Steel-Pan Making


The choice drum that steel-pans are made from is the empty 55 gallon oil drum. Once the drum is in hand the first phase is to stretch the top of the drum by sinking it into a concave shape inward. This gives more room so that notes can be placed easily. It also contributes to the sound. The depth of sinking varies to the dype of steel-pan. Lower sounding steel-pans will be more shallow than high sounding ones.

Below: Picture depicts the initial drum used to create a steel-pan.

Cutting and Burning

Based on the type of steel-pan the drum would be cut at this point, there is no cutting with the Bass pans other than the Tenor Bass. The length of the skirt impacts the acoustics of the steel-pan. After this the metal is tempered through rapid heating over an open fire and cooling of the drum. This enables the drum to hold a tuned note longer.

Below: Picture depicts a steelpan after it has been cut and burnt.

Marking & Grooving

The template of the steel-pan is then marked using cut out shapes of the final note. It is drawn out in pencil or chalk as a guideline for the grooving. The space between the notes are flattened out using special hammers. Indentations are made on the outline of each noteto prevent the sound from notes blending with each other. This makes up the grooving of the steel-pan. After grooving, the area between notes are flattened again to remove unevenness.

Below: Picture depicts the marking of the noted before it is shaped and grooved.

Tuning and Finishing

After burning, the drum is tuned for a first time. this gets the notes sounding as close to where they should be as possible. After the initial tuning, the steel-pan is sent to be chromed to protect it from rusting. Other types of finishings can be applied as well, based on the visual needs. After this the steel-pan is tuned for a final time and blended. Preceeding this step, the steel-pan is ready to be sold.

Below: Picture depicts the steel-pan being final tuned and blended.