Western Bigleaf maple is our standard soundboard wood of choice, though Sitka spruce and Spanish cedar (see below) are excellent alternatives. Maple gives a clear, even response without being either mushy or overpowering. It takes longer for a maple soundboard to achieve its potential, but the ultimate sound is superior to that of spruce.
We have also made soundboards from Honduran mahogony, European spruce, Spanish cedar (see below), and several other woods. A full discussion of the merits of these woods is much too long for this overview. Please contact us for details about alternative soundboard woods.
Volksgurdy with Western bigleaf soundboard and body
Renaissance model with flamed Western bigleaf soundboard and body
European spruce soundboard
Spruce is the traditional soundboard wood for luthiers who build guitars and violin family instruments. Why then isn't it the first wood of choice for the hurdy-gurdy? It's an excellent choice. We like it for its softness and ease of finishing. We dislike it for much the same reasons: it's a softwood, so it dents more easily, and the strong contrast of densities between the hard and soft parts of the rings makes it more difficult to work with. Spruce develops its full sound earlier than maple.
Volksgurdy with spruce soundboard
Spanish cedar soundboard
Spanish cedar has a long tradition of use in musical instruments, most notably in classical guitars. Most people know this wood from its use in old wooden cigar boxes, where its aromatic qualities remain long after the product has been consumed. Some hurdy-gurdy builders in the Baroque era used this wood for soundboards, giving their instruments a distinctive clarity and "presence". We were very pleased to have Marcello Bono specify Spanish cedar for the soundboard of his instrument, because it is one of our favorite woods for this part. This feature can only be included in a new instrument.
Minstrel model with Spanish cedar soundboard
Hondurah mahogany has a similar color to Spanish cedar. It was used on some historical hurdy-gurdies, and gives a mellow sound.
Volksgurdy with Honduran mahogany soundboard
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Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments
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