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Beginners guide to choose a Handpan / Pantam

Written by Matthieu. Posted in caten.

Last update 17/09/2017. Article translation

 

How to choose a handpan if you are a beginner ?

For the people discovering this music instrument: in a first place it is good to know that the Handpan (also called Pantam, Cupola, sound sculpture) development is today supported by a worldwide community. Mainly the actors of this community are:

  • professional musicians, always going further with the instrument, exploring the limits, they are a big source of inspiration
  • passionate people, gathering together in some occasions, playing for themselves and close friends, or any other place
  • event organiser, from the little family meeting to the festival, gathering thousands of people together
  • Handpan makers, sharing their knowledge and out of a concurrence logic

Being part of this community had changed positively many people's life and the feeling of joy coming from the handpan always get stronger when a new person is getting part of it.

When are ofter contacted from people wishing to buy their first handpan, here are some information to help you to make a choice. This text, written as a question/answer, is the result of a collective thought between a few makers and musicians.

 

Can i start with a "low quality" handpan ? Isn't it enough in the beginning?

As a beginner, it is especially important to choose a good quality instrument. We often meet people thinking that a "low quality" instrument is enough to "have an idea" before going further. We think it is a mistake! If a percussionist musician is able to play something beautiful with two simple spoons, it is an art that needs a lot of practice. As beginner’s handpan player you will need an instrument that leads you up and "call" you to play with intuition, naturally. It is mainly the sound quality and the instrument's simplicity of playing that makes it possible. Later, when some people start to feel very comfortable with the instrument, and enjoy the intuitive play, they will then go more deeply, with the "touch" of the instrument, others will develop melodic compositions and/or work on the rhythmic aspect. There is also some handpan classes to work on this different things.

To choose you first handpan we recommend contacting a maker and talking with him, to feel in agreement with his philosophy, to try different instruments and to choose the one that you really feel connected to. Going to a handpan gathering is a good way to have the opportunity to try different instruments. Everyone has personal preferences about the sound and the scales. These preferences are often hard to explain with words. Our best advice to choose a first handpan is to try a few of them and having a crush!

As the handpan is handmade, there is not two identical instruments. It is not also possible for a maker to imitate another maker's instruments. Also, the outside looking of the handpan doesn't mean anything about his quality as a music instrument.

 

What helps to recognise the pantam quality?

The coming questions can help you to understand a few quality criteria. You should be specially careful about the red advices, some important aspects to not waste your future relationship with the instrument.

 

Is my future instrument in tune ? Each not has 3 component : one fundamental, one octave, and one fifth. Sometimes the upper notes are tuned with a third or a forth until of the fifth. An instrument can be :

  • not tuned
  • almost not playable because not well tuned
  • appreciable even though not perfectly tuned
  • nice because well-tuned
  • perfectly tuned with also some tuned 'shoulder tone' (high notes when you play on the outside of the central note)

 

Does my future instrument have sustain ? It is the duration in time of each note, and an instrument can have :

  • A too short sustain needing an advanced percussive play to be appreciable
  • An acceptable sustain adapted to a melodic play fast or percussive
  • A long sustain more adapted for a slow and meditative play

 

How is the dynamic of my future pantam? This point is important and your way of playing must evolve depending on that.

  • Some notes saturate very easily, as soon as the touch become stronger
  • One or few notes seems to have a less and/or stronger dynamic and/or sound timbre difference, this can be part of the instrument spirit but your play will be “coloured” with this personality
  • A dynamic starting very low, a very gentle touch will be enough for the note to vibrate, it can help sometimes the beginners to learn
  • A dynamic adapted for a strong game with powerful notes, it can be tiring in the inside but enjoyable for a busker
  • A very large dynamic, from the lowest to the strongest

 

What about the coupling effect between notes ? The coupling is the interaction between notes during the play.

  • Some coupling can be disharmonious (for example two notes aside, apart only from a half tone would be specially embarrassing)
  • An harmonious coupling between two notes aside, becoming a chord, it will give a sound texture and be "less pure", this is part of the instrument nature but it is better if the coupling isn’t too strong
  • A coupling between a low note and its octave, colour the sound of the instrument, again it gives a special nature but it is hard to get out of it. Some inverted coupling (up to low) is sometimes very enjoyable.
  • The coupling can also be very balanced and it would be a mistake to avoid totally the coupling, it could take away some subtlety from the instrument

 

What important details ?

  • The opening under the bottom is it sharp or well finished and nice to touch ?
  • Is this opening tuned on the outside and is this tuning matching with the instrument's scale ?
  • The hole frequency (Helmotz resonator) is it tuned with the central note, is it easy to use this bass from the upside of the instrument ?
  • The steel sound, outside of the note is it close to a "cooking pot" or is it “dry” and “matt” ?

