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Music Boxes Answered

I am hoping someone can help me out. I would like to know how to program the music box cylinder to play a specific tune. Does anyone know anything that may be able to help me in terms of building my own mechanism from scratch? Thanks YelloTrace


IIRC, a lot of toy music boxes have a metal plate rolled into a cylinder, with small lumps on the plate to twang the "tongues" of the music box.

Could you replace the plate of an existing music box with one you made yourself? Use a tin sheet and punch lumps in from the "wrong" side with a hammer and narrow nail?

I am indeed capable of that... However I'd like to know how to tune the lumps. I am not quite sure on how the comb-cylinder interaction works in the sense of musical tone. Does the cylinder produce the actual sound or does the comb?

The different lengths of metal on the "comb" produce the tones. Each "bump" on the cylander is the same height, but are positioned to play the tune by plucking different "teeth" of the "comb".

Would you happen to know how I can make/tune the comb to a desired range? I am not very knowledgeable in fabrication of musical parts.

If you start from a scratch piece of metal, it might be a bit tedious. It's tone would depend on a few factors, the type of metal used (how much carbon is contained in the "steel" etc), and the length and to a degree, the width of each tine. Much like a tuning fork, that is tuned by the length / thickness of it's tines. Then, once the piece was cut and tuned, it would need to be attached to a sound chamber, to amplify the sound without needing electronics also.

What sort of metal (carbon percentage, steelvs copper/brass) would you recomend?

Well, someone mentioned "sheet metal" but that bends fairly easily, and may stay "bent" rather then give much of a tone. The original music "boxes" (snuff boxes really) were made by clock makers. I am not really sure, but for the best tone, I would think a spring steel would be best, BUT then again, that will be harder to work with. I am sorry I can't be of more help with being more specific.

Not at all, you seem to have a lot of very useful information that I can (and have, so far unsuccessfully though) implement. I am having difficulty with the spring mechanism as you mentioned earlier but it will resolve itself I am sure. Any information is appreciated since I am new to the process. Feel free to let me know if you come accross anything that may be of use. Thanks again

Or go with the original idea, small nails in a wood cylinder.


10 years ago

Here's a simple but untried IDEA... It would be a little bigger than ordinary music boxes. Start with the comb... find a piece of sheet metal that can be cut into a comb that makes notes when plucked especially when it's fastened to a wooden board. Once you have that, you can make a drum out of a dowel or something that can pluck it with small nails. Put a crank on the dowel and turn it very slowly. No spring needed.

What thickness would you recomend?

Just working with the spring steel of the wind up spring will pose some problems.