Click here to see plans for building a simpler hurdy gurdy,
that cost about $20 in parts.

How to convert a Guitar to a Hurdy Gurdy.
NOTE: 13 additional photos and a sound sample of this instrument are available. Click here for information.
I have had many requests for details concerning my converting an 
old guitar into a hurdy gurdy. The one I converted is loud, 
resonant and turned out great.
Click here for a photo of this conversion.
There are two distinct parts to this process:

- A keybox, which is not that difficult to build.
Click here for keybox building details.
- A 6" diameter rock maple (hard maple) (or even clear PVC 
  plastic) wheel must be made and fitted to a simple shaft that 
  rides in an equally simple mount. The guitar's neck must be 
  removed in a fashion that allows zither-type tuning pins to be 
  mounted to it's stub.
Click here for details of how the whole instrument goes together.

  Until things can be refined & I can draw up wheel plans 
  specifically for this conversion, refer to how a wheel is made 
  in my "$20 hurdy gurdy" article on my webpage.
Click here to access this article.

  The heart of this project is the key-box. Such a box need not 
  be mounted on a guitar body -- just about any resonator I can 
  think of (even a rectangular box) that you can mount the 
  key-box & wheel/crank on, should work fine.
  Rock maple (hard aka sugar maple) should be used for keys, 
  wheel, nuts, pinblock (I have had tuning pins slip in anything 
  except rock maple -- oak even slips). Any other hardwood is 
  fine for bridges, etc. One instrument I have has a basic box 
  (minus keys etc) built of pine & shows zero sign of wear or 
  elongation in the many years I've been playing it.
  The upper edges of the wheel-hole cut into the guitar top need 
  reinforcement because of the weakening effect of cutting the 
  hole. This is accomplished in a rather unusual way by glueing 
  and screwing (with small woodscrews) two strips of hardwood 
  along each long edge of the wheel-hole. This is further 
  described in the drawing.
  A great deal here is not very critical (dimension or even
  design-wise) but here are some things that are:
  - The wheel must be round, with the hole exactly in the center 
    & this hole drilled exactly 90 degrees to the plane of the 
  - Placement of holes that keys pass through in the keybox
  - Nut placement & nut to wheel distance
  - The pressure with which the strings ride over the wheel,
    but this is fine-tuned afterwards using paper shims.

   In addition, getting the right fit of the key through the 
   keyholes may take some experimenting. Too loose & the keys 
   wobble. Too tight & they obviously stick. This is further 
   compounded by the fact that wood swells is summertime. So, I 
   suggest making the fit a bit looser than tighter.

   Although my original conversion utilized a "dog string", I have 
   not included it in these drawings. I personally am not fond of 
   the sound and trouble these things produce. It should be little 
   problem to rig one onto this conversion though.

   Apparently some hurdy gurdies made centuries ago, were products 
   of experimenter's canabalizing old guitars! Guess I'm in pretty 
   good company in that regard.
   Dennis Havlena - W8MI
   northern Michigan
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