Stringed instruments bowed by a wheel cranked by hand have been around for centuries, and come in many shapes and sizes. Inspired by 16th century instruments, mechanical model maker UGears has created what it's calling the gem of its collection, a self assembly hurdy gurdy kit launched on Kickstarter that should appeal to wooden puzzle fans and musicians alike.
A hurdy gurdy sounds when a spinning rosined wheel comes into contact with strings running from body to neck in a similar fashion to a violinist bows a fiddle. All strings are usually sounded simultaneously, and the pitch of one or more changed by pushing buttons on the "neck" part of the instrument. The whole experience is delightfully mechanical, and in skilled hands can sound amazing.
You don't need to be a master to make music though, and UGears says its hurdy gurdy build kit should result in a 16th century-styled instrument that will sound as good as it looks. The kit comes as a number of ply boards, with patterned components ready to be pushed out and assembled. These are just snapped together in accordance with detailed step-by-step assembly instructions – no need for glue or special tools.
Once complete, there will be a crank to the bottom that drives the flywheel, six keys to alter pitch and two tuning pegs in the ornate head at the top.
To start the music flowing, the player just need to crank the handle with one hand to kick off a drone sound from the bourdon and melody strings. Pushing the wooden buttons with the fingers of the other hand changes the pitch of the melody string, as "spring-loaded" wooden blocks essentially shorten the string. And that's about it. UGears will include some tablature with the kit to get newbies off to a flying start.
The attractive and educational hurdy gurdy kit is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. The project has already been funded with more than a month left to run, and pledges start at US$49. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October.
Have a look at the pitch video below to see if this project strikes a chord with you.