Music boxes were once a popular way to play songs for amusement. In 1887, when the Gramophone was invented by an American named Emile Berliner, it was the beginning of the end for the music box. People could now play a wide selection of songs- instead of just one tune over and over- on their Gramophone.
However, there’s still a magical appeal to a music box that a Gramophone just can’t capture. When you wind up the key on an old-fashioned music box, the plinking music arouses our hearing. And it takes us back to days gone by.
Music boxes actually used to be square or rectangular-shaped boxes made of thick cardboard or wood. These boxes held the metal music combs and the rest of the musical device. Nowadays, though, they take on a variety of shapes and sizes. This is due to technology. Many music boxes are now “powered” by electronic computer chips that are soldered to a miniature circuit board. A small watch battery gives the device the electricity it needs to operate. The chips are programmed with a song. Once the sensor in the device is exposed to light, the device is activated and you hear the song being played.
No matter what shape you choose, you can successfully build your own homemade music box. The first step is to choose the body of the box. You can build a box of your own design. Or, you may choose to use a ceramic trinket box that has a lid, or a decorative tea cup and saucer, for just two examples. The electronic circuit boards are relatively flat. They can fit into many places the metal music comb devices don’t fit into.
The next step is to choose either a mechanical music playing device, or an electronic one. You’ll also need to choose a music-producing device that plays the song of your choosing. If you’re building this homemade music box for yourself, you can simply choose one of your favorite tunes. If you’re building this box as a gift to give to someone else, choose their favorite song. Or, if you’re building this as an anniversary gift for your wife, for example, you can choose the first song you danced to, the song that was played at your wedding, et cetera. You get the idea.
Now, since I’m not sure of the exact homemade music box you have in mind, I’ll have to give you basic instructions and suggestions from here on out. One example of a music box I made was with a heart-shaped ceramic box. It had a hinged lid. I bought a mechanical music device that played, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” I then installed the movement inside the box. In order to achieve the best results, be sure that you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Basically, though, you’ll need to drill a hole in the bottom of your homemade music box. This is where the stem will fit through. On the end of the stem will be the key screwed on.
I had to measure the inside of my ceramic box so I could buy a music device that was sure to fit properly.
You can camouflage the movement with a fancy piece of cardboard or thick material, if you choose to. An electronic music device will fit in most anything. You could fit one inside a piggy bank figurine, as long as the hole in the bottom is large enough to accommodate it.
These are just a few examples of how you can build a homemade music box. Just use your imagination and see what you can create!