BAMS – Medal project – Filing/polishing

The first part in the long process of now taking these rough bronze medals and bringing them up to a finished standard, is to clean up the edges. I did this using a gas powered rotary file, which while effective in filing the medal resulted in covering me with small bronze shavings, which were unfortunately extremely itchy. Perks of the job.

rotary file






Although these are now much tidier, the edges are far from done with and will need a lot more filing and polishing in order to make them perfectly smooth and round. One of the problems that I had was a slight dent in the top of the female hand medal where the surface had not fully formed

female hand and male hand medals

female hand (left) with dent at top

This meant that I had to file the entire edge down to the lowest point of the dent, making it significantly smaller and less of a perfect circle. Hopefully I will be able to make it more accurate later, but it is frustrating to have such an obvious imperfection which so strongly effects the form of the medal. This now means that the female hand medal is noticeably smaller than the male medal, meaning I will likely end up having to file that one down to the same size which means I could potentially end up with two medals which are no longer circular.


pair of medals with filed edges, left female medal is now noticeably not a perfect circle

Another frustrating point, is that the male hand medal is not perfect in it’s edge either, as it gets extremely thin where the base meets the fingers, rather than a consistent thickness the whole way around. I think this is a problem that developed with the original waxes rather than in the bronze pouring process, as I had trouble pushing the thinner female imprint onto the back of the male hand evenly, but I think it is easy not to notice the weight of these small faults until they are given true substance in the final outcome. While I knew that the waxes were imperfect, I had spent so much of my time trying (and failing) to make the “perfect waxes” that it was a matter of compromising on using the best ones I had otherwise I wouldn’t get the process finished in time for submission. While I can look back and see all the failures I have made as justified, it nonetheless is frustrating to see these imperfections in the bronze when there is little to nothing to be done about them, and they are so close to being the ideal image of them that I held in my mind.

I also spent a lot of time trying to file the back surfaces of the medal by hand using a hand file. It is important to me that the surface of the medals (aside from the imprints on the back and the hands on the front) are perfectly smooth, because I want them to give a clear contrast between the perfect surface and then the imperfect human element. Not only this, but I think a perfectly smooth, high polish surface gives an object a professional quality which is something I strive for in my work. I would have liked to use the hand belt sander, which would have saved me a lot of time and energy, but unfortunately there were no sanding belts for it, and the delivery of new ones had gone missing. This left me with no choice but to file by hand


back of male medal, female imprint



back of female medal, male imprint


left male hand medal, right female hand medal

They are both reasonably flat and I’m beginning to smooth out some of the marks on the surface, but as with everything else, far from finished. Ideally we’ll be able to get some more sanding belts soon, otherwise I’m going to be filing by hand for a very long time.


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