The Steel drum or "pan" was invented in Trinidad in the late 1930's and is one of the most modern instruments played in the world today. It is a chromatic instrument with each section producing a different note. Winston "Spree" Simon is generally credited with being the first person to put a note on a steel drum.
  Originally the pans were convex, like a dome rather than a dish. Ellie Manette, a pan-maker still active in the US today, was the first to dish out a pan and give the steel drum its mature form. Many tuners began experimenting with and producing tuned 'pans', eventually forming large groups of the neighborhood panmen into orchestrated bands.

There are 3 phases involved in the creation of a Pan. First, a sledgehammer is applied to the bottom of a 55 gallon oil drum, stretching the metal into a concave bowl or dish shape.

After "sinking the pan", the steel must then be tempered to increase the resilience and strength of the metal. In Trinidad, pan-makers take their drums down to the beach, build a fire and, after burning the pan for a short of period of time, plunge it into the ocean to cool.

A template is then used to mark the placement of each note on the sunken head of the drum. Each note outline is then "grooved" using a nail punch and a hammer. Grooving the notes make the notes more visible and also isolates each note's vibration somewhat from the other notes in the drum. At this point, the barrels side, or "skirt", is cut to the proper length, and holes are drilled near the rim to hang the drum from a stand.

The pan-maker then takes his hammers of various sizes and "pongs" the notes up from beneath, making them stand out like bubbles from the interior of the pan. This gives the note the approximate tension it needs to vibrate at the correct pitch.

Now, the pan-maker uses a tuning device and carefully hammers at each note from the top, pounding and smoothing the note area so that it will vibrate precisely.

Finally, the pans are finished by painting them in bright colors or chromed.