temporary vacuums and then refill them without worrying about pressure-related damage might just work.

“I don’t think it would matter how easily I improved its construction. In battle, it would still have the properties of titanium. It would be inflexible, take damage from impacts, and be more prone to cracking or breaking, and not bending or denting.”

I was more so referring to the difficulties that come with actually trying to shape titanium into something that resembles a sword or just anything sharp really. Like, in real life, titanium requires an obscene amount of heat in order to actually bond with anything meaningful or form a shape but with fire Magic, you could heat up individual areas of a piece of titanium without affecting everything else.

“These weapons would also be lighter, which is not really an advantage. Weapons with weight can use weight as a force multiplier. Which would you rather be hit by? An axe with a heavy axe head, or an axe with a light one?”

I mean, rather not get hit by either of them personally but I feel like you’re forgetting something important here.

Bludgeoning weapons require a lot of mass in order to cause any meaningful damage to the target but too much mass could make the weapon so heavy to the point where, unless you had super strength, actually accelerating the weapon becomes at worst, impossible, and at at best, so challenging that the weapon is no longer practical. Titanium is 50% lighter than Steel (or was it 45%? I don’t remember), but still fairly strong as far as metals are concerned, and a titanium weapon as heavy as 5-10 pounds moving as quickly as 50 MPH is gonna hurt a lot more than a steel weapon as heavy as 30-50 pounds moving as quickly as 5-10 MPH.

“Titanium is good because it hard and keeps its shape, and is light weight. So it would be good for things where something hard and light weight is ideal---like making planes and rockets. As something meant to impact things a lot, its not ideal. Would you want a titanium hammer to pound in nails? No...you want something heavier, and less fragile.”

What about some of the heavier Titanium alloys? Surly at least SOME of them are Comparable to Steel in terms of their ability to resist lots of blunt force?

“What advantage would this achieve in a hilt? If the hilt is too light, and weight is the best reason to use these materials, it will not act well to balance the blade. It would also add to the construction cost, something people who buy in bulk, like armies, don’t desire.”

Cost isn’t going to be an issue since my characters are making these materials through magic, which is far less taxing than using machines and good old fashioned man power. As for your point about balancing the weight of the blade, I figured you could just add a heavy-ish pummel on the end of the blade for a counterbalance. The hilt and crossguard would then act as a way to conceal the tang running down the blade all the way up to/into the pummel. I should probably clarify that I asked this question not because I had any plans to add carbon fibre/fibreglass hilts and crossguards to short swords, but rather anime-eqse giant swords. Ones that you could actually use in a real battle to decent effect. I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet though.

“Yes. Swords bend and then flex back into shape. That is why its very good for its role as an impact weapon. Things that don’t flex, break instead.”

But like, even swords that do flex break and anything that doesn’t flex would still require an incredible amount of force to break. Also I’m pretty sure that swords work terribly as bludgeoning weapons. Even real life giant swords were used more like spears than maces.

“I would have to ask what is the advantage they are seeking with this? Changing materials to make them harder, also makes them less flexible. What advantage is there to a non-flexible spear?”

The internet told me that both carbon fibre and fibreglass are lighter and stronger than wood so I figured a spear with a shaft made out of the stuff would be both easier to carry around and attack with and less likely to break if you had to block with it. The addition of a super thin metal case would make the shaft less likely to deform when exposed to an attack without increasing the weight too much. My characters also have a deep love of nature and used their powers to construct weapons without having to harm the trees. Once again, cost is not a big enough factor here for you to worry about.

“The spear pole may take impacts, and its ability to absorb those goes back to its hardness and its flexibility. The best spear pole is the one that finds the right balance of both. And better still if it does the job and is inexpensive. Using two materials seems like a lot of effort, and its not easy to hack through hard wood as it is. If I make the shaft of the spear too light, it will lessen its striking inertia and hurt its ability to damage.”

I already touched on the price thing but I have to ask. Why would a lack of flexibility make a spear worse? It’s not a slashing or bludgeoning weapon. You usually spend most of you time using one thrusting at the enemy.

“Anyway...Fiberglass is more flexible than carbon fiber, it would perform this role better than carbon, I think. If I hit the pole, and penetrate the metal outside, what advantage does the carbon inside afford? I would likely crack and shatter more easily. And if the spear flexed, the carbon would become weaker as it would get micro cracks and such.”

Again, the internet told me that carbon fibre and fibreglass were stronger than wood and lighter in weight so my assumption is that if that if I encased a spear shaft made of the stuff in a super thin layer of metal (which was also melded to the shaft btw I don’t think I actually specified that part specifically), it would be sturdier than a traditional spear and lighter to move around (which would be ideal for action scenes in which my character decides to treat the spear like a quarterstaff instead of a polearm). Should the metal case ever break, the wielder would still have the rest of the shaft to work with. If I made the shaft out of carbon fibre, it would also be easier to repair than a wooden shaft since I would just have a fire mage meld new pieces back onto it.

“The best use for carbon fiber is for objects that are meant to be hard, keep their shape, and be light weight. So for one use weapons, okay, but a weapon that may suffer many impacts, why make it? Wood and steel are sufficient. Maybe better cause they are heavier.”

I’ve already gone over all the reasons why I wanted to design my weapons like this, as well as the reasons why I think they’d work but I do have a final reason as to why I’m so adamant on designing these weapons using these materials.

Wooden weapons are visually uninteresting to me, but I want to rely on hand waving as little as possible to explain how a (seemingly) fully metallic weapon is actually useable on the field of battle so this is the best explanation I’ve come up with.

“I might look up Titanium alloys. If titanium could adopt more desirable properties when mixed with carbon or such, it might become a better material. I suspect Titanium mixed with iron (or steel) is its best condition.”

That’s kind of you. Thank you so much for all the help you’ve given me so far :)
 

Electro Queen

Minstrel
I brought up Malik. I will say most of what he posts on metal has been highly educational, and has actually changed forever how I look at platemail and other tools. I cannot say highly enough that Malik really knows that well.

But, he has faded as a member, and people drift off. If you have time, he has a lot of good posts on metal, combat, injuries, and military stuff.

But enough Malik. He need to come speak for himself, I have my own things to say ;)
I see. Thx for letting me know about this
 
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