Simple embossing on lead blocks or sandbags?

I’m interested in creating pieces which are an homage to simple Arts
and Crafts designs such as those shown in the old book, Jewelry
Making and Design
by Rose and Cirino. Many of these pieces have
interlaced patterns that are modernized versions of celtic knots
(cf. Liberty & Co.) and leaves and vines are also common motifs. Rose
and Cirino discuss using sand bags and lead blocks for small, simple
embossed leaves and flowers. The patterns seem too simple to justify
the use of a pitch bowl and I wonder how some of the experts here
would make these leaves, flowers and abstract interlaced patterns.
I’m leaning towards using a sandbag, but could also see pouring a
lead block out of fishing weights. Or is it best to go whole hog and
use a pitch bowl for these even though they would be small and
quick? Anyone have an opinion? Just try out various methods and see
what works best?

My two cents: You have your answer with your last question. Having
used all three methods for various designs has taught me that each
has it’s own benefits, and problems. Getting yourself set up to do
any or all three is not outrageously expensive, so why not just
slowly collect all the necessaries for each. You have already
mentioned making your own lead block, others can chime in, but I
think you can find lead scrap that can easily be melted into a
block. Just do it safely (outside, or with good exhaust), and it can
cost almost nothing. I made a large selection of sandbags using old
Levi legs. From the knee down doesn’t receive much wear, and can make
great bags. A quality leather bag is not too expensive even buying
from a supply house. Lots of formulas out there for pitch, the cast
iron bowl is the expense there, and even these can be replaced by a
variety of different receptacles. The chasing tools are the same
(more or less) from one to the other. It is lots of fun, instant
gratification! Good luck, Thomas III

Lots of formulas out there for pitch, the cast iron bowl is the
expense there, and even these can be replaced by a variety of
different receptacles. 

I went to a company specializing in large plumbing parts for utility
companies. When I explained why I wanted the weld-on caps for 8- to
10-inch pipe, he got this smile on his face, and took me over to a
pile in a corner of the warehouse. There were a number of these caps
that couldn’t be sold because they were heavily rusted. Five dollars
each. I bought two. I had to take them to the shop and flame cut an
inch or so off their length, but they have served me well for several
years. They are a bit more shallow than the hemispherical pitch
bowls, but that has caused me no problem. A shop near me had a coil
of wire intended for making springs on agricultural equipment. As it
was high-carbon steel and a quarter of an inch in diameter, I
obtained about three feet of that for chasing tools.

I’m almost out, so will have to see if they have any of that left!

You can also use balsa wood and tin.

Jo Haemer

A while back Hanuman posted this short photo tutorial that I
prepared showing how I would shape a copper leaf using a lead block.
These photos and methods may answer your question Roy Kersey. I also
use a lead block when shaping my flower bloom petals, I use shaping
hammers and chasing punches.


Peace and good health to all.
James Miller FIPG

Scrap automobile engine cylinder valves can be transformed into
chasing hammers. The handles are fashioned out of guava tree


If you want a quality leather bag that doesn’t cost much, check out
thrift stores - handbag section. Look for a ‘clutch’ with a zipper
closer. You may have to rip out an inner zipper or just know that
little lump is there. Fill with coarse sand to your satisfaction, and
zip shut. (I actually sewed up the zippered end to stop leakage, but
then I have a heavy-duty sewing machine.) Pretty inexpensive.

Judy in Kansas, who has made lots of strawberry jam.