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I am running a sci-fi RPG.

One of my players (the Engineer) has expressed interest in having a gold hammer.

This seems pretty ridiculous to me as gold is soft and softness doesn't seem like a quality you'd look for in a hammer.

However, this got me thinking, are there any types of tool used nowadays or possibly in the future where gold could be a primary material?

Notes: This question is about tools where they would LOOK gold. Ideally the gold would be more than surface level but gold plated tools with a practical reason for the gold plating would still be awesome.

Alloys of gold are permissible even if gold is a minor constituent, the only important thing is that it has at least a slightly gold colour.

Since the colour is the most important thing, Ceasium is also technically allowed if you can find a use for it in a tool.

Ideally the tool will be handheld or some form of bionic but drone/robot based stuff is also allowed.

Things I know about gold:

  • It's Soft
  • It's highly conductive of electricity.
  • It's one of the least reactive metals.

Things about the setting:

  • We're far in the future so a lot of stuff that's only theoretical now is possible, like fusion, complex carbon allotropes, nano-scale 3D printing, bionics, and gene-forming.

  • All elements are freely available through the aforementioned fusion. We use Hydrogen Isotope fusion to generate power for fusion reactors that run at an energy loss but create heavier substances from lighter

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  • $\begingroup$ This article lists a large number of uses and reasons for gold in industry, electronics, medicine and dentistry, and jewelry. geology.com/minerals/gold/uses-of-gold.shtml. Are you more interested in how these uses change in the future? $\endgroup$ – N2ition Oct 15 '17 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Well Titanium-gold alloy is the stronest metal that is compatible with living human tissue. However, its not any futuristic alloy. Also as an engineer, he will want a metal that is still strong at high temp, maybe look at nickel-based alloys. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Oct 16 '17 at 13:48
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Golden colored tools are already a thing

The native state of engineering TiN (Titanium Nitride) coatings is a bright golden color -- it is quite common to see high-speed machine tool bits that are coated this way for its anti-galling, anti-corrosion, and anti-wear properties. An example is the drill bit depicted below (pic from Binter on Wikipedia.DE):

pic of TiN coated drill bit

So, your engineer could have a Titanium Nitride coated hammerhead for rustproofing reasons. Makes sense to me!

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  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch see OP notes in quote $\endgroup$ – Vylix Oct 16 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ This satisfies the OP's note flawlessly, had it not been for that note I would have though he meant the element too $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 16 '17 at 14:44
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There exist lead hammers.

lead hammers - new and used, I think from http://www.clubcobra.com/forums/attachments/shop-talk/16153d1264738198-american-hammer-6lb-lead-hammer-lead-hammers-002.jpg

I love the wear on that one.

I was unfamiliar with this tool. Here is what I turned up.

http://weldingweb.com/showthread.php?20700-Why-do-I-have-a-lead-hammer&s=2c2f4ae3049abb75ac85af5c47a9ec1d

Non Marking (protects what you're beating on)-(like if you're "tapping" on a hard bearing race) Non Sparking (in case you're beating on something while standing in a bucket of gasoline) Transfers the energy differently when it hits (doesn't bounce) NOT meant for driving nails or pounding on chisels

from http://weldingweb.com/showthread.php?20700-Why-do-I-have-a-lead-hammer/page2

They have good weight and will not leave marks on harder metals. The solid lead hammer is made to tap aluminum molds when removing a casting of lead. The pins are removed and then the aluminum is tapped with the solid lead hammer to remove the casting if the casting does not come loose. This keeps the aluminum mold from getting beat up from continous use.

So: a hefty durable hammer that will not scratch, spark or leave dark marks. The folks on these site joke that the EPA will make them illegal because they are lead. If that happened that would be a good reason for a gold one (actually made of gold metal), which would have all the same properties as the lead one and be nontoxic.

Maybe if you were an alchemist and did not want any "base metal" lead around your gold (don't want to give it any ideas!) you would use a gold hammer to tap your gold casting dies.

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    $\begingroup$ Gold is even denser than lead. (not sure about softer, but maybe that too). A property of bullets is that they be soft so that grooves can be carved in them to enable spin and straighter flight and dense. Gold would make a great bullet, better than lead. More expensive though. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Oct 16 '17 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK - I bet if you send a gold shotgun slug to Taofledermaus they would compare it to their lead standard. $\endgroup$ – Willk Oct 16 '17 at 21:10
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Gold plating as a damage indicator

My toothbrush has coloured bristles which the manufacturer tells me are an indicator of wear -- when the colour has faded, then the toothbrush is worn out and must be replaced, even if it doesn't necessarily look that bad otherwise.

You could design tools using gold plating to achieve a similar function. When the gold plating has worn away and the dull grey starts showing through, then you know that the tool has reached the end of its life and must be discarded.

This could be very useful for the kind of tools that are likely to break dramatically if over-worked.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's kind of expensive way to find out wear-and-tear status $\endgroup$ – Vylix Oct 17 '17 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Vylix - In today's world, yes, very expensive. Which is why nobody does it. But the question says that in the far future they can use fusion to freely obtain any element they like, which I read as saying the cost of gold isn't an issue any more. Under that circumstance, using gold for this would be a question of whether it's the best material for the job rather than how much it costs. $\endgroup$ – Simba Oct 17 '17 at 11:49
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For a sci-fi setting the conductivity of Gold is the key to many uses

Gold is already a constituent in modern computer processors. This is a trend that is likely to continue and in fact the use of what we currently consider rare and precious metals is likely to increase as space-based mining reduces their relative rarity value.

Many interface tools are likely to be made of Gold because it carries electrical signals well and also because it does oxidise or corrode in most environments. Gold is also good at absorbing many kinds of hard radiation. So you could see it used for emergency radiation shelters.

Due to these qualities it could in fact be used as a plating on almost any tool as a preservative coating against antagonistic atmospheric conditions. Due to its physical softness and "polishability" Gold can also be used for "soft" anchors based on atomically smooth surfaces that adhere due to inter-atomic friction.

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Gold and gold alloy plating is already used this site discusses several of them.

enter image description here

The most likely use for gold plating in hand tools is just as a status symbol, the same reason people gold plate guns and pens, but there is one other use. Gold is extremely resistant to corrosion and tarnish even at high temperatures, in extremely corrosive environments gold alloys are the prefered solution.

The most common use for gold plating is for electrical connections but that is not going to be a major issue in hand tools.

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Gold as a Weight Enhancer (Filler)

Gold has one property that could be useful in some hammers - it's relatively heavy. At 19.32g/cm^3, its density is actually higher than lead (11.34g/cm^3) and much higher than steel (8.05g/cm^3). Thus, if a large hammer with a sufficiently sturdy exterior plating were to be filled with gold it could be uncommonly heavy. There might be other ways to achieve the same effect, but none with that same je ne sais quoi.

From here, it's an exercise of finding a golden-looking alloy that's sufficiently sturdy to take a pounding so that the exterior of the hammer looks the same as (or close to) the interior. Shalvenay already recommended Titanium Nitride, so I will take the easy way out and suggest the same.

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