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Red pitch and a bowl

I just bought some red pitch and a bowl, how do I get it into the
bowl? the pitch is in a foil container.

Dear Julie -

Wrap pitch in a sheet of newsprint, and wrap again in an old towel.
Take a mallet or hammer (not a good one!) and smack the heck out of
it. Check periodically for size of the resulting pieces; take out
those that are 1-1/2" overall or less. When done, set the pitch
aside in a sealed container - I use an old coffee can.

Though a purist would fill the bowl with pitch, I elected to fill
2/3 of the bowl with plaster of paris. If you do this, wait several
days for it to completely dry! It takes time, but saves on pitch.
When you are ready to put pitch in bowl, turn the oven on to 300
degrees F.

Make sure you have SPOUSAL UNIT APPROVAL before this next step!

Put some, but not all, pitch in the bowl…use less than you think
you will need. Better to build up slowly than to have a spill in the
oven! Your aim is to fill the bowl to within 1/8" of the rim. You
will find as the pitch gets closer to the top that the finer chunks
are better than the bigger chunks.

Check about every 10 minutes. Your oven may run hotter or coooler
than mine - adjust accordingly. You definitely don’t want the pitch
to be smoking! Some bubbling will occur, but it should not look like
it’s boiling.

When you have the pitch to the level you want, remove the bowl
carefully to a heat-resistant, flat surface. I would not leave it in
the oven to cool. Give it plenty of time before you use it! A hot
pitch bowl looks just like a cold pitch bowl.

Before you use your first time (I’m assuming you are going to be
chasing & repousse), gather these things:

old rags
denatured alcohol (not isopropyl)
wooden paint stirrer
jar of water for the paint stirrer
heat gun
old needle nose pliers

the chapstick is for coating the back of your metal before putting
it in warm pitch. If you don’t do it, a lot of pitch will come up
with the metal when you are ready to remove it.

Rags & alcohol for cleaning off the metal. When you get really good,
you won’t pull any pitch away with the metal when you release it. But
until then, you will need to be prepared to clean up.

Use the heat gun to melt the pitch slightly. don’t be in a hurry -
you don’t want the pitch to smoke or bubble. When putting the metal
in the pitch, use the heat gun on the pitch. When it’s soft enough,
just push the metal down into the pitch, and use the paint stirrer to
push the edges of the pitch over the edges of the metal. Wait until
the pitch is as hard as a cold tootsie roll before chasing or

ALWAYS assume the pitch is hot enough to burn your fingers.

To remove the metal, heat the metal, not the pitch with the heat
gun. Grab a corner of the metal with the needle nose pliers and pull
’up’ as much as possible. Don’t drag the metal through the pitch, or
too much will stick.

To flatten the pitch, prepare the surface, scoop up pitch to put on
metal for chasing support, use the paint stirrer. It must be kept
wet! If it dries out (& that happens faster than you’d think), then
the pitch will stick to it & make a mess. I’ll bet you were wondering
where that jar of water comes into play - that’s where the paint
stirrer lives when waiting to be used. Dip it frequently when moving
pitch around.

I know there’s stuff I left out, but in the interest of sending it
in a timely manner, I’ll quit now. Good luck with whatever your
project is.

Kelley Dragon

I put my pitch bowl on a buncin burner and then put the pitch in the
bowl and let it slowly heat up. The pitch slowly melted into the
bowl. I would completely remove the pitch from the foil before
putting it in the bowl. It shouldn’t take to long and you don’t
really need to get it all that hot. If you have any other questions
let me know.



Just break it up with a hammer and put about 1/2 to 3/4 of the pieces
in your pitch bowl in the oven. Add the remainder as required to
within 1/4 to 1/8 inch from the top of the bowl. I believe there is a
post on ganoksin on the correct temp to do this at. I had to look it
up the first time, and if I had to do it again, I would be in the
same boat, I know it isn’t very hot.


