40d:Make your own weapons

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Instead of buying overly expensive and lowest-quality axes (and any other metal items, like picks) at embark, you can take what you need to make your own once your dwarves are at their new site.

This is only when preparing to start a new game - later, items are not "for sale", but can be traded for if a caravan is carrying any.

Cheaper axes, etc.[edit]

Steel axes normally cost 300 points each, and copper picks 20 pts each. A copper axe would only be 20 pts as well - but they're not for sale, even though they cut trees just as fast as steel ones. (They are not as good at cutting goblins, not by half - see weapons for a comparison of different materials). So, instead of spending that much on a steel axe, you can make your own steel, iron, bronze or copper axes or picks, or any other metal items immediately, by bringing the resources needed instead and having the dwarves make them for themselves, on site. What's more, you can only buy "standard" quality weapons - a proficient weaponsmith has a good chance to produce a *superior* axe or pick, which is 60% better in combat, if it comes to that. (And it will, sooner or later... usually sooner...)

For comparison of embark-point savings, the default 1 anvil (1000 pts) and 2 standard (lowest) quality steel axes (300 each) cost 1600 points. You could, instead, take no anvil and 5* standard quality steel axes, for a cost 1500 points (5 axes x 300 pts). However, the resources required to make 5* steel axes costs well less than 1200 pts, between anvil, ore, coal and flux, and you'll end up with much higher quality axes, that each could be worth more than 1200 by itself - and that adds to your created wealth, which is another good thing. Whether the effort and time without axes/picks is worth 400+ pts is up to you. (Note that it's often a good idea to take at least 1 pick to start out with - it's only 20 pts, it serves as a weapon in emergencies, and you have one miner who starts digging now, instead of the end of the month or so.)

(* It's not recommended to start with 5 axes, either way, unless you're really expecting some serious trouble. The numbers just work well as a comparison. Taking the DIY material for, say, one, or two or three weapons, investing the rest in something else that may be hard to find later, and seeing what quality that first axe is, and maybe then later making a nice quality crossbow and some bolts may work better for you - lots of options.)

Copper, bronze or iron weapons/items are the easiest and fastest - just smelt the ore, and forge the bars into weapons. Bronze actually is a bit faster and uses less fuel for every two items, smelting one copper ore* and one cassiterite (tin) ore-stone into two bronze bars at the same time for only one fuel.

(* There are several ores that produce copper)

Bismuth bronze requires one additional step per 4 bars produced, can only produce 4 bars per cycle, and is only for added value, not for combat improvement. Bismuth Bronze cannot be smelted from ores, but only from the individual bars after they've been smelted, adding to the time and fuel required. 2 copper ores, 1 cassiterite, and 1 bismuthinite (and 5 units of fuel unless using magma) makes 4 bars of bismuth bronze, which is as deadly but 20% more valuable than regular bronze. (Which is nice, but hardly a bankbreaker. For some, it's just the satisfaction of having done it.)

Steel is the most complex, and by far the most valuable and deadly, but is nothing to be shy about - and you'll be pounding a lot of steel soon enough. It takes several more steps and some more ingredients to make steel, but might well be worth it for an axe or three, if not the picks - steel is the ultimate material short of adamantine, and you will want your axes and other weapons to be steel sooner or later.

Any of these metals can also be used to make armor or any other items in any metal-based workshop menu. Keeping a couple bars of some obscure metals or alloys around is not a bad plan for moody dwarves, either.

What to bring in your wagon[edit]

The math formulas can get awkward if combining fuel from wood (charcoal) and from bituminous coal fuel (coke) - your wagon will provide 3 wood, which is enough for at least 1 axe of copper, bronze or iron. Bituminous coal is a better buy than wood for making additional fuel, but it's not always available. We'll talk in units of wood, but replace any 2 wood with 1 bituminous coal if possible and save 3 pts. (Unless you have a magma smelter, the math for buying and processing lignite into coke fuel is the same as buying wood and turning that into charcoal fuel.)

And if you have an open magma vent, then you can build a magma smelter and magma forge, and ignore the need for a wood burner and any wood/fuel requirements (though not the fuel requirement to make steel, if that's your plan).

See fuel and smelting for more info.

So, to make your own and save the points, don't buy any axes (or other metal items as you choose) and instead buy:

  • 1 Anvil (1000 points) (This is only mentioned here because you CANNOT do this without an anvil, unless you're willing to not have axes until traders sell you an anvil late in the year - and even that is not guaranteed.)
  • 3 fire-safe stones to construct the necessary buildings* (9 points). (Bauxite is a popular choice for its other qualities. Ores are also fire-safe stones.)
  • Your wagon, when deconstructed, will provide 3 wood. This wood can be used for what is needed below.
(* The three buildings will be a wood burner, for turning wood to charcoal (a necessary high quality fuel), a smelter, for refining ore into metal, and a forge, for the shaping of the final product. Or the magma versions of the latter two.)


