74
$\begingroup$

Merlin the wizard has a problem.

Sure, it was a piece of cake to move forward in time to the 21st century, procure a sword that was made with the highest 21st century standards, go back in time, and stick it in a pile of cement. The sword's handle, of course, is imbued with DNA detectors and personality divining spells that will retract the perpendicular spikes at the tip of the blade, allowing he whom the wizard deems worthy to slide the blade out of the rock.

So Merlin looks at his handy work, smiling with satisfaction, but as he turns to go a thought pops up -

How can he expect the sword to last through the ages? Sure, 21st century grade steel is tough, but will it survive centuries in the British outdoors?

Merlin turns back in alarm, sighs and starts working on making the sword last.

What should he do? He's a wizard and uses magic, sure, but I'd like to minimize the handwaving, so pointing out specific changes that Merlin would make to the environment will be appreciated. Also, he's no engineer and would rather minimize the use of technology for this, but he does have limited access to 21st century tech (mostly stuff that he can buy/pay someone to make for him, but he can't bring people back in time to help).

Also - For how long can he get the sword to last (how long in the past can Merlin go to start the sword-in-the-rock legend? The longer the better, as ancient legends go)

Ye olde EDIT the 1st: to avoid being too story based I'll rephrase: Set in our world, wishing to minimize handwaving, what minimal changes to the environment around the sword (weather, terrain, maybe society, etc.) would prevent the sword from corroding or breaking, for as long as possible? Said changes should be explained in as scientific a way as possible, but I'm not looking for diamond-hard science, just a few paragraphs to explain to the readers how the sword lasted for as long as it did.

Ye olde EDIT the 2nd: The blade will be steel or some steel alloy. The sword will be used in combat and needs to be stronger than other swords. The idea is to have something close-to-but-somewhat-better than middle ages swords. A lot of answers go for an all powerful material, but if I do that, it might as well be Adamantium that cuts through walls and shoots fireballs. Minimimalization is what I'm looking for (treks in time not withstanding).

$\endgroup$
  • 25
    $\begingroup$ I'm sure somebody who figured out time-travel can figure out how to make a sword last a couple of centuries $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. May 24 '17 at 15:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ How about not using steel? Use plastic! Gold? Stone? If it's just symbolic and doesn't need to be a real sword used in combat ... $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 24 '17 at 15:50
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Why "with a magic spell" wouldn't be an answer? And how isn't this story based? $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 24 '17 at 17:06
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm confused. Specific spells and changes to the environment would be appreciated, but the OP's version of Merlin "dislikes technology". Using magic would technically be hand waving. Why couldn't Merlin cast some restorative spell or a spell to prevent the sword from aging? $\endgroup$ – Mea quidem sententia May 24 '17 at 19:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure "with magic" is a valid answer but is also kind of boring. The Dragon Knight stories put some effort into establishing methods and rules for the magic used in the universe which I imagine is what our asker is going for. $\endgroup$ – thepizzaelemental May 24 '17 at 19:08

27 Answers 27

93
$\begingroup$

Merlin knows about metallurgy, and will place in the immediate surroundings of the rock (or even IN the rock) a sacrificial anode made of magnesium, aluminium, zinc or another suitable metal.

A galvanic anode is the main component of a galvanic cathodic protection (CP) system used to protect buried or submerged metal structures from corrosion.

By simply replacing the anode from time to time he can ensure that the sword will last over the centuries.

$\endgroup$
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ This with a proper metallurgy should make it easy. I mean we have metals that don't degrade inside nuclear reactors surrounded by water, radwaste, alpha, beta, gamma radiation and blasts of neutrons. It's just choosing the right alloy. $\endgroup$ – Harper May 24 '17 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Presumably, Merlin might also be able to use magic to restore these anodes once they get corroded, meaning he needs only two, rather than... actually, @L.Dutch, do you know how long the anode would last? $\endgroup$ – ltmauve May 25 '17 at 4:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @ltmauve, it depends on the mass of the anode and on the corrosion rate. But if Merlin can restore the anode, he can very well use the same skill to restore the sword... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch May 25 '17 at 5:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Make the concrete block out of magnesium/zinc/aluminium with just a synthetic machined rock looking surface. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP May 29 '17 at 12:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And remember, the length that these things last depends on the rate of corrosion, which could be made arbitrarily small if instead of being out in the middle of the forest, the sword-in-the-stone is actually inside a little cavern hewn into a cliff face, say in a natural gorge or so. Especially if you have to climb up a little, you can easily be above the water table and if there's no river nearby, that cavern can be quite dry. $\endgroup$ – CR Drost May 30 '17 at 15:02
97
$\begingroup$

Make the Legend last through the ages

So, Merlin telemagicks to 5000 years ago, presents the sword-in-cement LEGEND to some fancy king. Then he rigs up some scenario where the sword is found. People try and fail to remove the sword, the legend spreads.

