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I was writing a story where a character wearing armor constructed for SCA / LARP has his armor repeatedly heated (e.g. walk through house on fire) and cooled (e.g. liquid nitrogen spray, a barrel of cold water dumped over head) to the point where it becomes brittle and shatters (when struck with an arrow or hammer or something).

Is there anybody here with experience smiting or using similar armor and who could tell me if this is possible, or if there are any circumstances where like outcome might happen?

Advice and references are much appreciated!

Thank you in advance!

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that larp armor is real. But I'm pretty sure that long before the metal of the armor is starting to be affected the human is dead. Steel often melts at around 1370 degrees C, google. And cold water is nothing to armor. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 8, 2020 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ liquid nitrogen will do that on its own, and no heating the wearer of armor could survive will bother it. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 8, 2020 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ What is the armor made of? SCA/LARP does not mean it is necessarily fully authentic. Plastic armor painted to look like steel could easily shatter after such heat cycles. $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Nov 8, 2020 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ I think that for the sake of this story, I'm going to have to go with plastic armour. As mentioned elsewhere on this page, the full freeze-heat cycle required to affect steel would kill the wearer before having any noticeable effect on the metal plate. So! Plastic-dressed-as-steel it is! Does anybody know the likelyhood of wearing down such armor, and the effectiveness of this armor in a melee? (Against knives, arrows, bludgeoning and perhaps even shotgun pellets? $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 4:02
  • $\begingroup$ Do not edit questions in a way that invalidates existing answer. It's very poor form, apart from being forbidden. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 9, 2020 at 4:07

3 Answers 3

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Authentic, high carbon steel armor could shatter if heated red hot and then rapidly quenched, then struck, as this would make it full-hard an untempered. But as said above, the heating process would kill the wearer.

A fair amount of SCA/reenactment/sports armor is plastic. This can break if stuck harder than it was designed to take, if it's old and the plasticizer has evaporated, or if it's cold, which makes it brittle.

Credentials: Professional machinist and occasional armorer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, please take our tour and refer to the help center about our ways, enjoy worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ May 9, 2021 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Appreciated - would you willing to answer some further questions on the topic? $\endgroup$ May 11, 2021 at 9:54
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Repeated and uncontrolled heat cycles on iron/steel affect its fatigue limit, with fatigue limit being the stress below which a material will not fail for a long period of time, but they will hardly make it more brittle (pun not intended).

A poorly done quenching can also leave residual stresses in the piece, but those would more likely deform it.

If you want to make steel brittle you have to take it at cryogenic temperatures, but those would normally kill who is inside the armor.

Another way to make it brittle would be to add impurities: either carbon, turning it into cast iron, or other elements which are known to embrittle steel, like sulphur, phosphorus, hydrogen.

But adding significant amount of impurities requires times and temperatures which are not usually compatible with keeping a human alive.

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    $\begingroup$ Note however that no heat cycling the wearer could survive would do this to armor. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 8, 2020 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ I think this straightforwardly answers the original question. Should I alter the question to further inquire about plastic armour, or ask a new question? $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 4:05
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LARP armour is sometimes made of plastic!

larp armor

https://www.etsy.com/sg-en/listing/571083559/averland-larp-armor-medieval-armor-made

This awesome suit is made of ABS plastic. Hopefully if you are doing LARP (Live Action Role Play) no-one really wants to hurt you. And it is cheaper and lighter to have stuff made of plastic.

Plastic can definitely shatter in the cold, as I learned throwing frisbees in the Minnesota winter. So too plastic LARP armor.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think that I need to investigate plastic armour, as plate armour seems really strong. Who knew? In this story, modern people are definitely trying to hurt the person in plastic armour, as he's trying to hurt them! Thank you for your information - do you have any suggestions where I should go to investigate the defensive and narrative potential of plastic LARP armour? =D $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2020 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ @ReverendSpeed - the narrative potentials for your character and his LARP armor are immense and wonderful. Your character realizes that his armor is a glorified milk jug but he is going to make the best of it. And the armor despite being silly and pathetic actually comes thru. It melts, bends, splits and flakes off but somehow actually keeps him from being hurt multiple times. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Nov 9, 2020 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ Only seeing your note here now, Willk! Thank you for the comment. I think it could be an interesting story/project, though I'm currently working on something else at the moment. But if you're interested in hearing more, let me know. =) $\endgroup$ May 11, 2021 at 9:53

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