...for Copper or Iron weapons and tools, you will need:

  • 1 ore/item
  • 2 wood/item

...for Bronze weapons and tools, you will need:

  • 1 copper ore & 1 cassiterite ore per every 2 items
  • 3 wood per every 2 items
(Bronze bars are made in pairs only. You don't have to use both, but you have to make both.)

...for Bismuth Bronze weapons and tools, you will need:

  • 2 copper ore. 1 cassiterite ore & 1 bismuth ore per every 4 items
  • 9 wood per every 4 items
(Bismuth bronze bars are made in sets of 4 only. You don't have to use all 4, but you have to make them in sets of 4.)

...for Steel weapons and tools, you will need:

  • 2 iron ore per every 2 items.
  • 2 flux stones per every 2 items
  • 6 wood per every 2 items
(Steel bars are made in pairs only. You don't have to use both, but you have to make both.)

With any of the above, you could bring bars of metal instead of ores and some wood. This would cost more than the ores, but it would save time and some fuel by not having to smelt the ores into bars. If you do that, skip the smelting (Step 3) and go straight to forging.

You could also bring charcoal or bituminous coal instead of wood - read on those for a full discussion. Without a magma smelter, lignite is not recommended, as it is a more complicated process for the same final result as the charcoal needed to process it in the first place.

Step by Step[edit]

Step 1 - Preparation[edit]

Upon arriving at your new site, break down the wagon using q, x - the wagon's not good for anything else. Enable (at least) one of your dwarves with the Carpentry labor - untrained is fine, but this is the labor necessary for turning your wagon into the 3 wood.

Step 1.1)

You'll also need to build a wood burner, using one of the fire-safe stones (or ores) you brought. (You can easily tear it down later and recover that.) And then build a smelter, and a metalsmith's forge, in that order, but not necessarily all at once - the other steps will take a little time. (The forge especially could be delayed - you'll have time if you want to put that one inside your first digs where the final products will be safe from thieves.) You'll need both an architect and then a mason to construct the first two buildings, and any general metalsmith skill for the forge.

Step 2 - Fuel[edit]

Burn one log in the wood burner to get one charcoal for fuel. Repeat as necessary - you'll need 1 fuel for each task at a smelter or forge.

Step 2.1)

If you have bituminous coal, once you have one fuel (that first charcoal) you can then use that to smelt coal in the smelter - one coal + 1 fuel will give you 3 coke fuel*. These are identical to and interchangeable with charcoal fuel.
(* One charcoal and one coke are the same, they're both fuel for a smelter or forge, or used in the reaction to create pig iron or steel. Wood does not burn hot enough, and you can't burn raw coal (in this game), you have to smelt it first - this process is just a multiplier, saving time and wood.)

Step 3 - Smelt the Ores into bars[edit]

As soon as you have some fuel, you can then smelt your ore(s). Copper or iron ore take 1 fuel/ore; bronze takes 1 fuel/2 ores (1 copper + 1 cassiterite).

Step 3.x)

Bismuth bronze and steel are slightly more complex. Each ore for bismuth bronze must be smelted individually into bars (1 fuel/1 ore), and then those 4 bars smelted all together in one additional step with 1 more fuel to create 4 bars of bismuth bronze.
For steel, smelt 2 iron ore into 2 iron bars. Then smelt 1 pig iron bar from (1 iron bar + 1 flux stone). Finally, smelt 2 steel bars from (the other iron bar + 1 pig iron bar + 1 flux stone).
(Note - In the smelter menu, you will not see an option to make complex alloys or steel until you have all component bars available.)

Step 4 - Forge the items[edit]

Lastly, you can forge the weapons or other metal items in the metalsmith's forge, using one bar of metal and one fuel each.

Mine your own ores[edit]

If you are traveling to an area likely to have copper or iron ores (see layers), you could bring a pick (20 points) and no ore or rocks, and trust to luck to save even more points.

Because copper picks are so cheap, and smelting and forging takes a while, it's not a bad idea to take 1 pick anyway - in emergencies your miner can use it as a weapon, and they get digging shelter and storage space immediately while you are building your woodburner, smelter and forge.

Minimalist challenge build[edit]

For the hardcore survivalist dwarves only.

Start out with only

  • 1 anvil
  • 2 copper nuggets.

And figure it out from there. Real dwarves (or real DF players) won't need to peek.


The quality of a crossbow's construction affects your marksdwarves' accuracy, but the material it is made out of only affects the damage it does when the crossbow is used as a melee weapon (usually when the marksdwarf is out of bolts or otherwise in trouble). It's therefore not of great importance exactly what they're made out of initially.

Crossbows can be made quite cheaply from wood (3 points each) or from bone (left over from whatever fish you've brought along as starting food - turtle is a popular choice, for 2 points each). A bowyer's workshop is needed to make bone or wood crossbows and the crossbow-making skill is used.

If you don't want to spend skill points on crossbow-making for your initial dwarves, a copper crossbow is almost as cheap (6 points for copper nuggets + the wood/coal for fuel) but is manufactured in a metalsmith's forge and has its quality determined by the maker's weaponsmithing skill. Don't forget the bolts.