Hi Julie,

I just bought some red pitch and a bowl, how do I get it into the
bowl? the pitch is in a foil container. 

use a hair dryer to gently and slowly warm it. I would fill the bowl
to within a half inch of the rim with molten lead (do this outdoors
or in a fume hood) or in a worst case, use instead a mixture of
concrete/cement with chunks of steel like old nust and bolts to
increase the weight in the bowl.

Then soften the pitch with a soft heat like a hair dryer or paint
gun, and let the heat percolate through slowly until you can press
and shape it into position like clay. Do not let it get runny as that
is too hot and dangerous!!! you can dip your hands in water to shape
it and prevent it sticking to you. If you give it time and patience
the whole block becomes malleable-one of the special characteristics
of red pitch.


I break the pitch into chunks, place them in the bowl and melt slowly
in a 225 to 275 degree oven. It should take an hour or so to melt
completely. Put them on top of an aluminum foil lined baking pan.
Here’s a blog entry about it

You should get one of the few books available too, if you don’t have
one yet Marcia Lewis’s book for smaller work, Adolph Steines’ book
if you want to do medium to larger work


I haven’t followed this whole thread, but what I do is; to maintain
four pitch bowls I keep my pitch in a large slow cooker. Each bowl is
kept full to within about three-quarter inch of the top. I use a
ladle to add my pitch mix from a slow cooker (I used experience to
find the setting were the pitch is just warm enough to spoon out) to
the piece I working and if necessary to the bowl to support the
piece. Since my pitch is formulated to be a little too soft ( talc
and olive oil) to use at room temperate, I put the whole thing into
the freezer for about 30 minutes while I work on another piece.
Because I like the pitch soft formulated so I can develop fine detail
faster in 18 gauge sterling, I can only work until the pitch softens
further behind the thin layer next to the sterling that softenes
quickly and when the metal starts moving too much or the whole piece
starts moving from it’s setting in the bowl it goes back into the

I can’t say this is the best way to work with pitch, but I like it.
Working this way I sometimes use up to four bowls working for the

Daniel Culver

the chapstick is for coating the back of your metal before putting
it in warm pitch. If you don't do it, a lot of pitch will come up
with the metal when you are ready to remove it. 

I like the idea of chapstick - will try it next time I work with
pitch. But in the class I took (years ago at a community college) we
used PAM spray. It went on quickly, could be wiped down to be sure
not too much was on it, and it certainly allowed the metal to be
released quickly from the pitch with no problem.


I place the foil container of pitch inside a bag and whack it into
pieces with a raising hammer. The bag obviously breaks, but it helps
to keep most of the pitch from flinging too far.

Save a hunk of pitch to put on after what’s in the bowl is cooled.
Next I melt the rest of the chunks into the pitch bowl. Having
helped students do this many times over, I use an acetylene torch,
but if this seems scary to do the first time, you can use a heat gun
or even a hair dryer because this pitch has a very low melting temp.
You can even put it in the oven on low, but it’s a little too easy to
forget about it and make a mess.

If the pitch is SMOKING at all, it’s TOO HOT!!! (Not yelling,
just want to emphasize for safety.) Back off with the heat source,
let it cool for a few seconds. One of the best things about this
pitch is that, because of its low melting point, it does not cause
burns as severly as the dreaded black pitch.

One big mistake I often see is that people are taught to fill the
bowl level and stop. You need that lump on top to support the work
(helps even when working from the back.) Use your heat source to glue
the bottom of the saved hunk to the top of what’s in the bowl. It
will save tons of time not having to always push what’s there into
the right shape.

Have fun!
Victoria Lansford

Funny thing about the chapstick - When I took a chasing and repousse
class, the instructor sent an equipment list. I wasn’t wearing my
glasses when I read the list. I thought it said “chopstick, to help
release the item from the pitch”. I couldn’t figure out how that
would help, but hey, who am I to question the instructor?

Forturnately, I was wearing my glasses the night I packed for the
week-long class, and discovered I needed CHAPSTICK!

Even so, I still brought my chopstick, and it did help at one point.