 

What future for my instrument ?

  • He is made from a rust resistant material (nitrated steel or inox) or he is from a steel with no treatment and needs more carry on ?
  • Does some people accept to re-tune my instrument or this mission will be complicated and expensive ?
  • Will it be possible some day to exchange my instrument if I want to change for a different scale (it is a common wish and only quality instruments are exchangeable)?

Finally, here is an excellent article about the sound quality of a Handpan/Pantam: the-cupolist / what-makes-a-great-sounding-handpan

 

 

What scale to choose for my first instrument ?

Each handpan maker propose a list of the different scales he makes, sometimes it is possible to ask for a special request. Some scales can be easier to play for a beginner and pushing toward a melodic intuitive play (for example the D Celtic minor is a good start).

For beginners, we recommend to try different scales from a same maker and different instruments of the same scale. The sound timbre is as important as the scale to make a choice. Even though the best way to choose is to follow your heart, we wish to share with you a few informations about the different scales :

The scales can be organised depending on different things :

 

How many notes for each octave

  • Pentatonic (5 notes for each octave, the scale is easy to play, the lower notes and higher notes are well balanced, but it is harder to get out of the global ambiance of the scale).
  • Hexatonic (6 notes for each octave, between pentatonic and heptatonic. One component is missing - example the second is missing for the celtic minor scale)
  • Heptatonic (7 notes for each octave, more options for the melodic play are possible but you will have less or no higher notes after the tonic dispatching.)

As an example, here are 3 scales matching together, showing the 3 categories :

  1. Pentatonic : D Voyager D-F-A-CDEF-A-C
  2. Hexatonic : D/A Minor Celtic D---A-CDEFGA-C
  3. Heptatonic : E/A Aeolian. -E--ABCDEFGA--

What space between two notes ( OR - How many half tones between 2 notes)

An other scale classification is possible based on the 7 Greek modes (ex: aeolien or natural minor scale, ionien or major scale,...) or the harmonic minor modes (ex: Hijaz scale which is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale, he has an oriental sonority).

The Aeolian mode (natural minor mode) can be explain this way : "2122122" which is the "A Aeolian" scale (A being the starting point) :

  • 2 half tones between A and B
  • 1 half tones between B and C
  • 2 half tones between C and D
  • 2 half tones between D and E
  • 1 half tones between E and F
  • 2 half tones between F and G
  • 2 half tones between G and A

To use the same notes, starting with C : "2212221", it is the Greek mode "Ionian" or usually called "major" mode :

  • 2 half tones between C and D
  • 2 half tones between D and E
  • 1 half tone between E and F
  • 2 half tones between F and G
  • 2 half tones between G and A
  • 2 half tones between A and B
  • 1 half tone between B and C

The C major scale (ionien) and A minor (aeolien) have the same notes, only the starting point change and these two scales would be easy to play together intuitivly. To give more details, the scales C ionien, D Dorien, E Phrygien, F Lydien, G Mixolydien, A Eolien and B Locrien all have the same notes, only the order of the half tones alternation change. The different Greek modes can have any starting point even though the notes we just shown are the more usual to help memorisation (it is nothing else than the white touch of a piano).

What position each note have depending on the first (tonic) :

The ionien mode can be written like this : Tonic, 2nd Major, Third Major, Fourth, Fifth, 6th Major, 7th Major.

The analysis of each component can determine if a mode is minor or major (depending on the third position).

On a chromatic scale, the 12 components are :

  • Tonic
  • m2 / second minor
  • M2 / second major
  • m3 / third minor
  • M3 / third major
  • 4th / fourth
  • Triton / triton
  • 5th / fifth
  • m6 / sixth minor
  • M6 / sixth major
  • m7 / seventh minor
  • M7 / seventh major

If we consider the tonic is a D, the F is the third minor and the A the fifth.

An article presenting the scales realized by Shellopan is available here: http://www.shellopan.fr/index.php/en/our-creations/shellopan-handpan-scales

 

 

What scale to choose to have complementary instruments ?

This question always arrive when someone wish to buy a second handpan or if two persons want to play together. There is no universal answer, but we can propose three way to understand this complementarity depending on everyone's specificity :

  • I want to add a few notes to my actual instrument : this can change the scale of my handpan, replacing one note or the other. The second instrument will be used only in this purpose and any scale having the notes you wish to add or change will be good.
  • I want to play easily with other people : to play easily with someone else, to have many notes in common is the best. Two handpan with the same notes, one being lower or higher than the other give good results. If one or two notes are not the same, it is not a real issue, if there is more then it will be a bit harder to play, less intuitive.
  • I want to play and compose alone or with other people some music tracks : to compose your chromatic set might be good for you, each instrument would ideally have as less notes in common as possible. Because of the notes placement, they will be hard to memorise, some note's suites could be very technical.