Merlin then causes some event (flood, landslide, magic POOFing, etc) to disappear the sword. The sword is gone but the legend lives on.

The sword didn't actually disappear, but Merlin simply moved forward 1000 years to do the same thing. This time it's not a new legend, but a confirmation of an old legend. People try, fail, sword disappears after a while again.

Merlin lather/rinse/repeat's a few times, and now you have a sword that has "existed" for 5000 years, but with only the wear and tear of a month or two.

$\endgroup$
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ This. Is. GENIUS! $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck May 25 '17 at 19:59
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I like it, with some modifications: 1. Not "a month or two". They didn't have Youtube back then. Or 1000-year memory - after 100 years Merlin might find the legend warped into one of 10000 invincible warriors awaiting the return of Jesus who will smash the stone with a mighty hammer. 2. The stuck sword can be a different item than the final deal. 3. Merlin needs to find a new way to divine who and when exactly is worthy. $\endgroup$ – kaay May 26 '17 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ This is good, can use many copies that are upgraded as required so every new fins is like new. Need to use big and hard rock so the locals do not smash it to bits to get the sword out. Also when the time is right he can place the "free to extract" rock in the path of Authur. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP May 29 '17 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ I love your idea, but all that flooding, landsliding and traveling sounds like a hassle when you could just make the sword travel in time! :P $\endgroup$ – xDaizu May 29 '17 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @xDaizu I believe that's covered under magic POOFing. The exact way it disappears/reappears can be adjusted, the main thing is people thinking the sword is existing for thousands of years, when really it only existed for < 1 year $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 May 29 '17 at 21:20
70
$\begingroup$

Can there be hereditary Servants of the Sword? These folks would live nearby, working the earth etc but they take responsibility for periodically going out to visit the Sword and putting a fresh coat of grease on it.

Maybe they could have special hats - worn only for the sword greasing, you know.

$\endgroup$
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ LOL! Love it. I want one of those hats! $\endgroup$ – ozone May 24 '17 at 17:21
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Monty python's next sketch? "I want to be a sword greaser! I've got a hat." youtube.com/watch?v=zYqqla3HTyY $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz May 25 '17 at 7:25
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @ozone Why is everyone on StackExchange so crazy about getting hats?!!! ;-) $\endgroup$ – Nav May 25 '17 at 16:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Nav every year,there is a hat collecting frenzy. They're like badges, but only temporarily. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck May 25 '17 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ I know. That's why I asked :-) Just amused. Not really a question. $\endgroup$ – Nav May 26 '17 at 6:22
41
$\begingroup$

Let it rust.

Seriously. A thick chunk of steel is already going to last ages without any special treatment. It will corrode on the outside for sure, but this adds to the authenticity of just how old it is. Maybe build a gazebo over it to keep the absolute worst of the weather off.

It'll be way more exciting when "he whom the wizard deems worthy" finally shows up - not only are they able to pull the obviously ancient sword from the stone, but the "personality divining spells" can trigger a spell to instantaneously restore the sword to its original, pristine condition in a fantastic display of light/sparks/electricity/whatever. This would cast aside any doubt from onlooking skeptics that the bearer truly is someone special.

$\endgroup$
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, just bang it a few times; it'll be fine. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 24 '17 at 21:16
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Make it of steel containing a high amount of Phosphorus and the rust will stay superficial. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_pillar_of_Delhi $\endgroup$ – nigel222 May 25 '17 at 11:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I don't know about steel, but if it was coated in Aluminium, Alumium rust is very hard and forms a protective coating preventing further rust. $\endgroup$ – Nobody May 25 '17 at 23:25
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ Oh the weather around is frightful, But the sword is so delightful, And since it won't turn to dust, Let it rust! Let it rust! Let it rust! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor May 28 '17 at 13:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Nobody aluminised steel is a thing. I don't think it would really make sense for blades since at the edge, the plating would be damaged during use and/or sharpening (stainless steel doesn't have that problem), but if the sword is carefully embedded in the cement and then left there for centuries it might do the trick. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout May 28 '17 at 22:18
19
$\begingroup$

If he has figured out time travel why not just have him put it in a time-loop. At the start of every day the sword is returned to the condition it was in when it was first placed into the stone.

