How to Build a Hurdy Gurdy

Written by charlie johnson
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How to Build a Hurdy Gurdy
A hurdy gurdy is an early version of an acoustic guitar, but with a wheel and a keyboard. (guitar image by cherie from

A hurdy gurdy is a musical instrument from the Renaissance era. It was played by troubadours and dance accompanists. It is a stringed instrument that is played like a guitar, and looks like a lute, but it also has a keyboard and a wheel that you turn in order to pluck the strings. You can build your own hurdy gurdy from a prefabricated kit.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • "The Hurdy-gurdy: Setup and Maintenance" by Philip Destrem and Volker Heidemann
  • A hurdy gurdy kit (optional)
  • Musical instrument-grade wood (spruce or mahogany) (Optional)
  • Epoxy glue
  • Jigsaw saw
  • Pencil
  • 5 small C-clamps
  • 25 clothespins

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  1. 1

    Research the types and sizes of hurdy gurdys to decide what type you want to build. The "The Hurdy-gurdy: Setup and Maintenance" by Philip Destrem and Volker Heidemann is an excellent book for beginners.

  2. 2

    Decide if you would like to build a hurdy gurdy from plans or from a kit. If you do not have a lot of woodworking and luthier experience, it is strongly suggested to build from a prefabricated modular kit rather than a set of plans.

  3. 3

    Purchase a hurdy gurdy kit from either a local music shop or online if you decide to use a building kit for your hurdy gurdy. Reputable kits are only available through a music store, and kits are never homemade, as a hurdy gurdy is very difficult to build. You will need at least 40 hours to build the hurdy gurdy, and more if you have never built one before.

  4. 4

    Research building plans for a hurdy gurdy if you decide to build one from scratch. Plans for a 15th-century hurdy gurdy by Marcello Bono are available in Hieronymous Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights." Use this plan or choose another historically authentic plan. Once you decide on the plan you wish to use, choose the type of wood you would like to use. Spruce or mahogany are considered appropriate woods for musical instruments. Do not use gumwoods or veneers (particularly birch veneers) as they will be too heavy and stiff to make a hurdy gurdy.

  5. 5

    Gather the appropriate tools to build the hurdy gurdy. You will need basic tools regardless of whether you choose to use a kit or a plan. You will need a jigsaw, epoxy glue, a pencil, clothespins, and C-clamps regardless of whether you use a kit or a plan. Follow the instructions for building the kit, and the diagrams if you choose to use a set of plans. If you are using a plan, it is best to prepare all of your pieces beforehand, before you try to assemble any one part. For example, have all of your pieces cut and prepared first, rather than trying to build it in steps while cutting the pieces at the same time.

Tips and warnings

  • Building a hurdy gurdy even from a kit is a difficult task. Pre-made hurdy gurdys are available through speciality music stores and can be ordered online. It is suggested that you purchase one made by a specialist if you would like to play professionally on your hurdy gurdy.

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