Dwarven Ferrocerium???

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JeffCee
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Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby JeffCee » Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:16 pm

I remember reading that dwarves are particularly good at starting fires and I just read that cerium is not an uncommon metal if delved for. Considering how secretive dwarves are, it does not seem impossible they would have come across the 30% Iron/ 70% cerium recipe and kept it under wraps from the rest of Middle Earth. Thoughts?
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Harper » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:45 am

While not specifically mentioned, it is an intersting thought.

Certainly, it is in keeping with Dwarven secrecy.

I guess it depends on how rigorous you wish to be.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:21 am

Hrm... I'm not a chemist, but skimming cerium's wiki page it wasn't isolated until the 19th c., and the process utilized electricity at that. Which means unless we're also speculating dwarves had developed primitive electrical technology, I'm inclined to doubt it.

Cerium was originally isolated in the form of its oxide, which was named ceria, a term that is still used. The metal itself was too electropositive to be isolated by then-current smelting technology, a characteristic of rare-earth metals in general. After the development of electrochemistry by Humphry Davy five years later, the earths soon yielded the metals they contained.
-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerium#History



Also, I think this is approaching the question the wrong way round.

Taking a fancy to some item and then trying to create a justification is an age-old reenactor pitfall... I've fallen for it myself countless times. :(

This is especially tempting in Middle-earth, where we not only have mostly only vague references to material culture, but we also have a too-easy solution for most any desire in the magic of non-human cultures. However, going this route tends to lead to an unfocused and - I think - a fundamentally unsatisfying impression.

Rather than asking "there's this cool thing, might some non-human species have it so I can justify using it?" I think the far better approach is to ask "I need to solve this problem... what clues can I gather from the text - or failing that, real history - that might tell me how this problem would be solved in Middle-earth?"

Certainly I don't want to step on your fun - if you want to use it, by all means do so!
But I also think that if what you're after is the "walking in their bootsteps" experience of reenacting, you'll ultimately have a much more satisfying time reversing your approach.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby JeffCee » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:03 am

Elleth, You're the lore master. I'll defer to your judgement.

What about magnesium? That would also make a fire a lot easier to achieve. Do you think dwarves would reasonably find that?

And yes, while flint and steel is fun, I think I'll miss the one strike fire of my ferro rod. You got me :(
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:22 pm

For magnesium, it looks like a similar story:

Magnesium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy, an English chemist, through the electrolysis of a mixture of magnesium oxide (MgO) and mercuric oxide (HgO) in 1808.
-https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele012.html


To go further -

I think we can fairly reliably infer what the "state of the art" in Middle-earth was (tinder and flint, with "matches" of some variety for hobbits), and that hunting for justifications to use modern materials and methods is in the long run only cheating yourself of most all the self-education and personal sense of achievement that this hobby provides.

I could wear modern lugged-sole hiking boots and call them dwarven.
I could take a modern sighted recurve bow and call it elven.

... but then I wouldn't have ever learned to instinct-shoot a bow.
I wouldn't have ever felt the gentle coutours of a branch under my foot, silently feeling for a quiet path on a forest floor.

I'd have never experienced the things that make this hobby different from regular bushcraft.

Therefore, I think intentionally limiting yourself to just an iron striker, some English flint, some manner of tow and char reasonable for your persona and keeping your backup ferro rod / lighter/ whatever in a buried "just-in-case modernity pouch" will give you in the long run infinitely more satisfaction than just doing what you've always done, but calling it by a different name.

To each their own of course, but I strongly suggest just sticking to the old fashioned ways for a while until they become natural.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Iodo » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:37 pm

Elleth, I couldn't agree more and I'm certainly not suggesting anyone just uses a modern fire steel and calls it dwarven. The only reason I'm posting this now is because I'd already written almost all of it and saved it as a draft :P

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Very difficult question, first up, in a fantasy story I wrote when I was 16 (Not set in middle earth) I had a race of people who used magic to make lightening storms and harnessed it to electrolyse and isolate certain metals. Perhaps the Blue wizards could do similar :?: :P

Anyways, joking aside, I wondered if it is possible to isolate ether cerium or magnesium metal without electricity, so I dug out my chemistry textbooks and hit the internet:


Concerning cerium:

Cerium was discovered in 1803 by Jacob Berzelius and Wilhelm von Hisinger in Sweden, and independently in the same year by Martin Klaproth in Germany.