Or you could go as far as to put the entire location of the stone into a time-loop (presumably a sacred grove or hilltop), thereby removing any possible deterioration due to weather/time. It would also allow the grove to retain the season it was in when the sword was placed, which would serve to feed the legend as the grove is perpetually the same every day regardless of the time of year.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ and what happens to people walking through this area? $\endgroup$ – Brian H. May 25 '17 at 11:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You could either have them travel back in time to that day, or simply have them experience the conditions of that day. That would be completely up to the personal preference of the storyteller. $\endgroup$ – Josh May 25 '17 at 13:27
18
$\begingroup$

Similar to Josh's answer:

Use time manipulation to actually halt the flow of time for the sword and stone. This solves a couple of issues. The sword won't rust, the stone can't be chipped away and no one can remove the sword until the chosen one touches it and removes the time stop spell.

Of course, if I lived nearby, the young Arthur would have to gain access to my wood mill that I built around a length of blade that never dulls no matter how many logs I split by forcing them against the blade....

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Imagine the sword suddenly flying off at relativistic speed from all the force put into it in what - from its perspective - had been an instant $\endgroup$ – kaay May 26 '17 at 8:53
12
$\begingroup$

As KOZM points out, stainless steels exist now, and you can source one for this purpose. Let me be more quantitative and list specific examples, based on current knifes for sale.

In particular, the alloy used for Wüshhof kitchen knives is extremely stain resistant. It’s rather soft, though, which makes for a flexible blade but needs constant honing. This is called DIN X50CrMoV15, or material number (W-Nr standard) 1.4116. It is 0.5% carbon, 15% chromium, with a pinch of molybdenum and vanadium.

Knives can be made of vanadium steel, which gives the same stain/tarnish resistance as stainless steel but without sacrificing so much hardness. This uses more vanadium in place of chromium. I have an every-day carry folding blade made from VG-10, and Wikipedia has a list of steels they have experimented with. VG-10 is hardened around RC60. It is also used to make swords!

They also make knives using CPM, which is a powder metallurgy and is fascinating to look into.

CPM-S90V (a.k.a. 420V), similar to Crucible's S60V but designed to be more wear resistant with a very high carbide volume and high vanadium content. Appreciated for extreme edge-holding. S90V was featured in a sprint run of Spyderco's Military in 2008. Since then it has been used in several sprint runs in knives like the Manix 2 and Paramilitary 2. While S90V holds an edge significantly better than S30V, both are usually hardened to about 59-61 RC.

So you can buy steel today that might easily last that long without any special protection! Add to that a final chrome plating, a passivation treatment, and a coat of turtle wax, and Merlyn’s magical ability to keep humidity away from the artifact will hardly be needed. Stainless steel will last for hundreds of years without this final preparation.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Stainless steel is as stainless as bulletproof glass is bulletproof: only in the name is the immunity perfect. Stainless steels resist corrosion, but they are not immune to it. I have several "stainless steel" objects in my possession that have rusted rather nicely, and I haven't even stuck them in a rock to leave them to the elements for centuries. I'm no metallurgist, and it may be much to ask, but this answer (and of course all the others suggesting this) would be strengthened by some indication that you can actually make a sword of steel as stainless as required for this purpose. $\endgroup$ – Jeroen Mostert May 25 '17 at 18:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Ah, the great legend of the Wüshhof Kitchen Knife in the Stone ;) $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 May 26 '17 at 2:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A great idea for a knife holder! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 26 '17 at 2:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thus Excalibutter got pulled to prepare The Chosen sandwich. $\endgroup$ – LukStorms May 30 '17 at 14:26
10
$\begingroup$

Merlin picked up more than some cool tech in the 21st century. He picked up our consumer society's attitude.

Why bother protecting or repairing the sword? There was a great deal going on bulk-buy swords.

Just pop back in time to when he first wants the sword, and then travel forward in small increments, replacing the old sword with a new one each time.

