What metals are dwarves capable of refining and producing?

I'm working on a setting where the players have a lot of meta knowledge (Computers and nukes in a pre-industrial world anyone?¹) and need to know almost exactly what metals/alloys dwarves have access to normally in a medieval setting to avoid giving them too much/too little when the game starts.

This can assume a earthlike geography and metal concentrations, as I can adjust from there myself.

The technology level of the dwarves, in my world, is around that of the early industrial age. They have access to steam engines, and can manipulate metal using simple driven machines. The ores they have access to is really going to be highly varied, as i'm waving my hand at moderate speed to give them access to most ores. (Less uranium this time, to avoid them destroying BOTH continents, and causing me a lot of pain. Gods are radioactive enough as it is.)

Other races in the world are far behind the dwarves in this regard, giving them a monopoly over military weaponry, at least in the forts that have access to it.

¹ For reference, they already turned the other continent into a nuclear wasteland. They're starting over from scratch, as they successfully killed themselves in the process.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Renan, Mołot, kingledion, elemtilas, Palarran Nov 16 at 0:28

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  • Hello and Welcome to Worldbuilding. Are you asking for what A dwarf can produce? Or what a dwarf has access to? In both cases, this is a world you are building, so you can choose what knowledge they retain and what metals they have access to. I'm inclined to say all of them. – Shadowzee Nov 15 at 1:52
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    @Shadowzee I am aware. I was hoping for a good idea of what alloys and metals are feasible for the average fantasy dwarf. I.E. aluminium is a obvious "no", as they cannot refine the ore it occurs in, only Native Aluminium, so the chances of it gaining a common use is very low. – moonheart08 Nov 15 at 1:54
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    @moonheart08 So you are basically asking, what metals/alloys can be made at a forge? – Shadowzee Nov 15 at 1:57
  • @Shadowzee for medieval dwarves, yes. – moonheart08 Nov 15 at 2:00
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    Could you please add the extra information in comments making the question more specific to the question itself (by editing it in) ? Please don't expect members to scan comments for that kind of information. – StephenG Nov 15 at 10:24
  • Bronze
  • Steel
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Brass
  • Lead
  • Zinc
  • Mercury
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Iron
  • Billon
  • Bismuth
  • Nickel
  • Electrum
  • Antimony
  • Platinum
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    Platinum? Antimony? I think also (and maybe relevant for this world) that you could use alchemical methods to refine uranium metal from ore. – Willk Nov 15 at 2:15
  • @Willk Can confirm the uranium thing has very much been done. How else would they make a nuclear wasteland? (Well, they did propose a bomb powered by souls, but that was shut down for being way too gamy) – moonheart08 Nov 15 at 2:16
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    While I mostly agree with the list a breif description of how you determined what was on it would make this answer vastly better. Note refining of nickel and bismuth don't occur until after the intention of the steam engine. – John Nov 15 at 3:46
  • @John Dwarves could be assumed to have such an engine, at least in my universe. For others, it's unlikely. – moonheart08 Nov 15 at 4:30
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    @moonheart08 Refine uranium from minerals is one thing, but enriching uranium to make a bomb is a whole different beast. Even with today's technology is extremely complicated, requiring complex technology only a few countries possess - such as industrial centrifuge machines. I'm ignoring the fact that you need an atomic theory to make a bomb since you say meta-knowledge is allowed. Iran is far more advanced that late medieval age and yet they can't made a bomb without Siemens equipment. – Rekesoft Nov 15 at 9:05

So - standard medieval metals could include;

  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Lead
  • Iron/Steel*
  • Gold/Silver/Platinum

*The exact grade of steel/iron and what they can make out of it depends on the Dwarves exact tech level, resources and economics. Interesting read here over at the History StackExchange

As you mentioned Aluminium requires modern process in order to refine, so only small nuggets of native aluminium would have been available. Titanium is even worse, as it wasn't even discovered till fairly late, and only really started being refined and used in the 20th century.

If you're wanting to give it a fantastic spin, go with something like:

  • Star Metal
  • Mithril (commonly associated with dwarves)
  • Thunder Iron
  • Blue Steel

For extra world building points, name the metal after a dwarf community. ie. Baldwin Hills -> Ballard Iron.

To base it on something believable find a known metal and its modern uses and allow those dwarves to have figured it out - while the rest of the world is using an inferior metal for the job; i.e the dwarves have figured out bronze, while everyone else is just using copper. Steel to iron, titanium to steel.

Don't forget that the metal alone is only half the issue, how it is refined, forged, and cooled can have a drastic effect on the metals strength. Compare Japanese Katanna to a knights long sword. Both are essentially forged from very similar metals. The process of refining and folding the katana metal however makes them superior in terms of function.

  • For other people, this is great advice. In my case, the world is being "rebuilt", and I can't retcon everything. Otherwise I would probably do this. Some specific metals from the real world that weren't discovered until the 20th century have leaked over already, for example, Invar. – moonheart08 Nov 15 at 2:31
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    A japanese katana and an european longsword start from very different materials, the japanese had to use so much folding to even out all the impurities in steel because they only had inferior ores, downside of living on an island. Folding is only good if you have a poor quality starting material. Historic katana are markedly inferior to european sword steel, it is brittle brittle and weak, that is part of the reason their sword techniques focus so much on protecting the blade, they just can't take the same punishment as even middle quality european swords of the time. – John Nov 15 at 3:14
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    @John you know that, swordsmiths might know it, but the rest of us think that katana are wonder weapons... :) – RonJohn Nov 15 at 4:04
  • Fair enough I'll double check my sources on Katanna technology. That however still underscores the point that how metal is processed and worked has ramifications for its properties in the resulting product. – Kain0_0 Nov 15 at 4:27

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