A Treatise on the Properties of Steels

On the 18th Day of the 2nd Moon of this 6th Year, by the hand of ser Fez


There are few things I've wanted for myself since I awoke. The ways of metals and the forge is high amongst those few things. There are many arts and many knowledges, but the working of that which comes from the root of the world, mixing the earth of ore and charcoal, the fire of the forge, the air of the bellows and the water of the quench is something that has called to me from my first weeks in this keep.

Thus I wish to thank Master Orson for giving me the chance to stretch my knowing of these things, and the keep's own knowledge. While I hope this book is a fitting gift, as Master Orson knows, the knowing of something has to go beyond what is read in books, to what you know with your body and senses, know to your core. Thus I hope this book will inspire others to seek out the ways of metals or other mysteries entire.

- Fez

Table of Contents

  • Page 1: Foreward
  • Page 2: Table of Contents
  • Page 3: Summary and Components
  • Page 4: First Ingot- Wrought Iron
  • Pages 5-6: Second Ingot- Common Steel
  • Pages 7-8: Third Ingot- High Steel
  • Pages 9-11: Nilshi Steel
  • Page 12: White Iron
  • Page 13: Summary


This experiment was designed to test a number of properties of different alloys of iron and charcoal, with five ingots differing solely in the amount of charcoal added to the crucible in the initial melt. Each ingot was then forged, and reforged, some well over a score of times to test how different methods of heating, forging and quenching changed the temper and quality of the steel.


Each of the ingots was cast in a porcelain crucible and contained:

  • 1 pound of raw iron ore
  • 2 ounces of meteoric iron
  • A small hand of fresh green leaves
  • 2 ounces of glass
  • Varying amounts of charcoal, with one crucible having no charcoal added

The meteoric iron seems to have slight amounts of other substances, or impurities, but what specifically would be for another study. The green leaves are to compliment the charcoal which add the element of life to the metal so it can grow through forgings. The glass forms a slag on top of the still molten ingot, protecting it against the spirits of the air while the metal is in liquid form. It is removed when the ingot is cooled. The charcoal comes from oak wood, and provides the template of life for the steel along with the essence of fire, no wonder we see wood-like grain patterns in some of the ingots.

Once the components were added to the crucibles, the crucibles were placed in the furnace and the fire raised to 1800 degrees for half a bell. The crucibles were then allowed to slowly furnace cool until the ingots could be safely removed, and their shell of glass on the surface removed.

Testing of the ingots includes:

  • Hardness, using a steel file to see how much pressure it takes to 'bite' into the ingot.
  • Ductility, striking the ingot with the side of a hammer's head when cooled to see if a mark or dent is left in the ingot, or perhaps it chips instead
  • Surface structure, Visually inspecting the surface of the ingot, by eye and with a lens, after washing it wish acid
  • Forging and reforging the ingots at different temperatures and different speeds of cooling

First Ingot: Wrought Iron

The first ingot is by far the simplest, and likely the most familiar to any who have worked iron. No charcoal was added to the crucible in the initial melt.

Wrought iron is more malleable and less brittle than any of the steels. However, while looking at it closely with one of Master Orson's lenses, a slight grain can be seen, likely from the leaves added to the crucible, not enough of life was added for the iron to grow in character through repeated forgings.

Slow heating versus fast heating, and slow cooling versus fast quenching did not impact its properties significantly.

The only way to significantly impact its strength, was the rather laborious process of cold forging. That is, working the ingot when it cool, and hot red from the forge. Cold hammering the ingot was a very slow process, but given iron was barely malleable, it was possible without shattering. The result seemed to compress the grains mentioned earlier, resulting in a slightly harder and more brittle iron. Still, it was both softer and more ductile than a sofest steel ingot.

The iron ingot is the purest alloy of fire and earth elements. There is little of the more complex life in wood, or need for quenching of water, in its essence.

Composition: Standard components, no oak charcoal

Second Ingot: Simple Steel

The second ingot will likely also be familiar to those who've tended the steel used in the keep. Containing oak charcoal in the weight of half an ounce, it is reasonably hard, reasonably ductile, and is a well workable form of steel, not prone to shattering and taking a temper with a good quench.

This type of steel hungers to be forged. If heated to red heat in the furnace, then let cool beside the fire without being worked, or furnace cooled, it results in a steel which is weaker than it could be, though slightly more ductile. In fact, a common result that was found on each ingot is that in general increasing hardness also increases brittleness, with the reverse being true as well. There are exceptions though which will be discussed.

In order extract the best effect from this form of steel, the following process is ideally employed. The steel should be heated to shy of white heat, and forged with vigor upon a surface to help it cool more rapidly. It should then be fulled quenched. For the quench, I simply used water, though it may be that more exotic quenches can have an effect. Again a study for a second day.

Second Ingot: Simple Steel

This is for the first forging. This will give you a steel which is of good hardness, but still a bit brittle. To endow it with the qualities needed for a blade or otherwise, it is necessary to temper the blade.

Tempering the blade means returning it to the furnace at a much lower temperature. The goal should be to raise it to between 350 and 400 degrees. The longer you allow the ingot to sit within the fire, the less brittle it becomes, though with some loss of hardness. This is also visible in the surface of the metal when viewed through a lens. Below are sketches of the surface of the ingot when close viewed after an acid bath. The image on the left is of the ingot when fresh quenched and washed. The second is after a tempering of half a bell. The rightmost is after a tempering of a full bell.

The degree of temper imbued in an item would likely be based upon its purpose and the stresses intended to be placed upon it.

Composition: Standard components, half ounce of oak charcoal

Third Ingot: High Steel

The third ingot is likely the most generally useful discovery of the study. I have termed it high steel, and once worked, it is a steel which is harder than that generally used in the keep, and only moderately more brittle.

