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How are Handpans Made?

The process of making a handpan is very difficult and labor intensive. It regularly takes people many years of mistakes, learning, determination and hard work before they are actually able to make a good quality instrument.

For the purpose of this explanation, we will keep it short and simple. Our goal is just to share the basic process with you.
At Handpanda, we know many talented handpan makers and any of them will tell you that it's actually A LOT more complex than what we are writing here.

For starters, it's important to have all the correct equipment. Makers user a large variety of shaping tools and hammers as you can see in the photo. Other common tools include clamps, tuning rings, oven, blowtorch, molds for shapes and a lot more.

The material that is used is a very high quality steel (commonly DC04 steel or stainless steel, though some makers use totally different types). First the steel needs to be hammered, hydro-formed or machined into a dome shape. While some makers have their own process for this, others will purchase pre-made shells and start from there.


The next step is to shape the handpan notes, commonly done using shaping molds and hammering. The notes must also be shaped well, with good spacing and borders helping to isolate the note. Additionally the angle of the note must be mildy curved to hold tension (to understand this, imagine a Pringle's potato chip, but more flat).

It's also important to understand that each maker's process is a little different and they may do certain steps in a different order or using different methods.

Each handpan made by a maker is unique due to the fact that a lot of their building process personal and done by hand. This is also why some handpans can looks and sound very different, depending on who makes it. Though if a maker is talented and experienced, their own handpans will have a certain level of consistency throughout their production.

Nitrided handpans have to go through a process to add nitration coating to the steel, making them more strong and rust resistant. Stainless steel handpans skip this step, but also have their own quirks during the fabrication process. Furthermore, there are commonly very many rounds of heating and tuning to be done. The methods and temperatures of heating varies greatly by maker.

Tuning is the most difficult and technical part that can take years to master. Each note is tuned by hand hammering, using a chromatic tuner for accuracy. Each note contains 3 parts; the fundamental, octave and fifth (this might be slightly different for higher notes).

Finally after this process, the makers give it a final round of tuning and glues the 2 handpan shells together and waits for the glue to set. Only after the glue is completely dry does the handpan's sound really come to life. Then it's ready to play!

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