Now you must be able to understand what is your need, for your second instrument. Sometimes it is useful to also consider the sound timber to choose this complementary instrument, we recommend in this way to choose more likely a same quality instrument (or not too far from each other), and to try it before buying would be the best.

 

Can I buy a handpan in stores or on the internet?

Too many people have bought a bad handpan in a music store or classified ads and have never managed to have fun playing. Worse, some felt devalued because unable to make music enjoyable with this instrument while it is reputed as the most suitable to allow access to the pleasure of making music.

To be very clear, to date, there are no good handpans in music stores or on online sales sites, they are also rare on auction or auction sites and are often sold more price than any connoisseur would accept to invest in terms of the quality of the products presented. In addition, no Handpan / Pantam tuner will accept to retune these instruments.

(You are a reseller and you feel hurt by the firmness of this position? We will correct this article if instrument dealers present instruments whose quality and prices are collectively recognized as acceptable).

 

"Ok, i understood all your explanations...so i would like to buy a HangDrum. I heard the swiss don't make them anymore. When can you send me my future HangDrum ?"

We wrote this question with humour, mix of a few request we receive sometimes :-)

The Hang is a trade mark owning by PANArt (CH) company. The Hang isn't then name of a family instrument. It is a sound sculpture which is, from the conception, unique and impossible to copy. No instrument from the Handpan family have the same sound timber than the Hang (even though they have the common point to be made out of steel and playable with hands). The PANArt company was pioneer and the research results they had share when they created the Hang inspired many actual makers. For this reason, they are respected in the Handpan community.

The PANArt company still make some music instruments and their last creation is called Hang Bal (2016). If your wish is to get one of their creation, the best way is surely to contact them directly.

(ps: it is better not to use the HangDrum expression, it was part of the humour in the question, the term is unadapted).

 

 

Shellopan is a cooperative company making musical instruments of the "Handpan / Pantam" family.

Cooperative, because we are a group, we support self-management principles and believe that sharing information and the means of production is a vector of progress.

 

Shellopan is also the name of our sound sculptures.

Sound sculpture, because they are carved by hammering the steel sheet with the humility to let the raw material pronounce "the last word". Each HandPan is a unique creation and if it's possible to reproduce the "object", it's not possible to reproduce the "musical instrument" ...

Inspired by the "Steelpan" (traditional instrument of Trinidad and Tobago) and "Hang" (invented by PANArt company in 2000), our HandPan are exciting musical instruments.

Exciting because as fun to play as to listen ... They are able to gather enthusiasts of all nationalities who invent new ways to meet and make music together.

 

Our Shellopan Handpan are designed with the desire to make the fun of making music accessible to everyone.

Accessible because they allow those who have never made music to feel the pleasure of playing intuitively in the early hours of practice. The instruments are chosen directly from the manufacturers and with the opportunity to try several. Their rates are based on production costs and resulting quality level but not according to the laws of supply and demand.

We can invite you to discover the different scales of our musical instruments made of steel and passion ... For "makers", the fablab section is for you ...

If you want to acquire a Shellopan, you may find information on this page. Finally, if you cannot find the information you need in the FAQ, it remains the "contact" section!

Continue on the Blog and on the facebook page of the Cooperative.

 

Meet Shellopan or other makers & players during the next HANDPAN / PANTAM meeting in 2018 and after :

 

 

 

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How to acquire a Shellopan ?

Written by Super Utilisateur. Posted in caten.

last update : 10/05/2018

For us the handpan is a means of personal and creative expression. His practice is accessible to all and we try to find the best organization to allow everyone to choose the instrument that suits him best. Being able to test several instruments before purchase is the best way to find the best instrument for your practice and we prefer the meeting with people wishing to acquire one of our Handpans. This meeting makes it possible to test several available handpans, to compare them with creations of several different manufacturers, to be introduced to the game for the beginners, to receive information or to discover its manufacture... It is possible to make custom instruments after having exchanged with the person to study together the realization of his instrument.

We publish every 6 weeks a newsletter addressed to people who have given us their details (via the subscribe button at the top right of the screen). This publication marks the beginning of a period when we can receive visits because we can present a representative sample of our work. It is possible to test our instruments in two different regions. Those manufactured by Delphine will be mainly in her workshop in south of the Saône-et-Loire (71), while those of Matthieu and other members of the Shellopan fablab will be visible at the Strasbourg workshop (67). We also participate in different meetings outside our workshops and we will communicate the places and dates on our newsletters as well as at the bottom of the home page of our website. With our two workshops and our presence on festivals, we hope to make our instruments more accessible and it also allows us to offer re-tuning services for those who already have one of our instruments.

