We regularly receive emails from ambitious people who are trying to figure out how to make a handpan drum for themselves. With a lack of sufficient handpan supply, more and more people have no choice but to try building one on their own.
Mark, or “don marco”, has shared many insights over the years on handpan.org as he learned the finer details of handpan building. With these sometimes very revealing posts, he hoped to both inspire more handpan builders in the world and help them build their own handpans by avoiding some of the pitfalls and lessons that took Mark thousands of hours of hammering to figure out on his own.
Because it is both time-consuming and simply impossible to describe in words many aspects of the building process, we point everyone toward these 6 basic tips:
- Hammer on metal!!! While researching the basic building ideas is incredibly useful, hammering on metal provides far more insights into the feel of steel and how it moves. A great deal of hand pan building skill, especially tuning, comes with muscle memory and muscle memory comes only from experience. The reality is, a high quality handpan is not built without hundreds of hours of hammering no matter how much you read or how many professional builders you talk with or watch making their own handpans. It is likely to take much more time than that! Almost everyone destroys their first attempt along with many more after that. For this reason, it is important to start as cheaply as possible in order to make sure that you have what it takes for the job. It takes nothing less than persistent obsession to succeed as a quality handpan builder!
- For some background on both the successes and failures of other prospective handpan builders as well as endless insights littered among various threads by professional handpan builders, read the entire “Developments, Creations, and Influences” section of handpan.org.
- Read the additional pages on the Saraz Website about the complications of handpan resonance, vibration, dimples, nitriding, and handpan shells.
- Another great literary source is “Secrets of the Steel Pan” by Anthony Achong. With over 1200 pages, it is an incredible resource!
- Handpan Makes United has put together an incredible list of references about building handpans.
- It is important to realize that there are many ways to build a handpan. Our way is not the “right” way. It is only a path with a specific material to a sound and timbre that we prefer.
The following are photos of the Saraz Building Process
Pictures are nice, but the sound is what matters. For a number of videos of Saraz Handpans, please visit our
Indepth Building Details
The following are posts in an ongoing series about finer details of the Saraz building process as well as our perspectives and decisions about some of the complexities of handpan building in general.
We wish any prospective handpan builder endless endurance, persistence, inspiration, and blessings in their journey of sculpting and tuning singing steel.
“Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”
– Willy Wonka