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greendragon
08-31-2016, 06:59 PM
I am looking for a way for someone to sabotage the smelting process. This is 1177 Ireland, so they are smelting using a bloomery. No cast iron. I would love something that could cause an explosion or other disaster. I'll settle for something that makes the forged sword brittle and break. Thanks!

ULTRAGOTHA
08-31-2016, 07:15 PM
I am looking for a way for someone to sabotage the smelting process. This is 1177 Ireland, so they are smelting using a bloomery. No cast iron. I would love something that could cause an explosion or other disaster. I'll settle for something that makes the forged sword brittle and break. Thanks!

Steel is harder to make than usable iron. An iron sword is more likely to lose its edge quickly than shatter. It’s steel that shatters. That’s why the pattern welding—mixing flexible iron with sharpenable steel gives one a far more versatile blade.

Any reliably good swordsmith would realize the iron/steel was bad when they were making the sword. They’d start over again with decent metal.

You don’t need to *make* a sword brittle in the forging to break it. It could break any time in battle. Even a really good pattern welded sword can break in battle conditions.

What do you need for your story? Just for the sword to break? Do you want it sabotaged during the making (in which case the swordsmith could do that easily without destroying the bloom)?

If you need the smelt to fail that could also happen with normal use. Smelting iron ore back then was not successful every time. Sometimes it failed no matter how careful one was. And with some inattention, it could get to hot or not hot enough and ruin the entire bloom (which would then not be used to make a sword).

If you want an explosion, you could have them make the smelter and not allow it to dry properly. Then as the fire heats up, the water still in the clay starts boiling and expanding and BOOM. Or at least CRACK.

Also making a good sword is bloody damned hard. If you have a smith who isn’t an expert they can easily make a sword that would go on to break more easily. A good pattern welded sword is a thing of beauty and utility but easy to screw up if you’re not a Master.

King Neptune
08-31-2016, 09:13 PM
Sulfur
A little sulfur in the iron would make it weaker. Ad that to more silica than usual, and the sword would be pretty thoroughly useless.

A lump of sulfur tossed in would create a cloud of sulfur dioxide. It wouldn't blow up, but it would stink and hurt the lungs and ruin the iron.

WeaselFire
09-01-2016, 06:21 AM
Rocks from a stream or pond. The water in porous rock will turn to steam and the force explodes the rock and the metal being smelted. Spattering molten metal is hell on flesh. :)

Otherwise, sulfur makes a good choice, but anyone smithing the metal will know, unless it's their first week on the job. There are dozens of ways to screw with the mix of metals/ore being smelted that would wreck the batch or require resemlting, but any smith quickly learns to identify bad metal mixes.

Jeff

greendragon
09-06-2016, 10:41 PM
Thanks, all! Great suggestions! I talked to someone this weekend about and he suggested a good sabotage might be salt in the cooling barrel - because it would cool the iron too quickly and make it crack. Does that sound reasonable?

King Neptune
09-06-2016, 11:57 PM
Thanks, all! Great suggestions! I talked to someone this weekend about and he suggested a good sabotage might be salt in the cooling barrel - because it would cool the iron too quickly and make it crack. Does that sound reasonable?

Brine is and was fairly commonly used in hardening, cooling water. While it can cause distortion or cracking, so can plain water, and brine has the advantages that it doesn't boil away from the piece as fast as pure water; thus it cools faster. The nature of the metal and the desired results would have determined whether pure water, brine, fat, or something else would be used in quenching. And sometimes one just gets strange results; I just remembered a story my father told me.