This ingot had one ounce of the oaken charcoal added to the eighteen ounces of iron and meteoric iron. When first taken from the crucible, it was already noticeably harder than the stock steel ingot. It was also substantially more brittle. Twice I needed to remelt it due to it shattering, once during early forging, and once while testing its ductility when cool.

The greater amount of charcoal, and thus essence of life in this ingot, imbued it with some of the more temperamental traits that are associated with steel of this kind. I can only thank the essences in the meteoric iron for helping tame those tendencies once I found how to treat it.

Third Ingot: High Steel

The high steel ingot likes to be worked at a higher temperature than the common steel. Often I'd simply put the ingot back into the furnace till it began to shine. Rather than long forgings, it was best worked with numerous small ones, and then quenched with the fire was still showing itself. This trapped the fire in the steel itself, with small iridescent, or pearl-like bands that I named Orsonium.

I've sketched the orsonium bands below. Please note, that repeated forgings and quenchings did not further emphasize these bands. They are quite fine and subtle, their patterns and pearl-like nature only noticeable under lens. In this regard, a single forging and quenching being needed to bring them out, they are quite different from the next steel ingot.

The orsonium seems to help with the ductility of the final steel. While still needing a bit more attention than common steel when forging, the high steel is still quite reasonable to work, and provides a substantially harder steel that is not much more brittle than common steel.

Composition: Standard components, one ounce of oak charcoal

Fourth Ingot: Nilshi Steel

This ingot, now fashioned into a knife, is the most dramatic of the new steels, though not nearly of as much general utility as the high steel. Into the crucible with the other materials it had added two ounces of oaken charcoal.

As is obvious, even with the bare eye, complex bands, like waves or a maze interweave along the surface of this steel. It is beautiful in its patterns, and unlike other metals, a regal steel.

Nilshi, which is Teanga for Bertram, is named for more than being a handsome steel however. It is also dramatically harder than the common or even high steel, with the steel file having hard job biting into the surface.

Despite this, I despaired at first finding anything to do with this ingot when I first began testing it. Fresh from the melt, this ingot was defiant to the touch of man and hammer. Work it when hot? It shattered. Work it when cold? It shattered. Quench it? It shattered. Whatever spark of life and stubborness the charcoal added to high steel, doubling the charcoal more than doubled its difficulty to work.

Fourth Ingot: Nilshi Steel

In addition, the patterns that develop in a properly forged piece of nilshi steel do not appear immediately, or even soon. It was only after long practice learning to work the ingot, that slowly I noticed the patterned banding of the steel emerge.

The secrets to working nilshi steel are simple. Patience, Patience and more Patience. First, the ingot must be worked similar to high steel. A hot temperature. However, not too hot, or the bands will never form. It seems best to work it below 1550 degrees. Too cool, and the metal will chip under the hammer. And before you quench, let the ingot cool beside the furnace a time before, perhaps to 1400 degrees, else you risk shattering your work.

After perhaps eight cycles of forging, I noticed a slight patterning on the surface of the ingot begin. With each successive forging, the patterns became more pronounced. The ingot used in this study was forged over two dozen times, in comparison to some of the other ingots which only needed to be forged half a dozen times to be flattened to the same dimensions.

Fourth Ingot: Nilshi Steel

The banding seems to be of the same orsonium in the high steel, but much more pronounced, with the light and dark elements interwoven. If the keep's spirit spoke correct, and it is in the meeting of light and dark that true life exists, then nilshi steel is like to a living being. Truth, it needs as much attention as a new awoken being trained. However, like a new awoken, if you spend the time to teach your ingot, you have a sure and unrivaled companion.

The nilshi steel ingot is hard, it is flexible and able to bend to a degree without breaking that the other steels are not, it is a much tougher than the raw ingot before the banding develops. It even has a song, and when struck while testing its brittleness will sing with a pure tone.

Below is a sketch of the bands on a section of the ingot using a lens:

Composition: Standard components, two ounces of oak charcoal

Fifth Ingot: White Iron

This is perhaps a lesson in temperance. Adding more charcoal tends lead to a harder steel but more brittle, in the absence of any special forging or tempering at least. White Iron is a reminder that everything can be taken to excess. This ingot had four ounces of oak charcoal added to the crucible, twice that of nilshi steel.

Possessing the worst traits of both iron and steel, the white iron is both soft and brittle.

I'm not certain exactly what purposes it is good for. The only thing I noted of use for this ingot is that it has a lower melting point than the pure iron. Perhaps it can be used for casting or molds, as opposed to situations where you wish to work metal by hand.


To The properties of wrought iron and common steel are likely well understood by the artisans and crafters of the keep. Hopefully this will provide a bit of insight for the Collegium as well, and inspiration for further studies.

The high steel and nilshi steel seem to be new things for the keep. The high steel is nearly as easy to work as common, and may or perhaps may not require the meteoric iron. It is quite possible, there are some examples of high steel being in use in the keep already. Of the different ingots though, this seems to be of the most use in future projects, where a stronger steel might be required. I believe the techniques to work should prove of use.

The nilshi steel is I believe something new. The banding which grew in the nilshi steel, like the rings of a sapling, lent it flexibility and ductility far beyond the raw ingot. The charcoal lent it the strength of life. I believe it was the meteoric iron however which allowed these different elements to come together. Nilshi steel is an unparalleled alloy. Perhaps it is surpassed by skymetal, but by nothing else I've been able to test it against. However, it will never be a common metal due to the extreme effort it takes to craft, more than four times as much as any other ingot.

The white iron is something I have no idea on yet, but hopefully future experiments, either mine or others will unearth uses for it.

To all students of metals, and other disciplines, I hope this has been of value to you.


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