Edit, obviously the DNA sensor needs to activate for his DNA as well as the rightful King's.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And a "lifetime warranty" with it? ;) Good idea with replacement, though $\endgroup$ – kaay May 26 '17 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, take the rusty sword back to the shop as a guarantee exchange every day :-) and alternate between two of them while the shop tolerates your scam. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP May 29 '17 at 12:22
9
$\begingroup$

There are plenty of alloys, particularly "stainless" steels that temper well and passivate on the surface, and would last many centuries; plate it with gold or other noble metal to give it even more life and spruce it up.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I wanted to say this. I think it would work even with aluminum coating. $\endgroup$ – user9981 May 26 '17 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ Except it must also weather inventive people trying to find a way to get it out and assuming strong magics protect it. Plating won't cut it, pardon the edgy pun. $\endgroup$ – kaay May 26 '17 at 8:57
8
$\begingroup$

Just use titanium. (An alloy of it, really.)

The question implied Merlin wanted the best 21st century standard and that is what NASA and, well, everyone, really, uses when they want something that works like steel but better.

Important points:

Expensive due to the refining being energy intensive, but is otherwise common material and easily available. Merlin could just buy the sword and while it would be expensive and a custom job, it would not require miracles.

More or less works like steel. Titanium has no weird failure modes that make it instantly shatter or dissolve like some other metals have. You can usually replace steel with it and trust it to work.

Almost instantly forms hard and thick layer of titanium oxide on its surface when exposed to air. Because of this titanium is a highly reactive metal that is nearly immune to corrosion in practice. It can be used in sea water or even dilute acid. Embedding it in a stone should not be an issue.

Titanium has superior strength to mass ratio. The sword would not really be stronger than a sword made of best steel alloys, but it would instantly feel magical due to its lower weight. And lower weight actually matters with swords. Alternately you can keep it weighing the same as normal sword, but make it much harder to break. Or any combination in between.

Titanium is also attractive and has been used for jewellery and statues. A sword made from titanium would probably look better than one made from steel.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, Titanium actually suffers quite a bit from not holding an edge well. It's a tough metal, and would make awesome armour but a pretty crap sword. Tungsten carbide might do the trick though. $\endgroup$ – Sobrique May 25 '17 at 16:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Carbide, used to make tools, is brittle and crumbles away under use. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 25 '17 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Sobrique That actually depends on lots of variables, just as it does with steel. Let us just say that there is a reason I added that "(An alloy of it actually.)" at the beginning of my answer. When you get right down to it whether you start with iron or with titanium you need to pick the correct alloy and apply the correct surface treatment to get a good sword. I guess I was bit optimistic on titanium as it is probably much easier to find someone who knows how to make good sword from iron alloys. But it isn't that hard to find people bragging about their titanium swords... $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 25 '17 at 17:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just to give everyone bit of context. The edge relies on surface hardness, which relies on surface treatment. A blade that is too hard throughout will be too brittle, so the surface and the bulk need different properties. Hence surface treatment is needed. The issue with titanium is that the heat treatment that is usually used with steel will apparently not work. There are however other types of surface treatment available, so I do not see how that could be unsurmountable obstacle. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 25 '17 at 17:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A sword that is merely plated with a thin layer of titanium will hold an edge just fine; the titanium might be worn off through use, but it's only there to protect the blade until it's removed from the stone. After that, who cares? $\endgroup$ – ArmanX May 26 '17 at 18:33
7
$\begingroup$

The sword is a sword, albeit an exceptional one. Let's preserve it as such, since it needs to function as a sword. But the stone is no mere stone. It is actually a machine that maintains the sword, disguised as a stone!

This method allows you to imagine a simple, feasible, and mostly sound scientific mechanism, hidden inconspicuously in something innocuous - as to not pollute history. It is likely the sword will be scrutinized, but the stone may be overlooked. Too advanced for the middle ages, the people would be less likely to anticipate that a stone is not what it appears. Like the stone-facade speakers many people use in their gardens, they can be made to look nearly identical to an actual stone (if not a real hollowed stone) and house a complex machine. Merlin could commission one that includes sharpening, drying, shining and any other capability that would ensure the sword would last indefinitely with the correct tooling, materials and power source (several other answer propose some of these components). With this machine, the legend could be set at its maximum time.