Here are some answers to the questions we receive regularly and which try to describe at best our functioning:

How to know which instruments are currently available? Below you will find a link to our Youtube channel where you will see a video of each available instrument. You will find in the description of each video, information concerning the scale, the place where the instrument is available as well as its price. Our videos are made without any audio effect to give a "neutral" rendering of the sound of the instrument. We are not trying to make the "flattering" sound and the actual sound of the instrument when you test it is considered more subtle, so a video will not replace a real test of the instrument. The video still allows you to get an idea of ​​the characteristics of the instrument and to compare them with other handpans.

Here is the list of our currently available handpans:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKMFR0joZEv196si4V6BFOs8conV5f_V0

(ps: if the Youtube page says "No video" when you click on the link, it is because we are preparing our next newsletter and / or that we consider that our stock is no longer sufficiently representative of our work to receive visitors )

 

 

How to make an appointment to test or get a Handpan? It is possible to test our instruments throughout the year (by appointment) in two different regions. Those manufactured by Delphine will be mainly in his workshop south of the Saone-et-Loire (71), while those of Matthew will be visible at the Strasbourg workshop (67). The addresses of our workshops are communicated when making appointments. To make an appointment, you can write to us on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or reply to our newsletter.

Can you give appointments for all requests? Our stock is kept up to date according to the visits we receive. When we consider that the stock is not enough representative of our work (and therefore it does not offer enough choice), we invite people wishing to visit us to contact us after the next newsletter. This step is not the most pleasant of our work, we try to do the best to give a positive answer to everyone but we refuse to enter a logic of production at the expense of the quality of our work.

Can I reserve one of the instruments to be sure to test it during my visit? If a specific request is made when making an appointment, we will tell you if it is possible. The answer can depend on the other appointments already planned and our wish to always offer a coherent choice to our visitors.

Do you sell mail order? Our experience tells us that this is not the best way to get a handcrafted musical instrument. We therefore carry out mail order sales when we create "bespoke" creations or for certain instruments when indicated in the video presentation. The shipping costs are 75 € for shipments in Europe and quotations for shipments in the world.

Do you make "flash sales"? This principle consists of making an instrument available for the first one who clicks on the "buy" button ... Really, the race to choose a Handpan seems to be the worst thing to consider. The answer is: No!

What are the prices of your Handpan? Our pricing is based on several criteria including the level of finish, the level of difficulty of the realization, the quality of the tone of the sound and the overall balance of the instrument. The price range is between 900 and 1500 € including a carrying case. The price of each instrument is noted in its video presentation (see the description of the video on Youtube).


Finally here is our guide dedicated to begginners to help to choose a handpan!

 

Fablab

Written by Super Utilisateur. Posted in caten.

last update: 1st June 2018 - 1- History, 2- steel caracteristic , 3- nitriding, patent & licence... by Matthieu

 

A great collective energy binds experienced manufacturers, apprentices and people passionate about sound sculptures. Each in their own way participate in building a community.

The most valuable advise we received from one of our elders was "You have to work in a team !"  and this energy has helped our Shellopan project to persist since 2010.

Shellopan is a cooperative enterprise, and is actively exploring an alternative way of exchange than what we have grown used to in our market economies. Following the message of our elders, we decided to open our workshop and share our means of production* in the manner of a fablab** dedicated to the sound sculpture.

(* here is one of our biggest means of production : our tool to make deep drawn handpan shells)

(** fablab = fabulous laboratory or fabrication laboratory... you choose ;) )

 

1) A Shellopan story...

Our work was born thanks to the work of our precursors and the information they published or communicated with the desire to see the knowledge become shared and more important. Our approach is to honor them and try to share the knowledge we use. For collective "knowledge" to increase, it requires that people using what we make available are also in the same process.

When we started our project in 2010, the main problem for creating handpans was to sink the shell by hand. We had initiated a project to create a deep drawing tool but the costs of such tools were too important for the two apprentices we were (Delphine and I, Matthieu). A few years later, other apprentices started projects all over Europe and we proposed to share a future production of stamped shells to make possible the construction of tools. A group of 5 makers agreed to take the risk of supporting the project (without knowing if the shells would suit them) and we collectively decided dimensions of the future shells. I then built the press tool with an industrial prototyping company and I made my first choice about which steel to use. In 3 years, we have produced 7 batches of shells that have become known as "Shellopan shell" and have been used by different makers around the world. We also welcomed many visitors who wanted to learn the basics of our work in our workshop. The demand for raw material and learning has become very strong but we did not want to increase our production and reception level. We wanted to promote the arrival of new projects and therefore the diversity of instruments manufactured.

