Q: What is in "chaser's pitch"? Can I mix it myself at home?
A: While you can fool with mixing it yourself, the recipes are a bit different with each writer, and getting it just right isn't as easy as it would seem. It's not just the ingredients, but the procedures used to mix them up. And the really good recipes aren't published.
Much better is to send off to Northwest Pitchworks. A lady named Ann Praczukowski, who herself does chasing, got so fed up with the useless crappy pitch sold in this country that in the '70s she did a whole bunch of experimenting to get the formulas right for a change. By this time she has perfected the art, and has been mixing batches of wonderfully usable chaser's pitch in three hardness grades for quite some time. Her pitch is just about perfect as shipped, and will save you many hours of effort and probably inferior results.
The medium is a general grade, and usable for most needs. The soft grade is best suited for use in hollowware or where the metal will be expected to stretch a long way. It is the least brittle, and will still stick tenaciously to highly worked and work hardened metal. Hard will give the crispest results in the final detailing, and may also be suited to unusually warm working environments. You can also harden the medium grade by simply cooling your work in the freezer for a few minutes before working.
Compared to the work of mixing it all up and getting the batch just right, this pitch is cheap. Medium grade is $5.00 a pound, soft and hard are $5.50 a pound. The minimum order is three pounds per grade. Three pounds will fill a six-inch pitch bowl; use five pounds for an eight-inch one. Add shipping costs via U.S. mail. Estimate shipping weight with one added pound for 3lb orders or 2 added pounds for larger ones.
The address for orders is
5705 26th Avenue, N.E.,
Seattle, WA 98105
And while I'm at it, I might recommend Marcia Lewis's book, "Chasing, Ancient Metalworking Techniques with Modern Applications" as being a very worthwhile investment if you have any interest in learning chasing the right way. Marcia is an expert at it, and her book is a well-done and easy to follow work; in essence a specialty class in itself. The time and trouble both it and the pitch mentioned above will save you are easily worth the price. The book is available from a number of sources, including Gesswein.
Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.
Commercial and custom jeweler and metalsmith
Graduate Gemologist and Lapidary
Opinions expressed here are solely my own....... and subject to change
according to my mood and the state of my art ....
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