I've been playing a lot of the new Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom game since it came out, and the weapon fusion system gave me some really good ideas for how to improve Minecraft's crafting system for weapons, armor, and tools.
Basically, you can craft certain materials (like sticks and iron ingots) into bases for the weapon or tool - hilts, staffs, or long staffs, depending on how many of them you use. There'd be a new table like the stonecutter (I'm thinking "Forging Table" because Smithing Table is already a thing) to show you all the products you can make for what you put in. The material you use for the base would contribute to the durability and enchantability as well as potentially add buffs to the weapon or tool.
These bases (hilts, staffs, and long staffs) can then be combined with a weapon blade or tool head, which you can also make on the forging table. The amount of materials you use determines what blade or head you get. For example, if you put in one material you get a short blade or shovel head. For two you get a sword blade or hoe head. For three you get a pickaxe head, axe head, or long blade, and so on. The type of material you use for the blade or head also contributes to the durability and enchantability of the weapon or tool as well as adding certain buffs.
The freedom comes from being able to combine different bases with different blades or heads to get different practical results. You can combine a golden hilt with a diamond short blade to get a diamond dagger, for example, which has boosted attack power because gold has a special buff that increases attack power for gem-bladed weapons. In the inventory the base and blade/head materials would be listed below the weapon if you hover over it, along with any buffs it has.
With this mod you'd be able to create not just the basic Minecraft weapons but also new weapons like spears, double-bladed axes, hammers, and scythes. They keep the vanilla feel and all have unique abilities that give more options to the player. This mod is all about giving players more options for their own experience and creativity while keeping the vanilla feel.
You can also use different materials for bows for different durabilities, enchantabilities, attack power, and buffs. You can even change out the string for chains to get steel string bows which take longer to draw but aim much farther.
I've also added tipped arrows which are arrows combined with materials, like iron or diamond-tipped arrows. They increase attack damage.
The beautiful thing is that if you don't want to get into all this stuff and would rather keep playing the same old way, you can! You can still craft basic weapons and tools the same exact way on the crafting table because the new fancy way doesn't actually change the amount of materials needed. You get a choice that way.
There's more too! I've balanced the armors to give them all unique buffs when wearing full sets and tweaked their durabilities so that the progression isn't so bland. Instead of one armor being objectively better in every way, they now pose a choice to the player so they can match their playstyle. For example, full leather armor gives you increased movement speed in the air and full copper armor gives you haste with tools.
I've fleshed out these ideas in a straightforward manner in a Google Doc. I could very easily see these concepts implemented into Minecraft without breaking the vanilla feel at all, and they would give players so many more options and freedom for what weapons, tools, and armor they can use. They also allow the player to progress more organically and solve balancing issues with the different materials used. I believe this mod has a lot of potential and I'd appreciate it if you'd check it out and tell me what you think.
The link is attached below. The "Better Combat Controls" and "Other Ideas" are just in the brainstorming phase and wouldn't probably be in the potential mod. I don't have an idea for a name that's catchy yet, if you have an idea I'd love to hear it.
I could also attempt to make art for the different weapon and tool types if this gains traction and people would want to see them. They would look vanilla and fit in well.