Berzelius and Hisinger discovered the new element in a rare reddish-brown mineral now known as cerite, a cerium-lanthanide silicate.

Berzelius and Hisinger prepared cerium salts from cerite and investigated their chemical reactions. Although they could not isolate the pure metal, they found that cerium had two oxidation states: one yielding colorless salts, the other yellow-red ones.

Carl G. Mosander, who worked closely with Berzelius, prepared metallic cerium in 1825. First he reacted cerium sulfide with chlorine, yielding anhydrous cerium chloride. He reduced the chloride with potassium, forming potassium chloride and metallic cerium. He burnished the resulting brown powder to obtain a gray material with a dull metallic luster – cerium, although rather impure.

https://www.chemicool.com/elements/cerium.html

So, although Mosander's cerium was impure, it would still have been pure enough for Ferrocerium.


Concerning Magnesium:

Magnesium was first isolated in 1755 by Joseph Black, using electrolysis, however, the following process is now used in industry to separate Magnesium metal from dolomite ore:

Thermal Reduction Process:
Dolomite is normally treated by the thermic method: this consists of reducing magnesium oxide, produced by calcining the dolomite raw material, with ferrosilicon to produce metallic magnesium and a calcium iron silicate slag.

Step 1: Dolomite ore is crushed and heated in a kiln to produce a mixture of magnesium and calcium oxides, a process known as calcining.

Step 2: The next step is reduction of the magnesium oxide. The reducing agent is ferrosilicon (an alloy of iron and silicon) which is made by heating sand with coke and scraps iron, and typically contains about 80% silicon.

Step 3: The oxides are mixed with crushed ferrosilicon, and made into briquettes for loading into the reactor. Alumina may also be added to reduce the melting point of the slag. The reaction is carried out at 1500 - 1800 K under very low pressure, close to vacuum. Under these conditions the magnesium is produced as a vapour which is condensed by cooling to about 1100 K in steel-lined condensers, and then removed and cast into ingots:

Step 4: The forward reaction is endothermic and the position of equilibrium is in favour of magnesium oxide. However, by removing the magnesium vapour as it is produced, the reaction goes to completion. The silica combines with calcium oxide to form the molten slag, calcium silicate.

The process gives magnesium with up to 99.99% purity, slightly higher than from the electrolytic processes.

http://metalpedia.asianmetal.com/metal/ ... tion.shtml

The only part of this that definitely can't be recreated in middle earth is the 'close to vacuum' conditions, however this is only used to reduce the temperature the reaction needs to be carried out under and reduce the energy needed, it isn't impossible at 1 atmosphere, it would just need to be hotter.


Conclusion:

Both metals are produced using electricity now for one simple reason, it's easier. That doesn't mean you can't get them without if you have the skills and equipment. The question we have to ask now is, what chemistry was available in Middle Earth?
Dwarves probably couldn't have mined as deep as they did without pyrotechnics, and since we don't know weather Tolkien intended mithril to be an existing element that we now have access to or something purely magical and unique to middle earth I won't go into that.

There are some clues in the text, the biggest one is Gandalf's fireworks:

The finest rockets ever seen:
they burst in stars of blue and green,
or after thunder golden showers
came falling like a rain of flowers.

For this I'll assume Gandalf's fireworks were created with a combination of chemistry and pyrotechnics, not magic. The main ingredient to fireworks is gunpowder (Potassium nitrate, sulfur and carbon) which is fairly easy to make, ''golden showers'' would be iron filings, also easy. However ''stars of blue and green'' isn't quite so simple. Blue is from copper (II) chloride, and green, barium (II) chloride.