Since 2017, other material manufacturing projects offer the sale of pressed, hydroformed or spun shells have arrived in a market in high demand and some have simply copied the Shellopan shell shape and industrialized the production and selling. We are therefore free from pressure and we will continue to develop / share our steel products and research at our own pace and with no desire for commercial development of this activity. Products and services are offered as part of a voluntary sharing process and they will only be accessible after prior agreement and / or by appointment. As should be possible for every human being, we reserve the freedom to choose when and to whose service we devote our energy.

We therefore choose to focus the "fablab" part of our business rather on people wishing to get involved in the Handpan community with a sharing approach that balances their business activity. We are not subcontractors for other manufacturers, so we do not respond to requests that are similar to an activity of this type. Although we do not always find them suitable, we respect traditional forms of business and hope to receive the same respect when we choose not to participate.

Information about the availability of shells: We launch a production every time we find the steel of our choice, it can take several months. We always keep a stock for the activity of the fablab and a stock of each batch for research and development operations. These considerations have priority over the resale activity of our shells. We are still very pleased to see the instruments made with our raw material by other tuners and to allow our research on the links between chemical / physical characteristics / timbre of the sound, we are interested in receiving feedback from the manufacturers using our stamped / deep drawn shells.

 

2) characteristics of the Shellopan deep drawn Handpan shells

The RAW material 

To make our stamped shells, we must use a steel suitable for this purpose. The reference steel "DC04" is well known since the publications of the company PANArt. This reference is not a guarantee of getting a good steel due to the excessive tolerance of the standard. It is quite easy to obtain a bad steel DC04 (a steel marked DC04 can have with mechanical characteristics equivalent to a sheet of the standard DC05). The best parameters favoring the stamping are not better parameters for the management of compressive stress that we induce in sheet metal when we grant it, so we have to find the right "balance" when we choose a new batch of steel .

It is also possible to use other materials such as steels with higher carbon content (structural steel) or stainless steel. The method of forming and tuning should be adapted to the material used. Regardless of the work of the tuner, the sound of the instrument will be affected by the choice of basic material. We therefore think that it is important for a handpan manufacturer to know the physical and chemical characteristics of the sheet he buys.
 

ps : If you need shells and we have nothing available for you, you can check this page for spun shells. There is some other shell makers but I can share the link only of those who communicate the chemical composition and physical parameters of their steel.

 

Different methods of forming shells

(in increasing order of personal preference, benefits and defects in brackets):

  1.     manual hammering pneumatic sand rammer (+ cheap / + can control the thickness with experience / - risk to health, dangerous for the muscles and joints)
  2.     manual spinning or CNC (+ cheap / + ease of forming the port on the bottom shell / - problem of inconsistent thickness, sheet metal is refined further away from the center)
  3.     hydroforming (+ easy choice of the depth of the shell - unable to control the thickness distribution, the final shell is thinner at the center up to 25%, we have eliminated this technique for this reason)
  4.     spinning inside rings  (see Pantheon Steel process, + possible control of the thickness according tooling / - need a thicker sheet initially as spinning will only refine the material / - marked grooves in the surface)
  5.     Stamping / Deep drawing on hydraulic press (+ control the thickness of the sheet with the possibility of letting go material from the blank holder, - expensive tooling and need a huge press)


Shellopan shells are deep drawn under a 400Tons hydraulic press with a tool that we have co-built with a french industrial prototyping company.
 

 

Dimensions and thickness information

size: external 550mm, internal 530mm, high 130mm - starting thickness 1mm

 


A very important feature is the distribution of thickness after stamping (see photo below). The slippage marks are the consequence of the method we use to control the thickness repartition: steel is coming from the ring to avoid to stretch too much the steel inside the shell. The only way to be able to know the thickness distribution is to be able to mesure it with the good tools (ultrasonic sensor or other tools).

 

Quality information

Information about the "raw" steel: the steel that we use has a light corrosion protection applied by the steel manufacturer in the form of a thin layer of oil. Stamping work, laser cutting and the various manipulations needed systematically alter the quality of the surface and more or less visible traces of oxidation can form during transport and storage. Sanding the shells may be requested just before packaging / transportation but this will make them more sensitive to rust, this choice is advisable for those who provide the transport themselves and have a storage with humidity control. Whatever the visual condition of the shells, we recommend to always perform a brushing & degreasing of the shells just before having them nitrided. 

