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Replica Kelly armour almost the real thing

8 AUGUST 2003

The delicate process of creating a replica of the armour worn by Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne, without damaging the original, is under way in Sydney.

Cameron McFarlane from Carus Imago is working with Sydney sculptor Jody Pawley to produce two exact replicas of the armour, before it goes on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

"There are plenty of replicas around which look similar to the original Kelly armour, but we believe this is the first time a replica has been directly copied from an actual original," Mr McFarlane said.

"These replicas will be exact copies in terms of shape, form, size and surface finish, though the base material is different to the metal used for the original."

The Byrne armour is being loaned to the National Museum for the Outlawed! exhibition, which opens on 27 November, and examines bushrangers, rebels and revolutionaries from across the globe.

The National Museum commissioned the replicas after loaning the armour from its owner, Rupert Hammond. The armour came to Mr Hammond through his great-grandmother, who nursed Superintendent Hare back to health after the famous 1880 Glenrowan siege.

The replica process began by making master moulds of each plate, nut and bolt. The moulds were produced with silicon rubber, rather than clay, which may have damaged the surface.

The master moulds were then used to produce accurate wax replicas showing every surface detail from the original.

Ceramic shells formed around the wax are being used to cast the bronze replicas. The first was a success, with Mr Pawley now working to remove the rough edges and finish the patina using a variety of solutions to replicate the oxidised surface of the original. The second will be cast in coming weeks.

The Outlawed! exhibition includes a display on research into the Byrne armour. Mr McFarlane's 3D imaging of the armour will be on show alongside results from nuclear testing which tentatively shows the original was probably made from plough shares in a low-temperature bush fire.

For more information please contact Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or l.coleman@nma.gov.au