Nancy L T Hamilton

How to get the pitch into the pitch bowl

If You Dont Want to Bother Putting Pitch into a Pitch Pot

Pitch is a product made with either organic resin or, a petroleum based product, asphaltum. Then, either brick dust, plaster of paris, fine clay, sand, tallow or wax is added to create strength and resilience. There are a bunch of commercial pitches available.  You can make your own but, it is a dangerous, messy job.  Starting out, it would behoove you to start with a commercial pitch.

Pitch comes in Soft, Medium and Hard each has its own particular usage.  Soft pitch melts at low temperatures and is great for filling hollowware as it is easy to pour.  As expected, soft pitch yields more and is more responsive to the forces of the tools and is great for deep forming.  Although, soft pitch is too soft for chasing and planishing. Medium pitch is a good all around pitch.  It gives enough to form deep repoussed areas and is firm enough to chase on.  Hard pitch is useful for detailed work using engraving or chiseling tools and for planishing .

Pitch needs to be warmed to hold onto the metal.

This is generally done with either a torch or a heat gun.  Care must be taken to not burn or let the pitch catch on fire.  This burns out parts of the mixture, making the pitch no longer pitch.  Also, the fumes are eye and lung irritants and arent good for you.  When working with pitch and heat, be sure to

.  If you dont have adequate ventilation, go outside and warm the pitch.  If you can smell it, your ventilation isnt good enough.

While the pitch is warm, the metal is placed into it.

Then the pitch is allowed to cool. If you are doing repousse work, the pitch needs to be cooled but not hard.  For chasing work you want the pitch hard so that your chased lines remain crisp.  If your room is too warm, you can place the pitch bowl in the refrigerator or outside, if its cold.

When working, keep the pitch bowl at about chest height.

The pitch will catch and hold any dust or cat fur that is floating around.  Also,

when storing them eventually, they will sink into each other and good luck then!

, when not in use fluctuating temperatures can cause the pitch to spill out of the bowl.

A pitch bowl needs some sort of base to hold the bowl, absorb hammer blows and to facilitate the various angles that the pitch bowl will need to be in.  Bases can be made of rubber, leather, felt, small tires or even a sand bag.sells a loaded pitch bowl that sits on a little tire.

Before placing your metal in the pitch,

grab your pliers and bend down the corners

but, if you are working with scrap, often there arent clear cut corners.  Try to bend at least three areas down.

The bends are anchors for the pitch to hold onto.

If you dont make anchor bends, the metal will lift from the pitch and the process of C&R will be,

will drive you insane.  Each time you change from front to back, you will need to bend the corners in the opposite direction.  Of course, no re-bending is involved if you are only working on one side. Since you anneal between courses, there should be no problem with bending the edges back and forth.

Each is made differently.  Check with the manufacturer as to the ingredients so, you know what you are dealing with! Otto Freis

is made from: resin, powdered brick and tallow.  Their German Black Pitch is different from the more commonly available black pitch in that it is not

Read this from:Pitch it To Youon how much pitch youll need and the math, they used to calculate this amount.

Please, also seeMore Information, on this page.

If the pitch is in an aluminum container,

so that the aluminum doesnt get embedded in the pitch.

Refrigerate the pitch for about 10 minutes

or other fabric that you dont mind wrecking.

Place the enclosed pitch on a hard surface

like: concrete, a steel surface of a tree stump.

Hammer the pitch until it breaks up into 2 cubes.

Pour the dust and smaller chunks into the bottom of the bowl

and place the larger chunks on top. Hold some of the pitch back youll add the rest after the pitch starts to melt and levels out.

you can place it in your home oven. You can also use a kiln.

Ensure that there is adequate ventilation if you can smell it, your ventilation isnt working well enough

Dont hit any exposed heating elements in the kiln with the pitch bowl

the elements are very fragile and will break.

Protect the interior surface of your kiln or oven

in case the pitch leaks or spills. You can use aluminum foil or parchment paper to line your oven or kiln. In the oven, you can use a cookie sheet covered with foil or parchment paper.

Try to find out the melting temperatures of your particular pitch

.  Most pitch melts between 250F (121C) 300F (250C). Set your oven to the lower of the temperatures you can always make it a bit higher if nothing is happening.

