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How to make a handpan/pantam (part 1/3)

How to make a handpan/pantam

Kita Pantam Company has aimed to release a series of articles to explain the process of making Handpans/Pantams. These articles are monthly and will guide you to get familiar with the process of making these magical musical instruments. Every handpan/pantam maker employs sophisticated and special steps to create an instrument that sounds well. These steps in general consist of metal forming, heat treating, shaping, and tuning. In this series of articles, we are going to explain the steps that we go through to get your handpan/pantam ready.

Shell Forming 

First and one of the most critical steps is the metal forming and Nitrating process. During this step, we transform a flat steel sheet into bowl-shaped geometries (Shells). Makers use different methods to form shells such as hydroforming, deep drawing, and also hand hammering. Technically speaking the best way of forming is Deep Drawing because of a couple of reasons.

make a handpan
make a handpan

First of all the metal surface in this process is drawn uniformly as the force is applied on all the surface dots of the metal sheet equally. unlike the hydroforming through which there is the bottom ring of the metal baring more force making the surface taking a thickness gradient which DECREASES from the center to the edges, so edges are THINNER and the top center is the THICKEST part.

This thickness gradient creates some difficulties in the shaping and tuning processes and also affects the sustain and stability of the final instrument. KitaPantam is one of the few makers in the world who is taking the advantage of its own Deep Drawing Press machine. Many makers avoid the heavy investment of developing such machines of their own and prefer to purchase the ready to use deep drawn shells. KitaPantam is supplying shells for other makers, for more information please visit our Makers Shop page.

Nitrating Process

The other critical process following the shell-forming is a special heat-treating process called Nitrating. This process is developed for the Handpans to increase the stability and the sustain of the instrument. During the nitrating process, Nitrogen gas is introduced to the surface of the steel metal and in a high-temperature environment, this gas diffuses inside the metal and form ceramic compounds causing an increase in the metal’s hardness. In general, makers uses two different nitrating processes, gas nitrating and plasma nitrating. KitaPantam is utilizing the latter which is more expensive and offers many benefits such as more controlled diffusion and uniformity.

Combining both processes of Deep Drawing and Plasma Nitrating provides the most uniform metal surface in terms of physical and mechanical properties. This uniformity allows smooth shaping and tuning processes by decreasing the metal failures drastically so that the making costs will be reduced consequently. Another advantage is the predictability and repeatability of the processes which overall gives peace of mind to the makers about the problems that may occur during the making from this part of the job.

Kita offers shells that are all deeply drawn and plasma nitrated for other makers. For more information, please visit our Makers Shop page.

To be continued.