This should meet all your requirements simply and cleverly. It accounts for the preservation of the sword, and can additionally be used to include the mechanical ability to wait for the correct owner. It also avoids any corruption of the sword's structural or historical integrity. Where in a sword do you put a complex biometric scanner and sci-fi "personality analytics" software? How would it affect its functionality, strength, weight, and balance? A stone could be enormous both in what's exposed and (like an iceberg) what is in the ground. It has one purpose and would not have any other effects on the story other than a sound scientific explanation of how the sword is housed, maintained and dispensed.

Hope this helps your story!

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Electroplating.

Your sword - it's made of steel for strength and 'swordyness', but ... you can coat it in something that isn't reactive, and it should keep for a good long time.

Steel is the best thing to be using

Gold's the obvious choice - it's nonreactive, and it'll make the sword look 'special'. But it's perhaps a bit too obvious (and too obviously 'gold' which is also something that a poor peasant might take a knife to scrape it off).

But something like chromium, will make it still 'steel like' but just really shiny.

Or just zinc - a process known as Galvanization which is something that's still used routinely for ... all sorts of things.

Select electroplating metal according to need. Expect that when the sword is finally used - it'll need sharpening when it finally does get drawn, and day to day use (hitting people covered in steel with it) will ablate the coating. But it'll still be rust resistant, and we can assume at that point, the sword owner is maintaining it.

The lifespan of galvanization is 50-75 years using 'standard' but with a 200 micrometer coating, should be good for around 250 years in a 'benign rural' location.

enter image description here

I can't find a similar lifespan (with a quick bit of googling) chart for Chrome or Gold. But both Gold, or better yet Platinum have extremely low reactivity (lower than Zinc) so I would assume they last considerably longer.

So I would say - go with go with Platinum - it will look good, won't be 'obviously gold' and it will last a very long time.

Reactivity Series

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ That's cool but I'm looking to have Merlin turn around in alarm and be frustrated. The character is your run of the mill absent-minded-super-wizard. He can time travel, but always forgets his cat in another era. $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz May 28 '17 at 9:56
4
$\begingroup$

Ancient has a different meaning for people living today than people back then. (~500AD for King Arthur) People living back in merlin's time were generally not literate. Most legends were passed via word of mouth though the generations (which were shorter back then as well) Those who could read typically didn't have access to written historical records, many of which would have been lost during the fall of the Roman empire anyway. I would say that anything before the fall or Rome (~375AD) could easily be considered ancient for people living in King Arthur's time.

Given that women had children young back then, "your grandmother's grandmother's grandmother" could be only 100 years in the past.

Going by this description of merlin, His "time traveling" isn't really time traveling in the regular sense of the word but rather just "remembering the future" and "not knowing the past".

Maybe he can "remember" 21th century steel making techniques to craft the sword without leaving his time. He knows the time when the sword is going to be pulled from the stone as well so now its just a matter of crafting and setting the sword early enough for it to become "ancient legend" if thats only 80-100 years, then it should be easy enough using modern techniques.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Very efficient, phlebotinum-wise. Could also fabricate older evidence, rather than risk it being lost, destroyed, or becoming the focus of cults. $\endgroup$ – kaay May 26 '17 at 9:05
4
$\begingroup$

Make the sword out of a non-corroding alloy? Or a heavy coat of Aluminium?

The sword out of the stone was only proof of kingship - it wasn't intended to be used in battle. And in some of the legends, it breaks pretty fast so it could be made out of platinum even though you wouldn't want to use it in combat.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link, I might add something like that to the story $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz May 28 '17 at 9:42
4
$\begingroup$

Just a thought...

The focus is so much on the sword as a whole, but because the sword is embedded, the blade itself is actually encased and protected by the stone (and therefore not exposed to the elements).

A non-corrosive metal for the handle would be just as effective while allowing a metal that can hold an edge for the actual blade.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

You want the sword to have amazing longevity, but not be really that overpowered. That makes sense from a narrative standpoint, but as for actual materials... IANAB (I am not a blacksmith) but it seems tricky to get both, and I can't give you a definitive answer about that. Worry not, though, a workaround comes to mind!

The sword doesn't last more than a regular 21st century sword, but time past differently for it.

Merlin can travel in time, so presumably he could make the sword travel in time. You go to the year 0 (or whenever, 0 is just to simplify the math) and set the sword in stone. Now you program it to constantly jump forward a set amount after a set time.

Let's say you make it so it only stays for the whole month of December and then on January 1st it jumps (in time) to the next December. Then, our 2000 years of History would only mean 2000 months for the sword. If, instead, you set it to only appear one day a month, 2000 years is only 2000 nights wear for the sword.

