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Music box

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polyphon_s picture Large coin-operated music box with interchangeable metal discs.
160 teeth on 2 combs. Disc diameter : 62,5 cm (24 1/2 inches).
Germany (Leipzig), ca 1900

Musée des Gets, France
Photo Q. Bertoux

symphonion_chartres_s picture Large coin-operated music box with interchangeable metal discs.
192 teeth on 2 combs. Disc diameter : 64 cm.
Germany, ca 1900

Auction in Chartres (France) May 11th 1997

sinfa_s picture Disc with Chinese music.
Diameter : 11,5 cm (4 1/2 inches).
Music boxes were exported everywhere in the world.

How To Care For Your Music Box

You have just inherited a music box with a cylinder or a disc movement from your family, or maybe you were just given one, or you bought one for pleasure. So, if you have only one or two music boxes, and don't want to read a lot about music boxes, but you wish to keep them in good condition, here is what you should do and shouldn't do to a music box.

The most sensitive parts of a music box, which we should look after with great respect, are:

Always keep it horizontal. Carry and store a music box horizontally; not vertically, not upside down.

Never wind the spring while it is playing. The cylinder of a smaller movement might go backward a little bit and ruin teeth, dampers or pins. Let the music box play until the end of the tune.

Never move a music box while it is playing. The cylinder might shift aside, and break dampers or pins. For the same reason, always let the music box play until the end of the tune, and never let it stop before. If necessary, wind it a little so that it goes to the end of the tune.

A good practice is to leave the Change/Repeat lever (if there is one) on 'Repeat' when the box is not playing. Should a shock or an accident happen, only the pins of one tune would be ruined ...

Beware of temperature shock, which is not appreciated by the steel which music boxes are made of. If is has just been moved from the cold into a warm room, wait a little while before playing it so that the temperatures of the components can equalize.

Block the speed regulator for moving or shipping. After unwinding and expanding the spring as much as possible and stopping the box at the end of a tune, you should block the speed regulator with a little piece of folded paper, if you will be transporting it over long distances. In that case the movement can't start playing accidentally. Be careful when you take this piece of folded paper away: do it gently, never force it away.

Don't take it apart if you don't know exactly how a music box works. And especially if the spring is not totally unwound, or you could ruin your box.

Never remove rust from the comb, either with sandpaper or a file or a metallic brush, because the tuning will be affected: your music box will play very modern or ethnic music! If you really want to take the dust away, just wipe it very gently with a very smooth, non-metallic brush (and even so some dampers might suffer).

For disc music boxes, similar care should be taken.

When you put a disc on the comb, notice carefully the place of the beginning of the tune. If the pressure bar doesn't go gently into place, never force it; find the cause of the problem (usually it's that the disc is not placed correctly).

Don't remove the disc before the end of the tune.

Always remove the disc before transporting.

Always carry the discs horizontal or vertical, never slantwise. To carry discs with projections, put protection material, such as newspapers or bubble-pack (but not fluffy material) between each disc.

Store in a dry place. The biggest enemy of music boxes (besides restoration by a non-specialist), is rust, usually provoked by water or dampness. So do not keep a music box in a damp atmosphere. In case of flooding (e.g., after a fire), you may use an electric hair-dryer, but anyway call an expert within a few hours to know what to do. If you cannot do so within a few hours, it is actually better to immerse completely the wet mechanism in drinking water, and take it like that quickly to the repairer !

And now, enjoy for many years your music box !

Copyrights : Philippe Rouillé and Hauke Marxsen
members of AAIMM (France), GSM (Allemagne), MBSI (USA).

Copyrights: Musica Mecanica. PhR - màj/update