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Please let me introduce myself to the list.I am a metalsmith whom
primarly works in sheet metals,primarly in sterling as well as
fine silver.My name is Helen M. Berry,I am also an active member
in a local gallery,as well as the Jewelry Chairperson responsible
for setting the Jewlers to be featured in our gallery. The
question I have is in regards to Pre-made pitch from a local
supplier. This pitch is differnt than what I have used in the
past.It is a very solid pitch that has little give unless it is
first heated.I am wondering if it would be advisible to heat the
pitch with my torch so I may sink my pieces to be worked into this
pitch? I am a bit concerened that this may be a dangerous way to
start.Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thank you for
your input. With kind regards.

Helen M. Berry

hi helen,

what type of pitch is it? the pitch i’ve used is made by a lady
in the northwest. if the pitch has been standing fo awhile it
has to heated a little (without burning it) with the torch and
then wait till it is only slightly warm or cooler to the touch.

best regards,

geo fox

Saw your question on the Orchid Digest #194. I have done some
pitch work (it’s really my favorite process, I own six pitch
bowls). Anyway, the best pitch I have found is the stuff sold by
Gesswein. I studied under Joe Girtner( the greatest).

The Gertner method If you are starting with
a standard pitch bowl, the 5" in diameter, cast iron variety.
Melt into the bowl enough automotive wheel weights to be about
one inch from the bowl rim. Over a low fire with a metal pot,
melt one and a half pounds of “BURGUNDY” pitch that you broke
into small chunks. STIR< STIR<STIR. When the hot pitch is fluid,
stir in a paper-cup full (16 ounces) of plaster of Paris.
STIR>STIR> and STIR some more. When thoroughly mixed, cut in a
tablespoon of lard and STIR some more.

The amount of pitch prepared exceeds the amount of pitch needed
to fill the bowl so here is the plan.

Be sure the deep sink you filled with cold water before you
started all of this is still full of water.

Did I tell you to tape some heavy foil around the edge of the
pitch bowl? About 1 1/2 inches will do. Oil the inside that is
to come in contact with the pitch.

I hope you are being very careful all this time.

Pour the HOT pitch into the bowl so it is higher than the rim and
kept in place by the aluminum foil.

Put the whole mess into the cold water in the sink. The pitch
will start to wander around and want to run off the crest.
Since you can now mold it under the water, keep shaping the
pitch until it solidifies, maybe up to 10 minutes of continuous
forming. When the pitch is SOLID remove, dry and peel of the
greasy aluminum foil. The finished unit should look like a
bowling ball, a full sphere, half iron, half pitch.

“Good” pitch will keep this shape and not flow off the bowl. This
is a Japanese style pitch bowl. To use it, heat the pitch with a
Black and Decker Heat gun, about $20.00 and guaranteed for two
years When the pitch is hot, attach the work piece and have a go.
I only use torch to remove the repousse piece from the pitch if
it hasn’t already sprung loose during the hammer work. I also use
the torch to burn the stuck-on pitch to a white ash then anneal.
The pickle is not affected by the burnt pitch ash. In using the
torch to remove the work piece, a small, very sharp flame
is played on one corner of the silver an the flame is allowed to
heat the entire piece so it can be lifted off without disturbing
the underlying shape in the pitch.

The above describes a medium pitch bowl. The books will describe
redoing the pitch in summer and again in winter so it is always a
reasonably soft medium. Melting the pitch out of the bowl twice
a year for reformulation got to be a pain in the bowl so I set up
different bowls for different things.

The plaster gives the pitch body, the amount of lard determines
the hardness of the pot. Initial work should be done on a soft
support and final finishing on a relatively hard support. The
soft and a big hammer allows deeper impressions into the work.

Remember that when the metal won’t move or starts to ring,
anneal. Some of my pieces required as many as thirty

After your done working you can always reshape the pitch to the
spherical shape for the next time use.

Sorry to be so long winded and jumbled. You touched a favorite
bone. I also make my own tools and hammers too.

Ginkgo Designs

 what type of pitch is it? the pitch i've used is made by a
lady in the northwest. if the pitch has been standing fo awhile
it has to heated a little (without burning it) with the torch
and then wait till it is only slightly warm or cooler to the

The pitch I got came in a small can. I used an electric frying
pan (on highest setting) to melt the stuff and then pour it into
the pitch bowl. It melted, and when it cooled it was rather hard
and very shiny. I’ve heard that I can use a torch on it to
flatten out parts which get dented or grooved. I assume I can
take the metal pitch-bowl and put it back on my electric fry pan,
heat it up until the pitch softens and wait for it to settle to
an even position again . . …

Regarding the heating of pitch - we use a heat gun(like a heavy
duty hair dryer)instead of the torch as then there is no worry
about burning the pitch. You only need to heat the surface to
get the surface to flow level by gravity, or to get a flat piece
to stick. If you need it softened deeper into the mass, just
heat for a longer period of time and the heat will conduct down
into it. If you wish to do some deep relief on your chasing, you
will want the pitch soft(warm)more than just on the surface. Hard
chasers pitch at room temperature is very brittle - does not
want to allow you to move metal on it and your piece will tend to
crack loose more easily. We always use it warm.

We have had better results with the pitch from Northwest
Pitchworks than from the regular supply catalogs. It can be
ordered in a variety of hardnesses and is, I believe, a rosin
instead of a petroleum product.

I know the owner of this company, but dont work for her. She is
a metalsmith herself who does a lot of chasing and developed this
pitch to answer her own needs. Phone: 206-525-4136


 We have had better results with the pitch from Northwest
Pitchworks than from the regular supply catalogs. >>

Me too! and I understand that it is much less toxic as well…



Thank you for you post on the use of a heat gun for warming
pitch. What a great idea! Also, I would like to second the use
of pitch from Northwest Pitchworks. It is really great to work

Laura H.

Hey all: I don’t surpose someone found out a pitch recipe did they?
Would be of great help. Krystina Santiago de Chile

I don’t have a recipe but I do like the stuff from Seattle
Pitchworks. It sure beats that old black stuff, at least the kind that
I had.

Marilyn Smith

Another VERY GOOD pitch, especially for chasing/repousse is the Red
German pitch, currently available through Allcraft in New York. It is
hard enough to support the metal while you do chasing, and soft
enough for repousse. For deeper rpousse work you should definitely use
the medium, or soft grade of the Seattle pitch. STAY AWAY from the
black stuff. It is very toxic, a poor heat conductor and burns your
skin severely in contact.
Valentin Yotkov