Playing pan with powder

Story and photographs by Mark Lyndersay. Published in the Trinidad Guardian on April 07, 2009.

Clockwise from left: J. R. Stewart, John Stewart Jr and Joey Golliver of Powder X discuss the installation of the powder coating plant with Junior Howell. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

In the backyard of the house in Laventille where the double tenor pan was created by Bertie Marshall and Alexander Pompey, Junior Howell is preparing for the next major evolution in the national instrument.
The trees and grass are gone now, replaced with a slab concrete floor into which a team from Powder X, a Tennessee based powder coating company is building the equipment for the first phase in his plan to create a streamlined process for bringing rugged colour schemes to the steelpan.
The powder coating process that Howell is preparing to introduce is done in two huge metal boxes, the first of which is a special painting room the first step before they are moved to a massive oven in which the coating is heated to a finish.

The process, which Howell has dubbed "Kalypso Koating" gives the metal a vivid finish that looks like the liquid glow of a brand new car, but it's paint that's almost indestructible. The instruments are coated with an even layer of colour of definable thickness.
Joey Golliver, the President and CEO of Powder X who is something of a mentor to Junior Howell, says the resulting finish is four times more durable than chrome.

Golliver's company does coating and testing work for finishes on mission critical parts for the US Air Force and NASA, and his company has been busy working on space shuttle parts for the past year.
"Chrome will rust," Howell noted, "and the pan has to be retuned after it's been done. Powder coating is much thinner and requires less work, if any, to bring the instrument back into tune."

Advantages of the process
The process is also environment friendly and fast. From prepared and cleaned metal to finished pan, the process takes one hour. The capacity of the equipment that Howell has invested in enables him to produce 108 tenor pans per hour.
Howell hopes to produce pans for the school system in band specific colours, a desire that stretches back to 2001, when he was Vice Principal at Valsayn Teacher's College.

That was when he began to see the value of introducing colour into the pan learning projects he was envisioning as a way of making the exercises come alive.
"If your instrument and your performer dress the part, then it changes the picture, the whole perspective," Howell said.
Howell painted his first pan using the process in 2007 as part of his training at Powder X and his ambitions for the potential of this pan colouring project have only grown since then. And the interest among other potential customers is also growing.

A gym has expressed interest in having its spin cycles redone in gold and some horn players have inquired about getting custom colours done for their mouthpieces.
Any colour can be done and there are some intriguing options in the Illusion colour series, which look like metallic car paints and then there's Extreme Chrome, which Golliver describes as "five-foot chrome," a finish that looks just like chrome from that distance.
Howell plans to begin production in less than two weeks, when he will finally realise his dream of steel orchestras performing in a rainbow of durable, vivid colours.
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