How to Make a Steel Drum in 7 Steps

April 28, 2022

There are a lot of various ways to make a steel drum. We will talk about simply making a steel drum on your own, the homemade version. 

First of all, you will need some equipment and that equipment includes:

  1. Empty Gallon 
  2. A sledgehammer
  3. Special tuning hammer
  4. Gloves
  5. A compass
  6. Marker
  7. Earmufs

This process is not quite easy at all. First, you will need 55 oil gallons. We can go step by step here. 

How to make a Steel Drum in 7 Steps

Step 1 - Preparation

Take an oil barrel. You should sink the bottom of the oil drum into a concave shape that has a smooth surface. This is the place where the notes will be placed in later drafting. 

Before sinking, you may need to hammer away any dents on the rims of the oil drums, as these will have a detrimental effect on the exterior notes.

Now, determine the center of your drum by measuring 26.6 cm from many locations on the oil drum’s rim to the center. Draw two circles of 20cm and 10cm from the center. 

Strike the oil barrel along the outer circle with the sledgehammer, working your way towards the center in a circular pattern. 

When you reach the center, start over from the outside circle, going carefully around the oil drum until you achieve the appropriate depth, as illustrated below.

Step 2- Marking

Templates cut in the shape of finished steel pan notes are placed on the stretched surface area of the drum and defined with a pencil, chalk, etc.

This guarantees that the notes on the pan are correctly and consistently placed.

Step 3 - Grooving

After that, indentations are made on the note outlines. This is referred to as grooving. The indentations or grooves are made using a hammer and a nail punch.

Lower the surface between the designated notes using the backing hammer. This gives the notes a convex contour, which is demarcated by grooving.

Using the punch, first make a continuous line by hitting along the designated inner boundaries of the outside notes, then link the grooves of neighboring outside notes.

The grooves for the inner notes will be completed next, but they will not be linked. Groove the straight portion first for the inner notes. An oil drum is being grooved in the image below.

Step 4 - Leveling

Flatten the “swollen” portions between the grooved notes with the backing hammer until the oil drum restores its smooth concave shape. The notes should now appear as convex dents on the concave surface of the oil drum.

Step 5 - Cutting Oil Drum

U can use an electric jigsaw to cut an oil pan, this will simplify the whole process.

Step 6 - Tempering

For around 10 minutes, place the steel pan over a log fire and support it with four huge bricks. Then, either allow it to cool naturally or dowse it with cold water.

Step 7 - Tuning

The steel pan must first be coarsely adjusted to soften the notes and give them the necessary pitches, then fine-tuned to obtain the unique timbre. To soften the steel pan notes, strike the full note numerous times from above and below. 

Because a hammer will not reach the outer notes near the steel pan rim, a bent iron or a tapered piece of wood can be used to lift them from below.

Of course, making steel drums is not quite easy, like I said. Now, there are lots of easier ways to get a steel drum. Here you will find how much it costs and where you can buy your first steel drum.


I hope you like my article and you will successfully make a steel drum. Let me know in the comments below how it went. 

In the meantime, if you are eager to find out more about the history of steel drums, read the full article here.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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