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MMD > Archives > April 1997 > 1997.04.09 > 06Prev  Next


Building a Music Box
By Larry Smith

Greg Przyjemski:  The very best guy to talk to is Charlie Hind, who does
indeed read this list and will probably be responding.  But I thought I'd
toss in my two cents and add a couple of points to the count of "music
box" text strings in the data base.  =)

If you want to do a bang-up job, you'll need to be pretty good at
marquetry or inlay to do a fancy lid - this is a trademark of the early
cylinder boxes (which I presume you want to replicate).  Most music boxes
had relatively little ornamentation elsewhere (though as with most things
in the music box world, exceptions are rampant).  Often just a decal on
the front, though fancy inlay there or on the sides is not really that
uncommon.

The trick to getting a box to sound nice is the sound board - a music box
is a musical instrument, and it needs a good sound board to mount the
movement to get really full-bodied sound.  Even the fanciest
box-makers nowadays tend to use regular plywood in their pieces - it's
cheaper, and how often does anyone look at the bottom of a box? - but
that's the worst choice for a soundboard.

You will need a good piece of hardwood of a type not inappropriate for
a guitar or dulcimer top to use for the bottom.  Aircraft-quality plywood
(1/4" or less) is sometimes used for cheaper instruments and could also
be a good choice (though I think it's less mellow than solid wood).

Music boxes also tend to have an inner lid of glass - this was to help
protect the movement from dust and to cut the noise of the spring motor.
Unlike jewelry or similar boxes, music boxes will _always_ have feet,
since the bottom is the soundboard it needs to be raised up.

The bottom of the music box and the top of the hard surface is it placed
on form a sort of acoustical chamber, which is where most of the sound
will come from (very little actually drifts out of the box through an
open lid, comparatively speaking, and most of that is in the _upper_
frequencies).  You will need to arrange for traditional controls, as
well.

What are you planning to use for a movement?  I've had good results with
72-note Reuge movements mounted in cheap little cherry jewelry boxes from
Sears (of all things - had to add feet, though).  Or do you have some
other movement in mind?

regards,
Larry Smith

  ...there, that's ten more "music box" mentions...   =)


(Message sent Wed 9 Apr 1997, 16:00:57 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Box, Building, Music

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