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Dwarf Fortress – What to Do With Shells

Dwarf Fortress - What to Do With Shells

One common but minor problem in Dwarf Fortress is figuring out what to do with shells. Regardless of whether you’re playing the Steam version for the first time or you’ve played in the past, this issue can hit everyone. This is because it’s connected to one of the most popular sources of food, fishing. Fortunately, we can turn your endless supply of shells into something valuable.

Even if you only have a couple of dwarves fishing, you’re bound to end up with more shells than you can ever think to use. Your fisherdwarves can get shells from a number of different aquatic beings. For example, mussels, turtles, oysters, and even giant snails will give them when harvested at a Fishery.

What to Do With Shells in Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress - Endless Mussel Shells in Stockpile

Even though they can take up a lot of stockpile space, they won’t prevent a barrel or bin from being on the same tile.

The cool thing about figuring out what to do with shells is that there are a lot of choices. You likely just haven’t noticed how to utilize them quite yet. This is where you can get creative if you’re looking to make your dwarves a bit happier or give them a weak source of armor. Or perhaps you’re looking for a way to make some money for trading.

Regardless of what you need, you can find something to do with shells. Fortunately, all you need to start making useful products is to build a Craftsdwarf’s Workshop. This is a common workshop early on since you can use it to make a wide variety of items. Such as jewelry, toys, weapons, and all sorts of crafts.

Dwarf Fortress - Creating Large Mussel Shell Gem Work Order

A Craftsdwarf’s Workshop can be a decent source of money when you’re overflowing with certain resources.

Once you have a Craftsdwarf’s Workshop, head over to the shell menu under the Tasks tab to look at what you can make. My recommendation is building some basic shell armor if you haven’t started making metal armor for your military yet. While you won’t want to keep them in shell armor forever, it’s something to start with.

Afterward, I recommend using Work Orders to produce Large Shell Gems. You can later sell these gems to a trader caravan or even use them to decorate your fortress for some extra happiness. With that said, here are the many different tasks you can order your dwarves to do at a Craftsdwarf Workshop for shells:

  • Decorate with shell
  • Make large shell gem
  • Make amulet
  • Make bracelet
  • Make crafts
  • Make crown
  • Make earring
  • Make figurine
  • Make gauntlet
  • Make helm
  • Make leggings
  • Make ring

How to Use Work Orders in Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress - Work Orders Screen For Automation

Once you start using Work Orders in your colony, you’ll need to get set someone as the manager under Nobles and Administration.

If you don’t have a good idea of how Work Orders function in Dwarf Fortress, here are some quick tips for those of you on the Steam version. When you first start playing Dwarf Fortress, it isn’t too bad manually deciding what every workshop produces. However, once you get deep into a run, you’ll need automation to prevent yourself from going crazy.

This is why Work Orders are easily one of your best friends in creating a well-oiled machine of a fortress. You can either access the Work Orders tab at a specific workshop or press the “O” hotkey to open up all Work Orders. Under this menu, you can tell your dwarves to produce something a number of times and they’ll get it done if they have the resources.

Dwarf Fortress - Make Large Mussel Shell Gems Work Order

I always like to take advantage of the suggested conditions near the bottom when tweaking how a Work Order functions.

The nice part of the “O” hotkey menu is if you have multiple workshops of the same type, both will fill the order. Once you have a Work Order, you can decide the amount made, how often it should be made, and other useful options as well. Such as making five Wooden Beds once your stockpile falls below five. Or sheering three animals yearly.

In the case of shells specifically, you’ll probably want to set something like producing Large Shell Gems as long as you have more than 30 shells/unrotten shell body parts. This will keep making them until you’re below 30 shells so you never have to manually tinker with it.

Dwarf Fortress - Stockpile of Large Mussel Shell Gems

As your Craftsdwarves get better at crafting, they’ll produce better quality gems and accessories as well. This leads to happier dwarves and more valuable items to sell.

That’s all there is to this Dwarf Fortress guide on what to do with shells. Make sure to craft some jewelry and accessories that your fortress will appreciate! Even though this guide is mainly based on the Steam version, I’m sure some information is still applicable to the classic version as well.