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Hurdy-Gurdy: Making musical instruments at Unleash Space

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12 January 2021

Biological Sciences Honours student Gyoungsu Lee is using rapid prototyping technology to create a modern version of the traditional hurdy-gurdy, a stringed instrument originating from Europe and the Middle East. He followed the Nerdy Gurdy design by Dutch mechanical engineer Jaap Brand, and built it using the laser cutter and 3D printers available at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Gyoungsu created his hurdy-gurdy as a means of giving the instrument a go before taking the financial plunge of purchasing the real thing. “I thought the hurdy-gurdy was quite a pretty instrument until I saw how much it would cost to actually get one. When I found an alternative that I could make myself, I instantly leapt on the opportunity.”

The first step for Gyoungsu was to learn more about the mechanics of the instrument and source the various materials and components that make it up. “I got to work sorting out how to learn how to make it as well as purchasing and collecting all the bits and bobs I would need. The wide variety of parts involved really taught me how to budget costs and research where I could acquire reasonably high quality materials at the cheapest prices.”

Gyoungsu had little to no experience with making and creating prior to this project. He picked up all the essential skills as he went by experimenting with the help of Creative Technologists in the maker space. “I had never even touched a laser cutter or 3D printer and it was honestly quite intimidating in the beginning. Thankfully, Unleash Space provided all the training needed in a couple of short sessions to get me up and running, and offered lots of advice whenever I got stuck in some hiccups.”

With the bulk of his Nerdy Gurdy built, the last step for Gyoungsu is to add the final strings and tweak the instrument so that it achieves the right sound. This tuning step has proven to be the most challenging part of the project. “Getting the tension right with the strings all in tune is so finicky. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple of days now and already snapped a few strings,” he says.

In the meantime, he is already thinking about his next project. “I’ve been keeping my eye on several other things to make at Unleash Space. I’m not done with the machines and I’m excited to learn how to use all the other equipment as well.”

Unleash Space has equipment, online tutorials, and technicians available to consult with in bringing your own ideas to life. Free for all students and staff of the University of Auckland. Find out about opportunities to unleash your potential.

Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing

social media

12 January 2021

Biological Sciences Honours student Gyoungsu Lee is using rapid prototyping technology to create a modern version of the traditional hurdy-gurdy, a stringed instrument originating from Europe and the Middle East. He followed the Nerdy Gurdy design by Dutch mechanical engineer Jaap Brand, and built it using the laser cutter and 3D printers available at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Gyoungsu created his hurdy-gurdy as a means of giving the instrument a go before taking the financial plunge of purchasing the real thing. “I thought the hurdy-gurdy was quite a pretty instrument until I saw how much it would cost to actually get one. When I found an alternative that I could make myself, I instantly leapt on the opportunity.”

The first step for Gyoungsu was to learn more about the mechanics of the instrument and source the various materials and components that make it up. “I got to work sorting out how to learn how to make it as well as purchasing and collecting all the bits and bobs I would need. The wide variety of parts involved really taught me how to budget costs and research where I could acquire reasonably high quality materials at the cheapest prices.”

Gyoungsu had little to no experience with making and creating prior to this project. He picked up all the essential skills as he went by experimenting with the help of Creative Technologists in the maker space. “I had never even touched a laser cutter or 3D printer and it was honestly quite intimidating in the beginning. Thankfully, Unleash Space provided all the training needed in a couple of short sessions to get me up and running, and offered lots of advice whenever I got stuck in some hiccups.”

With the bulk of his Nerdy Gurdy built, the last step for Gyoungsu is to add the final strings and tweak the instrument so that it achieves the right sound. This tuning step has proven to be the most challenging part of the project. “Getting the tension right with the strings all in tune is so finicky. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple of days now and already snapped a few strings,” he says.

In the meantime, he is already thinking about his next project. “I’ve been keeping my eye on several other things to make at Unleash Space. I’m not done with the machines and I’m excited to learn how to use all the other equipment as well.”

Unleash Space has equipment, online tutorials, and technicians available to consult with in bringing your own ideas to life. Free for all students and staff of the University of Auckland. Find out about opportunities to unleash your potential.


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