How to Make a Pair of Steel Pan Sticks (steel drum mallets).
Here’s an easy way that you can make a pair of steel pan mallets (also called steel drum sticks) for just a few dollars. Steel pan sticks are not that expensive but also are not normally available in your local music store, so what do you do when your dog chews the rubber tips off your mallets or maybe you lose a pair and you have a rehearsal or a gig to play that night? You will not want to use these as your main playing sticks because steel pan mallet makers make a great effort to choose lightweight materials and create balance and just the right feel with the mallets they make. However, you can make an acceptable pair of steel pan mallets that can get you through your gig or rehearsal.
The materials you will need will be an ordinary but sharp pair of household scissors, a roll of Scotch tape, reusable latex rubber cleaning gloves that are usually yellow in color and that you can find in a dollar store. To make your steel pan sticks, you will also need a wood dowel 1/2 inch in diameter that you will cut into two 7 inch lengths. You might find something you can use as a wood dowel in a dollar store where the kitchen utensils are. If not, go to Lowes or Home Depot and you can buy a /2 inch wood dowel there for very low cost. Choose the lightest weight wood they have.
Start by cutting the fingers off of the latex rubber cleaning gloves with your scissors. If there is a rolled up edge on the bottom of the gloves, cut that edge off. With the rest of the glove, create one continuous length 1/2 inch in width. In order to do this, you will need to go around corners and you will want to trim the excess when you go around a corner so that the width remains about one-half inch. To make your steel pan mallets correctly, the important thing is to have a continuous 1/2 inch length with no breaks. Ragged edges and inconsistencies really don’t matter.
Take your continuous length of 1/2 inch wide latex rubber and spool it on to the end of the dowel, taking care to have the rubber just cover the top part of the mallet. Be careful to spool it on the dowel with just the slightest of tension. Do not stretch the rubber as you spool it onto the mallet since this will make the rubber too hard. Once you have enough windings (to about the depth of a steel pan rubber tip) run the last part of your latex rubber strip onto the part of the wood next to where are you have been working. At this point you can stretch the rubber tightly and then hold it in place with a finger while you use a good size piece of scotch tape to tape down the part that you stretched. Wind the Scotch tape onto itself so that it will stay in place.
Your new steel pan mallets won’t have quite the balance, feel and sound of a store bought pair, but if you do it right, they will do the job nicely until you can buy a pair. Then, keep these in the pocket of your car or in your steel pan case to use as “emergency” mallets.