This question is a follow up to my last one about silver

So silver and presumably all metals of lower and equal hardness can be broken down with muscle and stone tools, by forming droplets, using files or even with ancient machines like the trip hammer.

I am interested in nickel, copper, silver, lead, quicksilver, uranium, gold, tungsten, platinum, iridium and osmium.

Quicksilver is liquid at room temperature.
Lead, gold, uranium, copper, platinum, nickel should be broken up by the aforementioned means, right?

Now what about tungsten, iridium and osmium. With a tech-level of that age, is there any chance to break them down, maybe even to dust?

NOTE: This is not about how to get the elements in the first place. Ive taken care of this in my worldbuilding. Just assume a lump of elemental metal with some impurities drops down from the skies, and needs to be broken up.

+INFO: We are talking about lumps of metal the size of pebbles, ping-pong balls, maybe twice the size max.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, i replaced the reference $\endgroup$ – openend Apr 11 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ Err.. i removed it entirely now $\endgroup$ – openend Apr 11 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ How large of an origin piece are we talking about? $\endgroup$ – cms Apr 11 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @cms Thanks, i edited the question $\endgroup$ – openend Apr 11 at 14:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I won't make an answer, but a handy reference is: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardnesses_of_the_elements_(data_page) $\endgroup$ – Measure of despare. Apr 11 at 16:46

Let's give a look at the physical properties of the three metals you are interested in:

Polycrystalline tungsten is an intrinsically brittle and hard material (under standard conditions, when uncombined), making it difficult to work. However, pure single-crystalline tungsten is more ductile and can be cut with a hard-steel hacksaw.

Osmium is a hard but brittle metal that remains lustrous even at high temperatures.

Because of its hardness, brittleness, and very high melting point, solid iridium is difficult to machine, form, or work.

All of them are brittle, meaning that an adequate concussion can break them.

Something like a ball mill could be used to grind the metals to dust (accepting some contamination).

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but what kind of balls do we put in the ball mill? Balls must be harder than milled material. Metals like Iridium are brittle, but their toughness is still on par with best steels. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 11 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander: cast iron, granite... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 11 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ Both are lower in fracture toughness than steel (and, consequently, metals in question). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 11 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Ball mills don't have to be tougher than the material, it just takes longer, and there are many rocks harder than any of those materials. none of those metals are harder than an 8 on the Mohs scale. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 11 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ @John hardness and toughness are different characteristics. And if milled material is tougher than ball material, we end up with ball dust, not the material dust. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 19 at 20:29

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