A Synopsis on the making of the Steelpan


Steelpans are built using sheet metal with a thickness between 0.8 and 1.5 mm (1⁄32 and 1⁄16 in). Historically, steelpans have been built from used oil barrels. Nowadays, many instrument makers do not rely on used steel containers and get the resonance bodies manufactured according to their preferences and technical specifications. In a first step, the sheet metal is stretched into a bowl shape (this is commonly known as 'sinking'). This process is usually done with hammers, manually or with the help of air pressure. The note pattern is then marked onto the surface, and the notes of different sizes are shaped and molded into the surface. After the tempering, the notes have to be softened and tuned (initial tuning). The softening is part of this initial tuning process. The technician will use the best possible tuning device to get the right notes for each of the playing areas and to the pitch that is wanted. Often they will use an electronic tuner called a strobe tuner to assist the tuning of the steelpan.