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Pitch Bowl

I am considering buying a pitch bowl and a brick of pitch. I would use it mainly to refine the shape of a piece and not real engraving, chasing or repoussé work. I have an engravers ball and use it and thermosetting plastic to set bezels and it works well for this task. What size bowl and type of pitch should I be looking for to do general raising and manipulation work on smaller 1" - 2" pieces? thanks…Rob

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Hey Rob,
I suppose you know (?) that the Arts and Crafts movement jewelers used lead blocks or wooden forms or sandbags to dome leaves and put veins in them, etc. I don’t have a lead block (yet!) but they are easy to pour if you have some old fishing weights, etc. I do have an old leather handbag I got at a thrift to fill with play sand and I plan on getting a very large stump to mount a vise on and use for “bumping up” silver domes, etc., to use the Native American term for it. Just carve or sand or pound a cavity into the wood end grain. Nothing wrong with using a pitch bowl, but these other options are quicker for simple work, since you don’t have to heat the pitch to bed the piece or heat it again to remove it and then clean it, etc. Just some thoughts…while it isn’t chasing, when you look at what the Native Americans were able to do with simple stamping, you see it can be quite artistic…but, your father having been trained by these folks, I’m sure you know that…-royjohn

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Roy…I do have and use sand bags, lead and wooden blocks, I just want to try out a pitch bowl. I am in a tool buying mood because of the holiday sales and I need to spend some money for tax reasons. Thanks…Rob

Hi Rob,
If you make/made enough money that you need to spend some for tax purposes, you are a lucky man! I’m not in that category!
I found this article in the archives:

I suppose you know that folks do fill the bottom of their bowl with lead or plaster of paris in order to use less pitch. Or, as Lewton-Brain suggests, just slather the pitch over a flat cut on the bowling ball. I do see cast iron bowls on eBay for about $40 to $70, some with the pitch included. You’ll have to report after you use one a while…I think I might look for a bowling ball, it sounds quirky enough for me! -royjohn
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I just try to break even each year. I did read this article and am on the lookout for a bowling ball. I like the idea of being able to change the work angle. Thanks…Rob

Hi Rob…if you put the finger holes in the right spot, you’ve even got a handle of sorts…
I already have the purse for the sand, so I just have to go down to the thrift and find a
bowling ball…dunno if I can cut it as smooth as Charles’ illustration…-royjohn


Hi Rob,
I’ve found medium red pitch ( to be easy to use. It softens nicely with a heat gun and it smells like pine pitch when heated, although I still generally do the heating out in the garage rather than my studio. I have a small 4-inch pitch bowl ( from Rio Grande that works well for my purposes. It’s hefty and remains stable even when I turn it to a steep angle when I’m working on repousse. An added bonus: they are both on sale through Dec. 1.


When I decided to learn chasing and repoussé just for one project, I bought all of the supplies along with a dvd. If I knew any better I would have never bought a 6” pitch bowl. I would say you could get away with a 3” or 4” pitch bowl. That would also depend on how you secure the piece to the pitch. I know people turn down the corners and sink that into the pitch where as I mound it up in a lump and push the piece down into it allowing the pitch to fill all of the repoussé area. I work on a lump that’s at least an inch higher than the rim of the pitch bowl.
I’ve only used the red pitch from Rio. For the limited use I have no reason to not recommend it.

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Well I now have both red pitch and black pitch and proper bowls. The black pitch and pitch bowl were a gift from one of our fellow orchid posters. I bought and have read Chasing and Repousse by Nancy Megan Corwin. This is a very good book to introduce you to the art and history of chasing and repousse as well as how to make basic tools and use them. I have made some tools, but will likely buy more, and have done some practice pieces. I find both chasing and repousse to be a lot of fun. I also have a lot to learn and am in awe of many of the pieces that I see in Nancy’s book. My goal in the last two years has been to learn ways to add detail and relief to my work. To that end I started to learn filigree, engraving, chasing and repousse. Each art form is a lifetime of learning and I have already spent 47 years learning what I already know now. I guess that I better get busy. When I have something worth posting, I will. Until then, if anyone has words of wisdom and, in particular, suggestions on where to buy a basic set of chasing and repousse tools, I would appreciate it. I can make most of the tools that I need, but I already know how to do that and would like to concentrate on using them until I need a specific shaped tool that I will make. Thanks…Rob