Copper (II) Chloride is made in in industry now by reacting copper metal (available in middle earth) with chlorine gas. The only non-electric way to make chlorine gas is to oxidise hydrochloric acid, that reaction need's copper (II) chloride (which your trying to make and don't have yet) as a catalyst so isn't viable. There are lot's more ways to make the chemical in a lab, and only one that I think is viable in middle earth:

IMG_20180910_182929.jpg
IMG_20180910_182929.jpg (11.63 KiB) Viewed 715 times

Where copper (II) oxide is dissolved in hydrochloric acid to make copper (II) chloride and water. The only problem with this is copper (II) oxide isn't a common copper ore, fortunately it does occur naturally as a mineral called tenorite which happens to be a volcanic sublimate and would, more than likely, be found in the lonely mountain (which can only be an extinct volcano).


Barium (II) chloride is slightly more complex, given that it's a two stage reaction although it can be made straight from normal barium ore:

IMG_20180910_182920.jpg
IMG_20180910_182920.jpg (21.45 KiB) Viewed 715 times

Where Barite ore is reacted with carbon at high temperature, then the product is dissolved in hydrochloric acid.


Both the above reactions are much more simple and have fewer steps than what would be needed to produce metallic magnesium or cerium. The immediate hitch with cerium is you need chlorine gas (which could, at a push, be produced using copper (II) chloride as a catalyst since that is available) so cerium is less likely than magnesium.

In my opinion the equipment/know how to make magnesium in a lab in middle earth would be there and cerium, maybe? However that is in a lab and in small amounts. Mass-production/availability to anyone other that the very rich and privileged is unlikely.


Hope this was useful and not to in depth :mrgreen: and If any of it's wrong, feel free to correct me, It's been a while :lol:
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Taurinor » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:47 pm

Well said, Elleth (as always)!

A couple additional points:

JeffCee wrote:Considering how secretive dwarves are, it does not seem impossible they would have come across the 30% Iron/ 70% cerium recipe and kept it under wraps from the rest of Middle Earth.

Elleth did an excellent job (as always) addressing the reenactor-y side of this, but I’d like to point out that a modern ferro rod contains more than just iron and cerium (according to the all-knowing Wikipedia). To make a modern ferro rod, dwarves would also need to have isolated praseodymium, neodymium, magnesium, and lanthanum.

JeffCee wrote:And yes, while flint and steel is fun, I think I'll miss the one strike fire of my ferro rod. You got me :(

As Elleth said, you could always carry one as a modern back-up. Get one of those magnesium blocks with the ferro rod embedded in it, make a little leather pouch for it, and bung it in the bottom of your tinder bag. You'll have it if you need it, but hopefully you won't need it! I keep a pouch of modern gear on the back of my belt at all times when I'm out in the woods - first aid, modern eyeglasses (I'm incredibly nearsighted), lighter/ferro rod/matches/etc., and a space blanket or bivvy bag. I'm not too proud to admit that I have had to make use of some of those items, after making some errors with more primitive gear (but I also learned some lessons about how to use that gear).

More to the point of dwarven firemaking, it's easy to think that they might be the most technologically advanced race in Middle-earth when it comes to that, but they seem to be rather stubborn about sticking to the old-fashioned ways.
The Hobbit, Chapter VI: Out of the Frying-pan, into the Fire wrote: Gandalf, too, was lying down after doing his part in setting the fire going, since Oin and Gloin had lost their tinder-boxes. (Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet.)

They're quite good at it, though!
Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South wrote:But though they had brought wood and kindlings by the advice of Boromir, it passed the skill of Elf or even Dwarf to strike a flame that would hold amid the swirling wind or catch in the wet fuel.