Information about the nitrided products: to prevent scratches, stains or rust, shells were sanded and cleaned before nitriding. Despite this, irregular marks, stains or oxidized points can occur during the process of nitriding or transportation. A further cleaning step before the annealing treatment and protection against rust after heating should be applied. These final steps will determine the corrosion resistance and aesthetics of the final product. Shellopan will not be able to provide a guarantee on the result of the work done with the shells.

 

3) nitriding and patent information

The choice of a low carbon stamping steel (eg DC01 to DC05) requires a treatment to harden the steel.

One possible treatment is nitriding, the principles of which were applied to a metal musical instrument in the year 2000 by PANArt Hangbau AG (Conference on New Developments of the Steelpan – Paris – 20/05/2000). Patents have been filed by this company concerning the manufacture of musical instruments in nitrided sheet. These patents are the subject of much discussion and sometimes misunderstanding in the Handpan community. We recommend everyone to study the contents of European patent EP2443625 and its history in order to form its own opinion and also to appreciate the impact that it can have on a manufacturing project. There is a possibility of using the techniques covered by the patent under license. The PANArt company published at the end of 2017 a document to explain their positioning.

We can distinguish 3 approaches concerning nitriding:

- a very short nitriding (about 1h30 to 5h) creating 3 layers in the material: a surface layer of combinaisaon, a layer of diffusion then a central layer of variable thickness whose characteristics of the matter were not changed. The protection against oxidation is rather weak but it is possible to try to improve it by a post oxidation procedure. In my experience, instruments made with this type of material generally have a very long sustain but may require more annealing to be stabilized.

- a medium nitriding (between 9h and 20h) creating 2 layers in the material as presented in the PANArt publications in the year 2000: this results in a combination layer and then a diffusion layer to the heart of the material. The surface hardness is about 2x greater than the hardness at the core. Compared to a short nitriding, it is a type of nitriding that gives more character to the material and is often considered harder to work for beginners. In my opinion, the longer the nitriding, the more the reaction of the membrane to the touch of the fingers can be worked by the tuner.

- a long nitriding (100h) as presented in the patent of PANArt to obtain a certain density of precipitated nitrides. It is a nitriding that no manufacturer of Handpan seems to use. PANArt would use it since Hang said "integral". I have never been able to test such material and can not comment on its characteristics.

 

In this period when the PANArt patent issue concerning nitriding is still relevant, I (Matthew - Shellopan) chose to share here my personal and current interpretation of this question:

PANArt's 2000 Nitriding Publications for the World of Steelpan are the most recognized contribution of PANArt to the history of this musical instrument, and these freely shared publications have been the most informative source of information that all Handpan manufacturers have integrated into their research.

The patent on which PANArt has been working since 2009 has given rise to a licensing program offering Handpan manufacturers the use of PANArt-protected know-how. This patent protects an improved version of the nitriding procedure that was freely shared since the year 2000. This patent has been the subject of legal debate in the United States and Europe because it has often been considered a trap for Manufacturers or apprentices manufacturers of Handpan. Its wording made it difficult for everyone to know if what he was doing could infringe the patent, the nitriding companies could not interpret it or its innovative character was questioned because it was based on research work that does not have not been published. Finally, the license program that resulted from the patent was more the commercial advantage derived from the use of the name "PANArt licensed" than the quality advantage of the licensed material.

A patent revision procedure has been requested from the United States and Europe. In Europe, it is a rather light procedure that makes it possible to fight against harmful patent filings (patents being as much tools for securing intellectual property as economic attack weapons ...) and any citizen can ask for this procedure before a certain time has passed. According to PANArt's communications published in late 2017, it appears that they experienced this revision process as an attack against them. The review procedures resulted in a more precise version of the patent. This more accurate version protects a nitriding program leading to complete nitriding throughout the sheet to give a linear density of needle-shaped iron nitride crystals in a range of 40000 m-1 to 80000 m-1. The patent also specifies a method for determining this linear density and PANArt offers again to each manufacturer to have the material he uses tested by an analytical laboratory ... All that seemed simple, until the review procedure was the subject of an appeal procedure initiated by the group Handpan Maker United and a few days later by PANArt. The documents published for the future appeal procedure demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a nitriding under the patent even if it is of average duration (about 12 hours) but the appeal procedure cancels the revision procedure and the original version of the patent becomes legally valid again. This appeal procedure can take many years (it is possible to request an accelerated procedure at European level in case of legal proceedings based on the patent between PANArt and a manufacturer).

For me, the main question posed by this patent is that no one is able to say if a material made under PANArt license would achieve "best" handpans. People who have signed a license in the past use it for their commercial advantage, but actually achieve short or medium nitriding. However, only some proof of achievements by other manufacturers with a material made according to the know-how of PANArt and the publication of some research to reveal the qualitative sense of this licensing program. In the absence of such demonstrations, this program appears as an offer for the development of economic activities. The evolution of the number of manufacturers seeking to differentiate could make such a program attractive, but I hope to better understand the quality aspect of this program.