Not bad, huh? You've extended its "lifetime" and "the sword that can only be found on full moon nights" make for a nifty legend.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (Fun) Note: Managing the jumps can be tricky with all those timezones, leap years and what-nots. I recommend Merlin to use moment.js to deal with the dates (you know, since JS is a sword and all that... :P) $\endgroup$ – xDaizu May 29 '17 at 15:13
3
$\begingroup$

IMHO opinion Merlin should build a building around the sword in the stone. The building should have a floor, and the sword in the stone (on top of an anvil if I remember correctly) should be on top of a pedestal that keeps it away from moisture on the floor.

Possibly the building should be designed with many concentric shells and many floors and roofs, with the sword in the stone in the center most room. And perhaps to make it more impressive the building should have domes within domes within domes with the sword in the stone beneath the innermost dome.

No doubt Merlin will have to build robots to repair the building and keep the dehumidifiers running and repair each other and keep thieves out.

I note that many artifacts including swords have been found in water in northern Europe, apparently ritually deposited by Celtic peoples. So apparently iron swords do not rust away into nothing during 1,500 to 2,000 years in the water.

Many bronze items including swords have also been found in dirt or water having survived rather intact for 3,000 years. Thus it might be wise for Merlin to make or obtain a bronze sword for the stone. Iron did not replace bronze because it was better as much as because it was cheaper and more common. So a bronze sword could be as good as an iron sword and maybe more resistant to corrosion.

And maybe gilding the sword before putting it in the stone would help it stay as good as new for decades, centuries, or millennia.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Make the sword travel backward in time...

When you plant the sword it is perfect, but in the past it is getting older and older. This perfectly sets up a legend of a sword in the stone - a mysterious sword which seemed to grow from nothing and was improving in form over time.

Of course, this creates some timeline problems. For instance if you plant it the day after you need it, it would exist yesterday, but if it was pulled from the stone then, it would not exist in the past for the legend to work... So perhaps, you could have two swords, one that travels backwards in time (for a legend) and one that travels forward in time (only needed for a single day) which could be pulled from the stone.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Maybe present The Sword of Goujian . Survived without rusting for 2500 years before being found because the blade contained sulfur which helped to prevent oxidation.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate on that? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 25 '17 at 6:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome @Macen Xaiver , to Worldbuilding! This is a really good example, your answer would have been perfect with a link such as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_of_Goujian :-) $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Jun 25 '17 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ "Forged of copper and tin" - and question states that "The blade will be steel or some steel alloy." Thus, this isn't an answer to the question asked. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 25 '17 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuildin Macen! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Your answer is currently in the low-quality review because it's too short and not detailed enough. Please edit your post to expand on your idea and provide more information for the readers. Otherwise your answer risks being deleted for it's length content. Have fun on the site! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 25 '17 at 15:13
1
$\begingroup$

Cast a spell that prevents oxygen (or water) from reaching the surface of the sword, thus preventing oxidation (rust)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ i was thinking of something like this, maybe have a vacuum spell around the blade, but not the grip obviously, we don't want to cripple evrybody trying to pull the sword out :p $\endgroup$ – Brian H. May 25 '17 at 11:11
1
$\begingroup$

This is something of a combination of Scott and Mirror318's answers:

Add a clause to the legend that the sword is super awesome AND can be instantly brought back to a state of full repair (actually replaced) when brought to Merlin or an approved temple or whatever. With a warning of "tempting fate" or something comparable ominous, if this is abused.

And the "sword in stone" is a tough, thick ingot meant to be "restored" shortly after, and made/enchanted specifically for the purpose of withstanding the elements and human ingenuity.
And don't underestimate that last part. Think of someone bringing siege engine - class machines to dust the rock and replace the Gordian Knot legend.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Use a porous stone, envelop it in something oil-tight, saturate the inner porous matter in some stable oil (shouldn't go rancid or polymerize ).

Obviously, still provide a mechanism to make sure the well lubricated sword isn't trivial to slide out :)

Oil-soaked paper is nowadays still commonly used to package, store and ship non-stainless tool steel items...

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Do we know whether whole blade was stuck in the stone or just a part of it?

Suppose whole blade is emerged in the fake-solid stone. There is a hollow full of synthetic oil to suppress any degradation of the blade.