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A couple of years ago I went searching for a basic set of tools to use in my classes. I only found one set that I considered unsuitable and many that were good in various ways (including price). I settled on Saign Charlestein’s basic set in medium size. Since then, I’ve not only found them to be good myself, but my students also like them. The price is also very reasonable.

Look up my master teacher for repousse, Valentin Yatkov. I’ve taken about 5 classes with him, a fabulous person and teacher. He is on Facebook or at He is the youngest ever to be accepted into the goldsmith guild in Bulgaria where he grew up–in his 20’s as opposed to the normal 60 year olds.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. Each time I look at the work of the people that are suggested , I am amazed at what I see done with simple tools…Rob

I have fallen in love with the chasing and repousé process. I first learned the basics from Nancy Megan Corwin in a community college workshop 10 years ago. Since then I have taken workshops from Davide Bigazzi in Menlo Park and Pian de Sco in Italy. I have also learned so much from watching experts at work on YouTube videos. There is such a variety of techniques: ways of holding the tools, sequencing of the work, etc. For me, learning through watching is very helpful. I have made many of my tools but have also purchased some very nice ones from Bill Dawson @ When I look at his website now I do not see the tools listed but if you are interested contact him directly.

About red and black pitch. There is quite a difference in density and hardness so it becomes a personal preference and depends on type of application. The red pitch seems harder to me but can be softened by heating the metal in the pitch with a hot air gun. The black pitch is versatile and easier to obtain as it is basically roofing tar with Plaster of Paris added to the right consistency. Also red pitch from Northwest Pitchworks has a much better aroma. Northwest Pitchworks has more information about different types of pitch.

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I use a mixtures of red and black pitch depending on what I’m trying to do. I have also used a giant chunk of balsa wood to to a really large piece for my neighbor’s front porch pillar.

I’m here again with some notes on pitch bowls. With the help of Davide Bigazzi I made a bowl in which to hold pitch very easily at very low cost. I took a plastic mixing bowl of the right diameter, filled it with RediMix concrete (and water as per RediMix instructions). When it was hard I broke away the plastic bowl, smoothed out the flat bottom of the bowl to round it. Then I glued an old thick leather belt in concentric rings for the base. That allowed me to position the flat surface of the bowl at any angle. “Filling” the bowl with pitch was done by creating a removable rim of copper sheet around the top of the bowl and filling that with about 1" of pitch. When that was cool I stripped off the copper and was ready to go.

For my C&R classes I purchased 8" stainless steel bowls from Ikea for around $4 apiece and filled them with concrete to 1-1/2" from the brim. Then filled the rest with pitch. For the bowl holder, I bought 7" rubber wheels from Harbor Freight and knocked out the plastic hub. The most expensive part was the pitch, but all-in-all around $20 for a filled 8" pitch bowl.

Thank you! Great idea!




i suggest also checking out Victoria Lansford’s Eastern Repousse and Chasing tools, as well as her instructional DVD or streaming video.

i also suggest checking out Saign Charlestein tools, as they are sold individually.

Saign’s tools are longer than Victoria’s

Saigns tools are sized and the tool is uniform width/ square diameter all along the kength

Victoria’s tools are also sized but the holding part is bigger/ round diameter and the tip is on a tapered end

i personally love Victoria’s set of tools.


Thank you all for the great advice. Still looking for a local source for .250" W1 tool steel. Most places are closed to walk in business due to the virus. If anyone has a good online source, let me know. The trouble is that the shipping typically cost more than the product. Thanks…Rob