"As a Handpan builder, my main goal is to provide you the best quality Handpan at the most reasonable price possible. As a person who has had his life immeasurably and wonderfully changed by this amazing instrument, I am committed to putting as much of what I find special about the Handpan into every instrument I build, with the hope that it will have a similar affect on you."
The Handpan Journey of Curtis Smith
Founder of PanSmith Handpans
Welcome to Curtis' Workshop
I first stumbled across Handpans on YouTube in the first months of 2016.
It was a video of Manu Delago entitled "Manu Delago - Hang solo". I was instantly mesmerized by the sound and his awesome playing. I quickly found other videos by Dante Bucci and others, and began research into the instrument itself. I discovered the "Hang" made by PANArt in Switzerland. At first, I was very disappointed to learn of the high price tag as well as the difficulty involved in obtaining or even seeing one of these instruments in person. But as I learned more, I discovered that they had their roots in steel drums. I also discovered that others had taught themselves to build them. I decided that I wanted to try as well.
As a young child, I was fascinated with steel drums, and wanted to try to build one, but never attempted to tune steel until seeing this new form of an old desire. Within a few months, I purchased a couple of large woks from a local market. I started hammering away with no real experience to go on, aside from videos I had watched on YouTube and stories I’d read in Handpan.org and "Secrets of the Steelpan".
I hammered for weeks on the wok, until one night things just sort of fell into place I was able to get a note pretty close to in tune. I stayed up all night working on the rest of the notes. I posted a video of the completed "Wokpan" on YouTube in June of 2016 - poor playing, poor tuning, and all—but I was beyond thrilled to have even accomplished that.
For the first couple of years, I only built a few each year. I had built about twenty by the time I debuted my instruments in Colorado at the Steel Mountain Handpan Gathering in August of 2018. This was also my first time to see a Handpan I hadn't built myself. The amazing response and love from the Handpan community at that gathering was overwhelming, and made for a very emotional drive back home. Since then, I've devoted as much time and passion as possible into learning and improving as much .as I can, meeting and working with many amazing people along the way.
The Story Behind the Logo
The logo idea came from a piece of steel left over from cutting a hole in a thick plate back in my steel fabrication days. I thought it looked "cool" and put it in my toolbox, not knowing how important it would become years later. Little did I know that it would be the actual piece I use to stamp my signature into all the pans I build. When I started building Handpans, selling them was not a goal or consideration. But the long journey brought me into that. Now I just needed to come up with a maker name. PanSmith Handpans was pretty much decided on after the gathering at Steel Mountain, but a name for the instrument itself didn't present itself until a chance encounter after visiting Pantheon Steel headquarters with my friend Daniel Baird in August of 2019. I knew what I wanted the name of my instrument to mean, but hadn't found anything that felt right. I wanted the name to symbolize my long journey and the desire for it to continue. From a chance encounter with Benka Pulko (a great person with an amazing story and journey of her own, please read about her story), I was finally gifted the name I had been searching for.
When she saw the logo she stopped and said "No way! You have to see this." She then showed me the logo for the foundation she had established. The logo itself, a spiral, was nearly identical to mine. She started explaining the name of her foundation, which she discovered while in Australia on her long journey traveling around the world. The name was "Undara", which most commonly means "long journey" or "endless journey" in the spoken Aboriginal language. It was perfect, and she gave me her blessing to use the name for my instruments. The written Aboriginal language consists of symbols, with the symbol for "long journey" being a combination of the symbol for a campsite, resting place, or watering hole (generally either concentric circles or a spiral), with lines drawn on either side, to indicate a stop on a "long journey". With this in mind, I designed the overall PanSmith Handpans logo (with help from Danny Sorensen) to resemble the Aboriginal symbol for long journey, which in turn is also referred to as "Undara"