There is a bayonet mount disguised decorative-magic engraved symbols and it contains pure gold ring which serves as metal sealing. The bayonet is connected to the DNA detector and releases the sword at appropriate time. There are also rubber, viton or silicone blades just to remove the oil when the Chosen One (TM) pulls the sword out.

Therefore the only part of the sword to face the ages is the handle. Luckily for Merlin there is a plenty of commercially available surface treatments to enhance the oxidation resistance and appeareance.

There is hot bluing and black oxidizing finish which gives the oxidation resistance (oxides usually do not oxidize) and dark blue-black matte finish. Thin film of TiN will give the oxidation resistance and gold finish, TiAlN will give purple finish. He can also look for TiO2 film which can be superhyrophilic and when illuminated by UV light it can clean itself from bacteria and algae. Merlin can also look for rare-earth metal oxide coatings which can provide hard and superhydophobic surfaces.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The sword is actually made from a substance that is more like fiberglass than traditional metallurgy would see; the blade has been infused with carbon nanotubes, which is part of what makes Excalibur so strong.

The nanotubes actually poke out of the surface of the steel blade, and therefore microscopically Excalibur is extraordinarily bumpy, which grants it an incredible property: it is ultrahydrophobic; water just cannot stick to it because it would rather stick to itself. In addition the surface might also be antimicrobial for the same reason; it might shred apart microorganisms that try to live on it. As a result, the cracks might be capable of holding oily molecules for a very long time, so that they also keep oxygen atoms themselves at bay.

The main place where this may not work (due to ages of wear and tear eventually eroding the nanoscale surface away) is the handle, which is coated with a thick layer of gold and therefore does not corrode in the first place.

Just to make sure, the "sword in the stone" is actually stuck into a cliff face inside the forest -- Merlin has bored a large hole into a small rocky cliff, leaving a large bump in the center where the sword has been stuck. The space functions as a natural shelter, keeping the usual moisture and rain at bay and also making it impossible for other kings down the ages to install the sword-in-the-stone in their courts as an artistic piece. It is perhaps even raised up many feet above ground level, so that one has to shed one's armor and do some rock-climbing before one can even attempt to pull the sword out of the stone, so it is more a pastime for young kids than for serious knights.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

How about having the sword appear for some significant annual event- one day only each year. With time travel, Merlin can soon build up a long history. The sword could be fixed into the stone by a modern adhesive, such as an epoxy that protects the blade. Merlin can release the blade at the right time by some simple heat magic that causes the adhesive to break down- at a temperature that does not harm the steel.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

If he can go a bit further into the future, then nanites are the obviously choice.

Either everything is made of nanites or maybe just a thin layer in the stone. They constantly refresh the surface, and consume the stone for energy and materials.

A bit more realistic, maybe graphine.

$\endgroup$
-4
$\begingroup$

He doesn't, obviously.

He can time travel, so instead of bringing back a sword from the 21st century (what an odd time period to pick to locate a sword in, by the way), he brings back a planetary annihilator from the 31st century. Much more effective choice than any sword. Seriously, the idea of time travelling to bring back a sharp hunk of metal is beyond absurd.

But he's a magician, so he doesn't need time travel, he uses magic. A spell of "remove moisture" or "prevent rust" envelopes the sword, keeping it in pristine condition throughout the ages. You're way-overthinking the story about a magical sword and the person with the magical ability to remove it from the stone that's magically holding it.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Edited the question to point that I'm looking for minimalization. He interacts with 21st century characters (to get the readers invested in the story) so 21st century it is. And he'd rather avoid annihilating planets, thank you, or bringing advanced weapons to the past that will give people ideas. $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz May 25 '17 at 7:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This doesn't make any sense. The question is surounding an existing legend, where a sword is the main attraction, changing the sword to something else completely breaks any sense of immersion to anybody who knows the legend before reading this story. $\endgroup$ – Brian H. May 25 '17 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianH. That's just untrue. The legend of the sword in the stone has no time traveling or modern day metal alloys in it. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b May 25 '17 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ but it's a sword... $\endgroup$ – Brian H. May 25 '17 at 13:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your version is actually pretty cool @HopelessN00b. Originally, Merlin totally went for the "Planetary annihilator in a rock" legend thing, but when turning around was dismayed to find that the planet had been annihilated. Sighed, went back in time, and changed the legend to something more mundane, say, uuuum... a sword. $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz May 28 '17 at 9:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.