Exotic Materials for Weapons
A lot of people fantasize about having weapons made of crystal, gold, silver, or other bizarre materials. I blame this mostly on the large influx of consol Role-playing Games from Japan. Most of these materials are highly impractical for making weapons. Some of the reasons for this are common sense, but here is the short list:
1. The material does not exist in the world or the setting (i.e. Mithril or Adamant)
2. The material would be destroyed or seriously deformed if used as a weapon. (i.e. silver, gold, glass, crystal, or obsidian)
3. The material is hard to get enough of or impossible to get in good quality to make a weapon from. (i.e. meteoric iron, diamond)
The long reasons are a bit more involved, but if you are convinced you have a really great weapon there ("Obsidian blades are 100 times sharper then surgical steel!"), or you are just curious, by all means, read on!
Upon examining the first reason for not making weapons out of exotic substances it would seem fairly obvious to most people that, no, you can not make weapons out of fictitious materials that are not part of the setting. If the material does not exist, then you would have a problem making a weapon or armor of some sort out of it. Since I am writing primarily for Redwall Muck or the Redwall Islands then I will cite the rule from the 'News Mission' on Redwall Muck that pertains to this.
"Nothing not referenced to one of the books is legal unless its a fact of [real life] England that was accessible to a peasant farmer as a result of social interaction in the medieval period."
That is that. Since this is not Middle Earth and there was no mithril in medieval period then you can't have mithril weapons or armor. It is a done deal.
The next reason for abstaining from the use of 'exotic materials' in making weapons and armor would be that any of the materials you would think of would be unsuitable for making weapons out of. Iron, bronze, copper, and brass are ideal for making weapons out of because they are hard metals or metal alloys that do not deform too easily (copper being the easiest to deform). Precious metals such as gold and silver are not useful in making weapons at all because they are very soft. In fact pure, 24 carat, gold can be bent with your hands and silver can be seriously deformed using some strength. I know that some people are going to go try and crush their mother's wedding ring to test this theory, but I would urge you not to because you will fail. The gold used in most jewelry is a metal alloy of gold and usually copper to add some strength. Why don't we make weapons out of copper and gold alloy? It wouldn't have any advantages over a good old iron sword. Gold is very heavy, much heavier pure then it is alloyed, and it is very soft, as noted above. In an alloy gold would actually take strength away from the blade of any weapon you would make with it, as would an alloy of silver or platinum. In the end it would result in a bent sword or rapidly dented armor that would be a pain to repair and not give much protection in the long run.
Things made out of crystal would have similar flaws but more permanent in nature, the crystal will crack and break if it is struck with a hard object. By crystal I am assuming we are talking about quartz or some other type of real crystal that doesn't break the laws of physics and chemistry, if your crystal does do this, see the first main reason. All solids are literally crystals but what we are talking about are stones. These stones have a chemical structure of one molecule that is strongly held together in themselves but are attracted, though less so, to other molecules of the same type. This is unlike metals that have just atoms that are all held together equally by something called 'the sea of electrons' (ask your chemistry teachers about this one kids). So, if you hit a crystal it is likely you will destabilize one of the attractions that keep the molecules together, which will destabilize the rest of the attractions along the crystal, causing it to break. The short of it being that if you hit any sort of real world crystal hard enough with a metal weapon/object/tool it will shatter! Making any sort of weapon or armor made from it impractical, also very heavy, crystals are rocks after all!
Materials such as glass and obsidian have similar problems to that of crystal when dealing with weapons. Glass is made by melting down quartz and cooling it quickly, not allowing it to crystallize. This makes it even weaker then quartz or other crystals in terms of material structure. Obsidian is natural glass and is often seen used as arrowheads for arrows of Native Americans. Obsidian edges are incredibly sharp, but will break if they hit something hard at high speeds, making them really only good for hunting arrows, even then most beasts don't hunt much.
The only other material worth mentioning as far as weapons go is flint. It is well known that early humans knapped (shaped) flint or flint containing stones into weapons or tools. These weapons were fairly lightweight, though not incredibly durable. One could make a flint knapped spear head and carry that around on a pole, but you would run the risk looking primitive.
As far as other materials of the exotic persuasion go, many would have a difficult time finding enough of it in a high enough quality to make a weapon out of it. Even then, those materials are often hard to work with. This category includes such rarities as diamond and meteoric iron. For both of the examples it is hard to find enough to make a suitable blade. Iron meteorites tend to either vaporize or burn up in the atmosphere. Those that land bury themselves at high speeds into the ground causing large craters; these rocks are often very small. This yields little iron to work with, so you might be able to make a blade about the size of a dagger. While the iron would be of superior quality, it would be highly unlikely that you would actually get enough to make a sword with. Diamond would have similar problems; you would have to find a vein about the length of a leg of a modern human to make a good sword out of it. The largest quality diamond found in the real world was the size of a baby's skull. Hypothetically, even if you did find a vein large enough, without the horrible impurities that could spell disaster for your weapons, you then must work it into shape. Even this is hard because diamond is one of the hardest substances known to man, you need to shape it carefully without too much force so you don't break the whole thing. Yes, you can break diamond with a good whack with a hammer. Back to the real issue though, it would take you probably three or four life times to shape it correctly so that you did not break it. Then say you have a diamond weapon, it would be twice as heavy as every other sword out there and always has a much higher chance of shattering if somebody hits it hard enough. The edge would chip fairly easily, and it would take months more to buff it out. Even then, you are carrying around a sword made of diamond… Diamond is valuable for its beauty; there is a very good chance your well worked for weapon would get filched when the chance presented itself.
Although many of these weapons have a certain mystique surrounding them, based on the above evidence, it hardly seems worth it to use them, weapons like that would be nice to have to hang on your wall at home, not as effective battle tools. A good three feet of tempered steel is still worth one of the only things worthwhile enough to have between you and those who would do you harm.
By and Copyright Naco of Redwall Muck