1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Is there any way to color the metal of a sword without compromising its usability?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Simon Price, Dec 20, 2017.

    So, quick bit of context, I'm writing a story about a bunch of people trying to adapt to and live in a world where people suddenly start getting superhuman powers, worldwide, on a weekly basis, and the absolute and unpredictable upending of life as we know it that results. One of the main characters is a police officer who now finds herself trying to restore order after the latest batch of powers flings the whole world into anarchy by making guns useless, causing technology to only work when everyone around wants it to, making incarceration impossible by giving everyone a limited and un-aimed method of teleportation, and giving everyone what basically amounts to wolverine claws, resulting in the police being forced onto equal (and outnumbered) footing with the recently- escaped inmates of a maximum security prison.

    With this in mind, one idea I had was that since her husband, another one of the main protagonists, is a HEMA nerd who also does blacksmithing, she winds up forced to take the sword he made for her as a good-luck-charm and actually fight with it. And when I tried to picture what kind of "for-good-luck" weapon this hopefully-lovable dork would make for his police officer wife, an image suddenly sprang to mind of a cavalry saber (or other single-bladed sword) with a jet black blade and a blue cutting edge (he calls it, yes, you guessed it, "The Thin Blue Line").

    Now, while this would be cute as a good-luck-charm and show of support for what she does, and while I think it would look pretty damned cool, the real question is whether I would be throwing realism out of the window by having such a colored weapon actually usable in a fight, and if I should have the "thin blue line" imagery present on the hilt or handle instead. Is there any method of coloring the metal of a weapon like I described that wouldn't damage its combat effectiveness? The coloring treatment doesn't have to stand up to extensive use (though that would be preferable), it just has to not result in an inferior weapon.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Why not just paint it? If the whole world has gone wonky with super-powers a painted sword that doesn't chip will be pretty low on the suspension of disbelief scale.
     
  3. GB reader

    GB reader Contributor Contributor

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    A clever blacksmith could probably do something like this without paint.

    Annealing is what you should look for.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annealing_(metallurgy)

    I could not find a picture in english but if you skip trying to read Swedish you have a picture of colour of steel that has been prepared at various temperatures.

    https://sv.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anlöpning

    I think blue is not the hardest but ofcourse hard is also brittle.

    There will be no problem at all to stir together some mumbo jumbo that physically explains the colour of the edge as a side effect of the tempering of the blade.
     
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  4. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Bluing will get you close, and has its own practical purposes.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluing_(steel)

    Failing that, you might look at color case hardening, but I'm not sure how that would impact the effectiveness of the sword.
     
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  5. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Annealing was my thought as well. It’d just be a black coating, it wouldn’t make the metal itself black, but still.
     
  6. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    The color of metal can not be altered. Color comes photons that are emitted when electrons jump between energy levels. In large atoms, there are so many of these energy jumps possible that it appears so every energy level of photon is able to be absorbed and reemitted, this is why metals are reflective. It also means that it has no definitive color as it can emit a lot of colors, which makes it white (silver.) Atomic structure and atom size can also effect color, but metals rarely have structure.

    You could electroplate it with something blue. Cobalt has a slight bluish tint and Einsteinium has a slight bluish glow in the dark. Neither are terribly noticeable though. Out of the two, cobalt would be a better choice as Einsteinium is both pretty soft and has a radioactive halflife or less than a year.
     
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  7. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Is electroplating the same as annealing? I get confused.

    My partner makes chain mail. He buys chain mail links that are colored all sorts of colors. They’re aluminum or steel, but then they’re coated in some sort of coloring.

    Maybe I’m thinking of anodizing.
     
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  8. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Annealing is a process of heating and cooling in order to get a strong, flexible atomic structure. It has nothing to do with coloring.

    Electroplating is where you use an electric current to create a current onto whatever you want to plate, which creates an atomic bond to the structure itself (where paint is help on by friction.) A penny is an example of this, pennies are actually zinc, but they have a light outer layer of copper, which has been electroplated on.
     
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  9. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice, everyone! Looking at what everyone’s said, it sounds like bluing and electroplating are the frontrunning candidates for the process used. I’ll look further into it, but if anyone has further insight I’d still greatly appreciate it!
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    You should look into a process called colour case hardening. There are also specific chemical baths on steel that can be used to bring out a specific shade of oxide coating, so it basically has to stick to the steel oxide rainbow. These coatings are't very durable, either. It's just a very thin coating of various oxides refracting light at a specific frequency. They can be protected with some sort of clear coat, but basically a wire brush or going into a scabbard too many times will wear it off.
     

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