You’ve probably found someone or a web site that has steel drums for sale but you have little or no idea on how to go about assessing the quality of the steel drums.
It would be ideal if you had access to the instrument that you wish to buy and an experienced steelpan player who could help you assess its quality. But if you reside outside of the Caribbean, it is very likely that you will be on your own, having to deal with the merchant and do the assessment yourself.
Your first order of business should be to do some research on how the particular steel drum that you wish to buy is supposed to sound. The internet can obviously help you in that regard, or you may already have recordings of the sound of the desired steel drum.
Inspect the skirt(s) (outer body) of
the steel drum(s) - If it (they) are warped, do not buy as the notes of this
steel drum will not vibrate freely and may most likely be out of tune. If the
steel drum is chrome plated, check for cracks in the chrome, both on the skirt and on the playing surface. The presence of
cracks will allow premature rusting of the steel drum. You should also check
for rusting on the under-part of the steel drum. Inspect the bottom edge of the
skirt and ensure that it is smooth and not jagged. A jagged edge can injure your hands, damage your pan case and just looks aesthetically unpleasing.
The surface of the notes should be smooth, with no bumps between the notes. In other words, the workmanship of the steel drums for sale should look neat and professionally done.
The following pictures show a properly shaped steel drum skirt and a smooth playing surface.