 

4) metallurgical concepts and the importance of the scientific approach

It is possible to make musical instruments by simply tunning shells available on the market but it seems to me that starting a real craft project related to the physical characteristics of the metal should be accompanied by a study of these characteristics. I do not have the skill to do a course on this subject but to not be limited to talking about a hard or soft metal, I can still invite to learn about the following concepts:

  • Chemical composition
  • Yield stress : YS
  • Young's modulus and elasticity
  • Ultimate tensile stress : UTS
  • Fracture elongation : e%
  • strain hardening coefficient : n
  • anisotropy coefficient : r
  • bake hardening and work hardening
  • annealing and tempering
  • nitriding technology
  • compressive stress
  • necking phenomenon
  • aging phenomenom
  • differences between drawing steel, solid solution steel, bake hardening steel, high strength IF steels

Being able to explain the differences in stiffness, strength and hardness is the sign of a good understanding :)

The challenges in our research would be to understand the impact of all these parameters on :

  • the timbre of a note and of an instrument as a whole
  • each person's style of preparing notes and of tuning
  • the durability of an instrument

To date the most complete information on this subject can be found in the research of PANArt and of Anthony Achong.

 


5) essential tools at every building stage

While some expensive tools can be pooled, some become highly personal such as hammers. Everyone will have their own preferences - this article presents our approach to the subject.

  1. cleaning of shells: Scotch Brite with grain 180-1000 on edgegrinder, isopropyl alcohol or other degreaser
  2. nitriding: a rack to space the shells in the oven and avoid distortion
  3. stamping dimples: male/female press molds + press <20 tonnes. Here we share our tool to help you to calculate the notes and dimples size : shellopan-note-dimples-ratio.xlsx (right click and save as...). Kristof from handpanmold.nl can prepare the molds for you and is selling some other tools for the makers.
  4. making bottom shells: male/female press mold + press <20 tonnes + hammer
  5. shaping notes: rings and support stand, pneumatic sand rammer with different heads and/or other air hammer + air compressor.
  6. annealing/tempering: oven that can hold up to 400 °C. Electronic temperature regulation system.
  7. hamering: hammers and mallets set (eg jimmyshouseofhammers) or our tuning hammers. Be carefull with low cost hammer, most of the time it's not cast steel or not hard enough... you may quickly have surface scratch on the hammer. You will need to polish the head to correct the (too) quickly made shape. About weight, 70% of the time I work with 750g, 25% with 1kg and maybe 5% with 500g but that's really personal preference and note size dependant. Quite flat and round shape may be usefull too. We need bigger distance than usual between head and handle because we are working in concave shells, it's not easy to find that !
  8. tuning: audio analysis tool (eg linotune, overtone analyser, peterson mechanical strobe tuners). Tuning rings + stand to be able to work on each side of the shells (see next point)
  9. gluing: sand paper, isopropyl alcohol or good degreaser, high thrust caulk gun (polymer glue is thick and you need to put the good quantity in a regular way), rotating plate, mastic cutter

 

 

6) handpan tuning stand

You will find basic information to be able to build your own tuning stand here. You just need to find a laser cut company and to be able to drill holes and optionally screw thread. For the support, you can use an old desktop or make your own with second hand material. Click on the second picture below to download the .dwg files (right click & save as... if it doesn't work)

shellopan handpan tuning stand part list

shellopan handpan tuning stand cad file

 

7) fablab pricelist and availability

Shellopan FABLAB - prices list 2018-10 fablab visitors price with french VAT

price without VAT only for export or intra-europa**

no shells or material available at this moment    
next update should be after 2019/01    
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 

** export = sell outside Europa. Custom fees may apply and we are only able to make genuine and accurate invoices. Intra-europa = you need a valid european VAT number to be able to buy without VAT.

 

8) Questions & Answers

Excel calc tool : are the note size dependent of the steel thickness ? Yes, thicker steel need bigger note size. Just adjust "C4" to change your starting point. Some technic to make shells create unregular thickness distribution, we are making deep drawn shells with hydraulic press to avoid this effect as much as possible.

Excel calc tool : why do you use note number instead of a clearer "note name" notation in your note size calc tool ? Because I don't know your steel thickness, but not only. Tuner skills are changing in time, most of the time with increasing experiences you will be able to tune the same note with smaller area. The border condition that you're creating during the shaping and the note dimple/ratio have big impact on this note size too. You will find your confort zone only after many try and error. I consider that the first size #0 is the biggest note that is possible to make on a shellopan shell (A2) but of course, even me may find that it's possible to make something lower. Step between 2 note number is 1/2 tone, so you will have 3 full octave in my calc tool.

