As one of the earliest Handpan builders that is still in production, we regularly receive emails from ambitious people that are trying to figure out how to make a handpan drum for themselves.
Mark, or “don marco”, shared many insights 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.
7 Tips for making Handpans
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 needed 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 that 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!
- Read all of the Handpan Construction Pages about the complications of handpan resonance, vibration, dimple design, nitriding, and forming handpan shells.
- Read the additional reference pages about building hand pans and steel pans.
- Read “Secrets of the Steel Pan” by Anthony Achong. With over 1200 pages, it is an incredible resource!
- Join the two Facebook groups of Handpan Building Enthusiasts where there are many questions and threads of answers on many details of handpan building. Exchange of Knowledge Handpan(where Mark has been a member since 2012) and Sale and Development Tools Handpan.
- Read the “Developments, Creations, and Influences” section of handpan.org 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.
- Find your own sound. 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. May your own internal muse guide you toward your dreams.