A Primer on Music Box Parts

If you are a collector of music boxes, or if you just want to purchase one as a gift to yourself or a loved one, you may be curious about how these miniature marvels work.  Like any fine piece of mechanical artwork, a music box should simply work flawlessly without you having to concern yourself about music box parts and functions.  After all, do you need to know exactly how your television works, or do you just want to turn it on and watch a program?  Too much technological information can be both confusing and annoying!  But like all such issues, no matter how thin you pound a pancake, it still has two sides!  Perhaps you do want to know how your music box works.

A music box collectors' club, the Musical Box Society International, perpetuates a long-standing debate over what a music box really is.  The only thing they seem to be able to agree upon is that a music box is, at heart, a fine instrument that is painstakingly handcrafted to mesmerize its owner with beautiful carved motifs and figurines and a soothing, tinkling melody.  Music box parts, the society contends, is of secondary concern, as long as the box is working properly. Sometimes it is best not to know just how these treasures work since the mechanics of the box could take away their magical enchantment.

However, and in contrast to this view, the first American company to manufacture music boxes in America, the fabulous Regina company, was the first company to print information about music box parts in its "Music Box Operation and Repair Booklet."  The old European masters were horrified, to say the least!  But for those who wanted to know more about music box parts and mechanical functioning, this booklet was ideal.  These manuals are still available today.

Music Box Parts Revealed!

Most modern music boxes are made of 100 per cent hardwood polished to a shiny finish, or carved from stone such as soap wood.  However, clear acrylic boxes are gaining in popularity; they allow all the music box parts to be viewed as they cause the figurines to twirl and glide and the tinkling music to sound forth in time with the movement.  These boxes are ideal gifts for the mechanical minded. The integrity of the casing is directly related to the quality and volume of the music; acrylic boxes provide excellent protection of the music box parts.

Since the music box is both a piece of lovely furniture and a musical instrument, the music box parts must be of the finest quality.  It is composed of two parts – the music box movement and the case.  The box is really a very complex object that requires several stages in its creation, calling upon a number of well-trained artisans with amazing skills. Traditionally, music boxes are wound with a key hidden underneath the case.  Other boxes are operated with a crank on the side of the box.  Whether the music box parts consist of winding keys or cranks, collectors agree that these mechanisms are not just mechanical devices that set the box in motion; they are generators of suspense as the owner waits for the figurines to begin their graceful movements accompanied by marvelous tunes. 

The heart of music box parts is its comb of metal tines that generates the sound, much like player pianos; these are examples of "automatic" musical instruments that require no skill from the owner to make music.  Traditional craftsmen still use these combs, powered by springs, while other modern artists now use microchips to play and store the musical tunes. Underneath the box is a hard platform that acts as a soundboard. 

Music box parts have come a long way since their origin a century ago.  The Maine Music Box is a database of digitalized unique and rare musical instrumentation and even vocal scores of historical significance and is associated with midi sound.  The Storybook Music Box for children not only has moving figurines and simple songs, but also vocals that tell a short story as the child listens and watches in rapture! 

To know, or not know, about the intricacy of music box parts – the choice is entirely yours!

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