An article yesterday in the Hamilton Spectator describes the efforts of a team in Canada to manufacture a new military medal for that country using the traditional lost-wax process.There's a lot of the 19th century in Canada's newest military medal.
The Canadian Victoria Cross is made using the same methods, awarded for the same reasons, and even uses some of the same metal that went into the British original, dating back to 1856, during the reign of its creator, Queen Victoria.
The design is virtually identical but for the addition of fleurs-de-lis and a change from the English inscription "For Valour" to the Latin "Pro Valore."
After more than 15 years in the making -- from design consultations to its final ribbon-mounting -- the medal was unveiled to the public yesterday. In the audience was metallurgist Peter Newcombe, who grew up in Flamborough and manages the research foundry at the federal CANMET materials laboratory in Ottawa -- a lab that usually develops materials and techniques for use in industry.
Newcombe was one of the core group of four, and part of a broader team of 19, who created the alloy and physically produced the medal itself, using a traditional technique called lost-wax, or investment casting, in which liquid ceramic material is poured around a wax model. After it hardens, the wax is melted, leaving a ceramic mould.
The entire process, including the recipe for the alloy that makes up the Victoria Cross, is shrouded in secrecy, meant to protect the integrity of the rare and oft-copied medal.
Original Victoria Crosses were made using metal from the cascabels of two cannon (the cascabel is the knob at the rear) captured from the Russians in the Crimean War.
The British contributed a slice of their diminishing and closely guarded supply to be incorporated into the Canadian alloy. In addition, an 1867 Confederation medal was melted into the mix. The other ingredients in the alloy are Canadian metals, primarily copper, gathered from every corner of the country.
The team made 20 Victoria Crosses in all, documenting the process in case it ever needs to be repeated. The medals and ingots of the special alloy are stored in a vault at Rideau Hall.
To read the complete article, see: Skill, history, secrecy forge military medal
Wayne Homren, Editor
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