Excel calc tool : what can I do with the F2 cell ? You can control the progression of the ratio between notes and dimples. For smaller notes, if you have a too big dimple, it may be hard to tune the note because you will not have enough space between the dimple and the note border. The color code in colum "K" give you a visual information on this space.

Excel calc tool : can you give me a warranty that I will be able to make a good handpan without changing the value in your calc tool ? No, I think that you need to adjust all these value. I choose the F2 parameter to gradualy change the note dimple ratio from 4 to 5.. this is only to illustrate how it works. The parameter you will choose will give the personal touch of your creation.

Dimples only or dimples & note border : is it possible to make dimples only with laser cut steel of the dimensions written in the excel file ? No, if you cut your molds with the external size, it will be hard to make the dimple only and you will mark the steel on the note border during the process. Some people like it and some people find that it's not good to create the note membrane or for tuning. Again, this is an important personal choice and if you want to make the dimple only, just cut the steel 1cm around the dimple hole.

Choosing a shop press : do you have any advises if I want to use a press to make the dimples ? You don't need a huge press, few tons are enough to make dimple and 20 tons is enough to press a really marked (too much ?) note border

Frequently Asked Questions... and answers

Written by Delphine. Posted in caten.

last update :  08/02/2017 - new questions added, détails about maintenance...

 

Why this website?

This website aims to present our work and journey through the Art of tuning steel. New sections will be added according to our progression.

 

What is your address ?

The Shellopan workshop is located 15km from Strasbourg (France). As we can only receive visitors by appointment, you will receive our address and a plan after making an appointment.

 

How to buy a Shellopan ?

See the dedicated section of the contact menu

 

How to buy a Hang ?

The Hang is a registered trademark owned by PANArt (CH). The Hang is not the generic name of a musical instrument family. It is a sound sculpture which, by its conception, is unique and inimitable. No instrument in the Handpans' family has the same tone of sound (timbre) as the Hang (even though they have the common feature of being made of metal and playable with hands). The company PANArt still produces musical instruments and their latest creation is called Hang Bal (2016). If your wish is to obtain a creation of PANArt, the best way is to contact them directly.

 

What maintenance for a Shellopan ?

1) wipe it with a microfibre cloth (used only for this purpose) after use. Storing the cloth in the instrument is a very good idea. Wipe it immediately in case of moisture on the surface. Never (NEVER) store it wet in its carrying bag.

2) Store in a closed bag only for transport, add desiccants in the bag. Always transport it with a bag ensuring a physical protection adapted to the conditions of transport. Travel by plane with your Shellopan in hand luggage only.

3) store it in your home safe from shocks (children, animals, falling objects ...). A hook on the wall is often a good solution!

4) apply a maintenance agent compatible with skin contact (1 to 4 times a year, you can increase this frequency if you use your instrument frequently outside or to clean the surface).

When used regularly for cleaning and maintenance, Phoenix Handan Oil is particularly advisable (it is fluid and has been tested / validated for skin contact). We recommend that you avoid regularly using oils that are too thick (froglube and coconut oil). Never put oil inside your instrument, at best it will be useless, at worst it will degrade the sound. Oil-based products change the color of your Shellopan when first used (it becomes darker and / or contrasted, some color reflections may change, pink or purple become brown for example). Aerosol spray products, molecular anti-rust protection films, nanotechnology-based products are strongly discouraged.

Oil-free products use emulsifiers usually used in cosmetics or industry, they do not change the color of your instrument. They are advisable only if they mention their composition and that it complies with the standards associated with the components used.

We indicate with the purchase of a sound sculpture which protection was used initially.

5) In case of rust, coconut oil on a slightly abrasive cloth works wonderfully. In case of more pronounced rust, very fine iron wool can help but at the cost of a risk of color change of the surface.

 

Retuning services for a Shellopan ?

We can re-tune the instruments at our place or during meetings of the community in which we participate. The first re-tuning is free for all buyers who have purchased a Shellopan directly from us. Shellopan shells are well known in the maker community and we are using a systematical process of tuning, other makers are able to retune our instruments.

 

What to do in the event of an accident ?

Depending on the magnitude of the accident, we may have to re-tuning or work more complicated or in some cases it is better to replace the instrument. We can not advise anything without seeing the instrument.

 

Can I make my future musical instrument at your place ?

See the fablab section.

 

Are you sell shells and tools to anyone who wants to start a HandPan project ?

No, we choose to whom we sell our material. The fablab section presents our approach on this subject.

 

 


Site web réalisé par la coopérative Shellopan