Hobbits have some form of matches, but Sam chose to pack tinderboxes when he and Frodo set out from the Shire.
Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 6: The Old Forest wrote:[Sam] ran to the ponies and before long came back with two tinder-boxes and a hatchet. Quickly they gathered dry grass and leaves, and bits of bark; and made a pile of broken twigs and chopped sticks. These they heaped against the trunk on the far side of the tree from the prisoners. As soon as Sam had struck a spark into the tinder, it kindled the dry grass and a flurry of flame and smoke went up.

Again, as Elleth said, if you’re interested in sticking closely to the text for your impression, it seems like you would want to use a flint and steel as your primary firemaking method, with perhaps some matches as a Middle-earth back-up. I’ll also echo some of her other remarks - if you want to use it, by all means do so! I second her comment about what approach makes for a more satisfying experience, as well, though.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Taurinor » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:59 pm

Well done, Iodo! Your stoichiometry looks right, assuming I haven't completely repressed Gen Chem (it's been a while).

I question this premise, though:
Iodo wrote:For this I'll assume Gandalf's fireworks were created with a combination of chemistry and pyrotechnics, not magic.

Gandalf had some tricks that seem like they must have involved magic:
Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 1: A Long-expected Party wrote:The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by him, but designed and made by him; and the special effects, set pieces, and flights of rockets were let off by him. But there was also a generous distribution of squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles, elf-fountains, goblin-barkers and thunder-claps. They were all superb. The art of Gandalf improved with age.

There were rockets like a flight of scintillating birds singing with sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark smoke: their leaves opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment, and their shining branches dropped glowing flowers down upon the astonished hobbits, disappearing with a sweet scent just before they touched their upturned faces. There were fountains of butterflies that flew glittering into the trees; there were pillars of coloured fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing ships, or a phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a shower of yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes. And there was also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the hobbits exceedingly, as Gandalf intended. The lights went out. A great smoke went up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the distance, and began to glow at the summit. It spouted green and scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden dragon - not life-size, but terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his eyes glared down; there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the heads of the crowd. They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over Bywater with a deafening explosion.

The "sweet scent" of the flowers and the whizzing back and forth of the dragon indicate magic to me. It seems like some of the display could be more chemistry-based, but if there was also some magic used in the display, we can't really say what was magic and what was chemistry with certainty.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Iodo » Mon Sep 10, 2018 7:06 pm

Taurinor wrote:Well done, Iodo! Your stoichiometry looks right, assuming I haven't completely repressed Gen Chem (it's been a while).

Thank you :P

Taurinor wrote:I question this premise, though:
Iodo wrote:For this I'll assume Gandalf's fireworks were created with a combination of chemistry and pyrotechnics, not magic.

Gandalf had some tricks that seem like they must have involved magic


I agree, I hadn't had the time to find the full quote, thanks for that. A lot of it does seem like magic, I based my chemical research on the colors being chemistry and not magic but the shapes described surely couldn't be achieved with pyrotechnics.

The quote gives me some more clues though:
- Red: Strontium carbonate (Which occurs naturally but needs identifying and purifying)
- Silver: Usually magnesium (so it was available in middle earth to wizards at least)
Gimli: It's true you don't see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby JeffCee » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:08 am

This is incredible! I love how in depth you all get into investigating the question. The theoretical world building is AMAZING!!

Follow up,: did I put this in the right section of the forum? Im more investigating whats possible in Middle Earth than what I specifically plan on putting in my kit. Since several of you emphasized the reenactor aspect, I thought I may have misrepresented my intention.
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Re: Dwarven Ferrocerium???

Postby Iodo » Wed Sep 12, 2018 5:54 am

JeffCee wrote:This is incredible! I love how in depth you all get into investigating the question. The theoretical world building is AMAZING!!

Follow up,: did I put this in the right section of the forum? Im more investigating whats possible in Middle Earth than what I specifically plan on putting in my kit. Since several of you emphasized the reenactor aspect, I thought I may have misrepresented my intention.

Thank you :mrgreen:

I think you did although I'm not to good at that myself, it's still a discussion relating to hard kit
Gimli: It's true you don't see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men.
Aragorn: It's the beards.

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