logo

Projects: 1920s French hurdy gurdy

Click on the images to view a larger version.

This hurdy-gurdy was hand-made in France, probably in the 1920s. It was bought at a vide-grenier sale - what we would call a garage sale in the UK - near Cahors many years ago and has been awaiting restoration.

It was in pretty poor shape. As can be seen from the pics, the top was split and separated from the internal braces and a large part broken away completely. There were numerous splits in the sides, some of the 'barber pole' ornamentation was missing, and the two halves of the bookmatched back had separated. The girl's head ornamenting the pegbox had come away completely, the keybox was loose and the lid veneer was damaged. And last but not least, some of the keys, bridges and tangents (the bits inside the keybox that actually 'fret' the melody strings) were missing.

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

I spent a good while researching before commencing restoration - Susann Palmer's book on the hurdy-gurdy was a great help, as was advice from Neil Brook, whose DVDs and YouTube videos are invaluable. Then it was time to start clamping up the various structural issues. 'You can never have too many clamps', as the following pics show. Incidentally, the little black clamps fitted with guitar tuners in one of the pics are a very effective way of aligning top or side cracks before gluing - you can feed a thin guitar string through the crack and then use the tuner to align the sides of the crack and pull a cleat into position.

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

1920s French hurdy gurdy

Crack clamp

Then it was time to replace the missing rosewood or bone keys; the tangents, which I made out of beech; the missing bridges; and the nuts (or sillets as they are called). The veneer was repaired on the keybox and tailpiece, and the black and white 'binding' repaired. The head was re-glued to the pegbox. Now I can begin to think about stringing and setting it up. There's still lots more to do before it will be playable.

1920s French hurdy gurdy