Well I have some idiosycratic views of pitch bowl.
I believe a pitch bowl should be as heavy as possible, and should be
filled with lead (diving weight material will do) if you can do it.
There are serious ventilation issues and care is needed. Do only if
fumes are exhausted properly.
The shape I prefer is that of a sphere with one quarter or so taken
off the top. A bowling ball is used for it in this article at
I have seen Portugese pitch bowls in exactly this shape made from
solid granite, one might be able to use decorative balls for garden
pillars as pitch bowls.
Plaster is not a good idea as it can break up with time and work its
way up eventually getting in the way in the pitch.
I’ve used concrete (read the instructions on the bag) and while it
works I don’t find it heavy enough. With either lead or concrete I
fill the pitch bowl to within about 1 cm of the top. On never really
places metal below the rim of a pitch bowl as then you can’t get your
tools at it with a full range of movement. Instead the pitch is piled
up above the rim, and the work, if possible, mounted on a mound,
which lets you get at it from a very large range of angles.
It is dangerous to heat pitch to molten temperatures, in an oven or
elsewhere. One of the special benefits of the red pitch is that it
becomes soft and pliable at a very low, touchable temperature. Heat
also travels through it fast so you don’t have to end up with molten
material on top of still solid pitch. This means you can use a hair
dryer (or a heat gun) to soften it. I usually hit the cold pitch with
a hammer to get chunks (wear eye protection!), then place the chunks
on the top surface of the pitch bowl, warm with the heat gun, and
when it is soft press it into, and onto the top of the bowl to the
desired shape. A bowl of water to dip fingers in while doing this is
good, and traditionally fingers were not used, instead a lightly
oiled steel stake was used to push it around. Never let the pitch get
hot enough to get runny or stick to you. If it smokes or bubbles you
are WAY too hot. Safety notes:
Pitch notes at Ganoksin:
Also there are notes on pitch in Erhard Brepohl’s article at the
Here is the address for ordering Northwest Pitchworks pitch. I like
their medium one… www.northwestpitchworks.com
Mountain Gems in BC makes their own pitch as well.
Fischer has a great black pitch and my favorite for chasing a red
Some online notes on pitch (blacksmithing)
Allcraft in New York has these as well. Ask for Tevel.
Allcraft Tool and Supply
45 West 46th St New York City, NY 10036
(800) 645-7124 fax: (800) 645-7125