The scenario above can be salvaged, and made un-wikiable, if each player has their own unique hash/random seed/whatever, which changes how those 50 different axe combinations work for them. What may be the best combination for one player might be the weakest for another.
An interesting idea. If you made the items totally random, it might complicate balance a bit. You'd have to use equipment levels to generate stats off of or something. Otherwise you can assign randomly chosen, pregenerated stats to the weapon crafting components.
But I dunno, I think at that point all you're doing is hiding information from the player, and I'm not sure it would result in a fun game. It could result in a really boring crafting grind that the player has little interest in, because a standard crafting system is horribly boring to use.
It wouldn't be totally random though, because each component material brings inherent values to the crafting equation. It's only within the combinations of the same
materials in the same
recipe that the outcome would be unique for each player; my Bamboo Handle (1.5m) Granite Head (11cm) spear won't be the same as yours even if you copy the measurements. But it will be weaker than any build using Maple for the handle, if Maple always brings a higher value (durability, for example) to the crafting.
As for hiding information from the player until s/he discovers it: my scenario was meant to preserve the "exploration" aspect of the crafting. Yes, players would have to try various combinations of the same materials ("grind") to see their outcome.
The worry I have with most crafting systems is that the act of crafting itself is not gratifying or engaging. When it's not engaging, the urge to sit there and tinker with it is greatly diminished, and the player's patience to do so weakens. I'm way more tempted to look up crafting recipes for games than I am to use cheat codes to beat the game. Cheat codes break the gameplay design entirely and usually result in me not having fun, while crafting system are often just an impediment and not even a major part of the game design.
In a game where there's also something else that's more fun to explore this could be pretty tedious, yeah, but it's a matter of balance, and we don't know what the rest of the game looks like.
I think the act of using (and choosing) tools to craft with might be the key factor here. Allowing people to apply tools to effect the quality of an item gives it a more analogue feel rather than binary recipe's. Will have to experiment and see if that notion works.
I still don't see what tools bring to the crafting table, so to speak. It seems like an unnecessary intermediate step to me. Upgrading your work bench/workshop so you can build more complex objects is something worth looking into, but I just don't see the benefit of Select Chisel: Diamond Chisel Selected: Use Diamond Chisel to Craft Handle
over Craft Handle