Turn on the ventilation hood, fan or open doors and windows

Dont go bowling, shopping or running.

Stay near the pitch and check it often.

FIRE HAZARD.  This is one meal that you really dont want to overcook!

, if necessary, so that the container is level.

Check the level of the pitch it may be necessary to add a few more of the chunks.  Add a few pieces at a time so that you dont overflow the bowl.

and level. It can take from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and thickness of your pitch bowl.

Leave in the oven or kiln until the pitch cools.

The pitch bowl will be very hot and contain molten pitch very dangerous so, be patient!

If is best to have the pitch slightly mounded as this allows easier access to your working surface.  After the bowl has cooled, take additional chunks of pitch and hold in tongs.  Warm the surface of the pitch bowl and one side of the piece of pitch.  Push the chunk of pitch into the pitch bowl.

Heat the chunk with the heat gun or torch

until it is smooth and shiny.  Repeat as necessary.

You can also use a cold hammer to hammer down the warm pitch.  Cool the hammer if the pitch starts to stick.

Surfaces that have pitch on them, can be refrigerated and the pitch can then be chipped off.

NOTE:If you are using black pitch DONT USE YOUR HOME OVEN!The fumes are not what you want wafting through your house.

although I have black pitch and have worked with it for a long time, I dont recommend it. Ive switched to red pitch.

Black pitch is sticky, gives off noxious fumes

(like your dog), and leaves your hands looking less than model ready.  Plus,

black crud under your finger nails is not a current fashion trend

The pitch can be melted using:  a hot plate, along with a steel plate (to catch drips), and an old steel or aluminum sauce pan.

Ensure that the pan is large enough to melt the amount of pitch that you require.

This technique can also be used for other types of pitch. Think junk stores for your pitch tools!

Turn the hot plate onto a low setting.

Add chunks of pitch slowly, allowing them to melt.

DO NOT LEAVE THE PITCH UNATTENDED WHILE IT IS ON THE HOT PLATE!  Think fire, toxic smoke, fire, toxic smoke, fire

pour it into the pitch bowl either directly from the pot or use a pitch dedicated ladle or large serving spoon (made of metal, please!).  If would be a good idea to place foil or parchment paper under the bowl to catch drips.  If there is pitch remaining in the pot, wait until it cools and cover it to keep out dust.  Retain for future use.

The non-German black pitch is somewhat sticky. I have never used the German black pitch so, cant comment.

Nechamkin has pitch already in a bowl!  It comes with a tire for holding the bowl at varying angles.

They also carrygreen and red pitchas well as all things chasing and repousse!

The pan seen in the video, that I use to protect my soldering area during pitch work, is fromHarbor Freight.  It is called aMixing Board.  The heat gun is a12 Interval Heat Gun, also from Harbor Freight.

You can also use old baking sheets, a piece of wood, tin foil, etc.

(Edges turned down before placement in bowl).

You will want to coat the side of your metal, that will be in the pitch, with lip balm or oil to reduce the amount of pitch that adheres to the back.  Cleaning off tons of sticky pitch is not fun.

There are several methods to remove pitch.  But,the most important method involves not having the pitch stick in the first place.  You can use lip balm, vegetable oils or mineral oil to coat the back of the metal. This coating will keep the pitch from adhering to the surface.Dont use water.  The water can get trapped in the pitch and, when heated, willcreate a scale replica of a volcano complete with spewing molten lava(the pitch).The villagers, in the path of the eruption,  will be seriously burned!You can dampen your fingertips when touching the pitch to keep your fingers from getting burned just make sure you dont leave a lake on the surface.

I love using lip balmto coat the back of my pieces. The pitch doesnt stick to it.  I usually just have a little bit of pitch clinging to the edges.  To apply:  I smear a bit of the balm onto the pitch side (the side going into the pitch) of the metal.  Using abalm dedicated brush, I brush the lip balm all over the piece and into the repoussed areas.

Heres where you can get a lip balm base and save money:Wholesale Supplies Plus Crafters Choice 10.08 for 1lb, US.,Amazon Crafters Choice 12.99 for 1lb, US.

