Pete Engelhart is a rare breed, a one-of-a-kind old-world craftsman whose penchant for pounding steel into percussive shapes has been a passion for more than four decades. The distinctive metal percussion instruments he designs and fabricates by hand are the prized possessions of many working drummers and percussionists. DRUM! recently converged on Pete to get the lowdown on his metalworking ways and to catch a glimpse of his creative domain.
Sequestered near the train tracks in an industrial area of Berkeley, California, Pete’s shop lies beyond a corrugated tin wall along a pitted road long bereft of maintenance. A gate opens up to reveal a corridor of derelict car parts: Grilles, transmissions, hoods, doors, differentials, and rusting axles rest in repose upon towering steel racks like so many bones populating the catacombs beneath Rome. This gauntlet of salvaged wreckage leads the way to Metal Mecca.
In the midst of this organized melee of bygone automotive drama, Pete’s workshop stands sandwiched between the shops of two fellow metalworkers, one a coppersmith and the other a for-hire metal fabricator. It’s a peaceful place, its stillness punctuated at intervals by the buzzing of angle grinders, hammer strokes on steel, machines whirring and roaring, the passage of trains, and the hearty sound of Pete’s cheery laughter.
Dreams of steel on the drafting table.
Dad’s vintage bandsaw.