The Art of Crafting: Tempers and Tannins


Today’s lesson is about the tempers and tannins used by armorers and weaponsmiths. As you have noticed while hiding from the nightwatch in your father’s armory, each race has its own style of arms and armor: for example, Redguard swords are curved, while Dunmeri leathers are smoky blue. These different styles are achieved by the use of tempers and tannins.

Tempers and tannins are used by the crafter to balance hardness and resilience in armor and weapons. A hardened sword can hold a sharper edge, but might shatter when struck. A flexible blade will bend rather than break but cannot hold much of an edge. Thus weaponsmiths use tempters in their quenching troughs to strike a balance between the two.

Likewise a leather chestpiece can be treated to be as rigid as a board, able to turn an assassin’s knife — but if it is too rigid, the wearer is unable to turn his body. Thus, armorers use tannins on leathers and fabrics to strike a balance between stiffness and flexibility.

What does this have to do with the look of a Redguard sword or Dunmeri leather? If only you had asked that question in your lessons rather than daydreaming about impressing the scullery maid with that wisp of a mustache.

The tempers and tannins used by each race also imbue them with basic properties that are characteristic of the race’s gear. The flexibility that must be forge into the curve Redguard swords is achieved by adding Yokudan sands to the smith’s quenching trough. Likewise the distinctive bluish sheen of Dunmeri leather is achieved by using Volcanic Ash-based tannin.

The only race that does not employ tempers and tannins is the Argonian. Culturally they cling to their ancient methods of crafting armor and weapons. Before they were enslaved by the Dark Elves, Argonians used flints and feathers to enhance their obsidian axes and padded armors, rather than metals and leathers. When the first Argonian flint axe shattered on the iron breastplate of a Dunmeri warrior, they started to change. Their adoption of modern methods came too late to stop the enslavement of their race, by change they eventually did.

Argonian weapons and armor now use traditional metals, leathers and cloth as their bases. But Argonian smiths decorate them with ancient materials, such as flints and feathers, to honor their ancestors. The Wood Elves of Valenwood also decorate their armor with bone for the same reason, but they have always used iron and other metals in their weapons and armor, which explains why their tribes avoid the enslavement visited on the Lizard-Folk. 

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