To remove pitch, you have a few options:

and wipe the pitch off with a rag, paper towel or cotton ball.

and using mineral oil, wipe off the pitch.

.  For this, you must have excellant ventilation.  Remember:  if you can smell it, the ventilation isnt enough.

If you are using the burn-off method,

dont drop the piece right into the pickle

(thats a no-no anyway), quench it in water first and scrub with a brass brush to keep the gunk out of your pickle.

If you choose to warm and wipe, you will need to de-grease the metal before putting it in the pickle.  Use adetergent soapto remove the balm or oil or you can trypumice powderor a cleanser likeBon Ami. Suppliers for pumice powder (among many others) are:Wholesale Supplies PlusCrafters Choice brand 1lb. $1.84 US (not sure if this is too fine a grit or not).  Maybe someone can try it and let me know! It sure is cheap.Rio Grande, 3lbs $9.25 US,Otto Frei, 1lb. $12.10 US.  Manufacturer ofBon Ami.

After you remove your metal from the pitch,you need to re-surface the pitch.  Gently heat with either a brushy flame or the heat gun, until the surface returns to its shiny, smooth state.Usuallythough,things arent that easy especially with deeply repouseed areas.  So, you might need one more tool aputty knife(you can find one from Harbor Freight natch!) is handy for scraping off globs of pitch that are threatening to slump off the edge.  Just drag and plop the offending pitch into the low areas.  Sometimes, I heat my putty knife a bit toencourage the pitch to abandon the surfaceof the putty knife.

I like to slightly mound up my pitch in the bowl.  This makes it easier to access the metal that I am working on.  Too little pitch and the walls of the bowl get in the way of progress. But, eventually, the pitch self levels.

I usually heat most of the pitch and then start adding chunks.  I carefully monitor the pitch so that it doesnt overflow the bowl (but, Im not always successful!).  I, quickly, remove the pitch from the heat and start mounding it in the center, using a wide-ish putty knife.  At this point, Im shaping and moving the pitch towards the middle of the bowl.

Anneal your metal and pickle. When the metal comes out of the pickle,brassbrush off any remaining weirdness, and dry it well.Bend four corners, downwards, in the opposite direction of the surface you will be working on.Re-apply your pitch repellantof choice, re-warm the pitch andpush the metal back into the pitch.

Eventually, the process of applying metal, removing metal, heating the pitch, applying, removing, heating, etc.,will deplete some of your pitch.  Youll know when its time to add more: when youfind yourself standing on your head, trying to raise the side of a design.

See my Links:Jewelry SuppliesandSuppliers Outside the USAfor additional sources.

Chasers Pitch. com Rio Grande

originally carried this green pitch.  Now, Debra is selling it from her website.

Their California Pitch is resin based and is available in hard and soft.  You can mix the two together to form a medium pitch or keep them separate. They also have

Heres a quote from their site: Northwest chasers pitch is a vegetable, or pine-tar based pitch that is resilient, has a non-tac surface, and binds well to metal.  You order via phone, mail or email.

: Northwest Pitchworks, 1317 Roland St., Bellingham, Wa. 98229.

: Chasing and Repousse pitch. Will ship internationally! Medium

.  No no animal or petrochemical products used.

(comes as a set with bowl and felt ring).

not sure what Chasers cement is maybe someone has tried it and can report back?

, Society of American Silversmiths.

Pitch Bowls and Alternatives for Jewelers

.  Even if it is organic pitch, the fumes are not good for you.

If you can smell the pitch, you are not venting properly!

always dip your finger(s) into water first

.  Each type of pitch has different clinging power.  Some glom on and others slide off.  Watch out for the glommers!  They will give you horrendous burns.

After hours of use, the pitch bowls start to heat up and the pitch gets too soft.  Stick the bowl in the fridge or the freezer until the pitch cools off.  I work with 2-3 bowls simultaneously:  that way, the bowls dont overheat.

The temperature of your studio will also affect the pitch.  Obviously, on hot days, the pitch will be softer and the opposite, for cold days.

Occasionally, with an old rag, wipe excess pitch off of your tools.  They get pretty gunky after a while.

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