I have spent some time designing a dwarven civilisation. They don’t live below ground all the time. In fact I heavily draw upon the actual culture of mountain tribes, such as The Lisu for inspiration. But they are forced underground periodically by the ashes of a volcano, which is very much tied to their religion and also provides fertilisation to high altitude fields.

I envision dwarves as absolutely unmatched master craftsmen (they make excellent armour, crossbows and might even exploit steam from geysers for some very basic steam powered applications). I think it would add a lot to the flair if they had some kind of tool kit or even better multitool that every adult would carry.

The question arises: what are the most essential, universally useful tools for a dwarf, particularly one having to go underground every few years?

I guess a few very useful items are obvious:

  1. Rope
  2. Flint
  3. Light source
  4. Hammer
  5. Chisel
  6. Knife
  7. Compass
  8. Spade

Some of these are heavy items, not easily integrated in what I think of as multi tools, at least in my life. I have tried to find information on medieval multi tools, but found mostly useless (?) knife-fork combinations. Perhaps I should make something like a multitool spade?

I have also tried to look into trendy modern multitools. My practical ineptitude, coupled with my limited historical knowledge have made it difficult for me to judge, which of these a medieval master craftsman would even appreciate.

If you need to know about more aspects of the world, ask freely! I would say it is rather standard fantasy with a few alterations, such as having dwarves live above ground. I like to be able to explain how they sustain themselves. I try to use as little magic and as much biology as possible, to explain my worlds (internally to myself).

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    $\begingroup$ You talk about them ...having to go underground every few years.... That is quite some time between delves, do they go underground at other times as well or just when the volcano erupts? Do any volcanoes count or only that single one? Are dwarves spread far or dense (many countries, etc.; or just around that single volcano, like extremophiles)? How long do they stay underground? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T good points! I was thinking they stay underground for some months. But my notion may not be volcanologically correct. As they have their temple underground and also store a lot of food there, most of them go regularly, but not for the majority of their time. They are not spread out over a large area, as they need to be able to go to their temple in a few days. My notion was priests can issue alerts a few days in advance. There is only a single volcano known and in fact part of the story has to do with finding a second one far away. $\endgroup$
    – Ludi
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ Pratchett had a good idea a "true dwarven axe, with a axe in one side and a pick on the other" a pick to look for interesting minerals and an axe in case anyone tries to stop you. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Another thing Pratchett though up for dwarves was all a dwarf needed was his axe and a means to make fire, with those he could make a rudimentary forge, and with those three things he could make simple tools, with simple tools they can make complex tools, and with complex tools a dwarf can make almost anything. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:31

5 Answers 5


I would give them a hammer multitool with a shovel head, a hammer head, and a knife blade edge. That's three big tools down without much fuss, and it would be exceedingly easy to make. (On a side note, I have a multitool spade with a small pick, a shovel, and a bladed edge. You can look into that.)

Addition: There are several other things a dwarf might prefer to a knife, such as an axe or a pick. maybe even a hoe! Perhaps dwarves would mix and match their own personal multitool.

Flint and steel should be included in a small fire kit which includes tinder and a torch if that's your chosen light source. Most likely this would be carried with you at all times.

Addition: A compass may not work properly underground if there's iron deposits or other magnetic substances. A better system would be a marking system for identifying tunnels. Possibly even name the tunnels and have the names carved periodically into the rock. This way a map functions even without the compass, since you can't leave the fixed path.

But actually, rather than a multitool, I would think that they would just spend a fair amount of their time developing the underground, setting up workshops and building ventilation systems so that they could live there with the same or better levels of comfort as outside.

They would need stockpiles of food, water/beer, oil if they need lights, materials for crafting, and possibly some forms of entertainment for children, so maybe looking into those would be better.


Hmm. While something the size of a pick or shovel would make sense, they are generally not the kind of thing you could clip onto a belt. Sure, you could just keep your pick-device by an establishment's door whenever you enter, like a English gentlemen's cane, but I'm also unsure how useful a pick would be for the average dwarf. It's not like a dwarven craftsmen is expected to dig their way to work every morning, right?

How's this sound:

A slightly larger than average chisel with a flathead-screwdriver-like head. The other side is reinforced to the point where it can be used as a hammer, but can be unscrewed as the tool is hollow. Traditionally, the hollow is filled with calk, possibly even calk that glows in the dark. Finally, one on the sides of the tool is covered in flint so that it can be used as a firestarter and the other has marking to measure length, cause why not?

This tool can be used as a chisel or a hammer (or a knife is the chisel is kept sharp enough), but its main purpose is to keep dwarfs from getting lost in the dark. The flint is good for igniting light sources, of course, but the calk is more useful. With that, dwarfs can leave marks to keep from getting lost or notes in case they become lost. The ruler is just because their was space for a ruler. Maybe that space could be used for a nametag or some religions iconography/scripture instead.


For a multitool, I imagine it would depend heavily on the profession of the dwarf. A dwarf craftsman would have very different needs from a dwarf surveyor, or a dwarf soldier.

Most instruments would not be good in a multitool, mind. The really useful items like pickaxes or shovels would simply not work properly as a multitool - they would have to be too big and heavy. A multitool is a secondary piece of equipment. Things like knives and small chisels would be the best you could do, but they are still less useful than any designated workshop tool.

For items like a flint or compass, you don't really want them attached to a single tool. After all, if you misplace or drop this one item, you're screwed - far better to keep a compass around your neck and a flint in a waterproof pouch. Plus, a single tool would just quickly become too cumbersome to actually use.

Mind, in a very industrial based society, I can imagine dwarf multitools becoming a status symbol of sort. It would be less about the usefulness of them, more about pride in how strong and how compact they can create these tools.

A novice craftsman might have only basic knife and a chisel on a chain. A master craftsman might earn themselves a tool with half a hundred attachments, even though he would never practically use so many tools. The usefulness would be irrelevant, the tools would become a symbol of how finely he can craft so many delicate tools on a single device.

Which is pretty much what happens nowadays. Most multitools stop being useful after a few select attachments, and then onwards continually adding to them just makes them more awkward. Still, retailers continually sell larger and larger tools, just for the novelty of having so many.

In dwarven society, if this becomes a key point, then I'd expect each profession to use their multitools to show their status. A craftsman would have tools filled with chisels, knives and saws, a smith would have a selection of fine hammers and chisels. A soldier would have a larger and heavy multitool, with knives or blunt edges, something that would serve as a secondary weapon in battle. A surveyor would have a small pickaxe and chisels to take rock samples. For a dwarven lord or royalty, they could walk around with very slender tools made out silver or gold - some metal that isn't really practical, but something that would show off their wealth.

I don't think there's any single selection of tools that would meet all requirements, but different tools could become symbols of different caste.


How about a magical shape shifting hammer. It could morph into a hammer, an pick, and ax, a short sword, or any other similar sized tool. It could also glow to provide light or emit sparks to ignite fire.


The most useful stuff I can think of is as follows

  1. Chalk - You can mark paths to find your way home
  2. Canary - Warning for bad air
  3. Pick/hammer - Breaking rocks and digging
  4. Flint - for fire
  5. Knife - general use
  6. Rope - Climbing
  7. Steel Spikes - Anchor points to attach the rope
  8. Bioluminescent fungi - In total darkness you don't need much light to see and fungi can give you that light for a long time, far more than a candle or torch.

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