How to buy a hurdy-gurdy in the US and Canada

The first thing many future players look for is a luthier or maker in their area. If you live in the US or Canada, there are unfortunately only a few luthiers that make hurdy-gurdies in all of North America, and not all of them are recommended.

Overall, our recommendation is to order from European luthiers – even with shipping and import fees, you are getting more for your dollar. Check out our maker’s list for a list of all hurdy-gurdy luthiers worldwide. If you are on a budget, check out our hurdy-gurdies on a budget article!

But for your information, here is a list of all the known gurdy makers in North America:

Dakota Springs

Owned by Michael & Kami Opp, Michael is a trained luthier who studied under Mel Dorries of Hurdy Gurdy Crafters, a retired luthier who produced quality gurdies for years in the US. Michael is now producing his own line of gurdies under the moniker “Dakota Springs”. Using modern manufacturing techniques to reduce cost without sacrificing function.

You can contact them on their website – Hurdygurdyusa. Below is a sound sample of their work:

Jean-Sébastien Dufour

Jean-Sébastien Dufour is a Québec based Organ builder and technician with Les Ateliers Bellavance. He has recently dove into making hurdy-gurdies, nyckelharpas, and other stringed instruments. He makes a simple, compact hurdy-gurdy out of reclaimed wood of century old Organs. As a result, the hurdy-gurdy’s wood is already acclimated to the unique climate and humidity challenges that is experienced in New England and Québec.

This may be a worthwhile option to investigate if you live in this geographical area, or if you are just looking for a simple, compact instrument for travel.

You can contact him on his Facebook page. Below is a sound sample of their work:

Altarwind

Altarwind is likely the most infamous on the list. Despite having built hurdy-gurdies since the late 1990s, Altarwind continues to produce instruments inconsistent in quality, ranging from acceptable to very poor. They tend to have poor sound quality, are particularly heavy, and sometimes arrive as defective instruments (such as a bent axel or parts breaking off)

Scott Gayman, a California based gurdy guru that has personally repaired around 15 different Altarwind instruments, had this to say about them:

General lower quality craftsmanship, bad wheel design, terrible axle design, terrible “bearing” sets, poor handle design, bad handle bearings, terrible keys, terrible tangents (metal tangents that look like they hired a 5 year old to make), terrible and cheap strings, bad trompette design, horrible chiens, heavy, poor finish….basically the only good thing on these $5,000 instruments are the [tuning] pegs, and those aren’t lined up properly for the instrument (also they are not often even straight).

-Scott Gayman, expert hurdy gurdy player and technician, 2023

The lower quality does not come with a lower cost, as Altarwind charges as much as a European luthier. Despite how local they are, Altarwind unfortunately isn’t a worthwhile option. You can find additional information in our Altarwind article.

You can find their website here. Below is a sound sample of their work:

Susato

Susato is a history instrument manufacturer company based in North Carolina. They produce 2 models of hurdy-gurdies – both diatonic and very simple. While these may look appealing, they are not fully featured hurdy-gurdies. They are also known to be poorly engineered and have poor sound quality. Avoid these instruments.

You can find their website here. Below is a sound sample of their work:

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