Last year I wanted to build something special for my wife for Christmas, something that every time she sees it (or in this case sees and hears it) she would be reminded of how much she means to me. One day I was cruising the internet and happened upon a web site that was selling music boxes. “What a great idea,” a music box, my wife loves music so what better way to express how I feel then with music. So I decided to build a music box, how hard could that be? Duh!
Well after a considerable amount of research, I discovered that building a music box is a little more involved then I first imagined. It is quite similar in principle to building a guitar or a piano in that the acoustical amplification properties of the sound come from the wood that the box is made from. Generally, more dense woods amplify bass resonance while lighter weight woods are stronger at the treble end of the range. The woods I choose were Bolivian Rosewood (dense and also looks good) and Quilted Maple (softer with good acoustical qualities and looks great). I used a 72 note movement from a company I found on the internet. They were very helpful in providing me with the proper dimensions for the box and also sent me several pages of very detailed information needed to get the best possible sound quality.
Next it was time to design something that would not only look good but would also sound good. As it turned out the box carcass was fairly simple to make. The sides are rosewood, mitered corners reinforced with walnut splines. The bottom, which also serves as the sound board that the movement is mounted to, is made from a thin piece of maple. The glass inner-lid is made from rosewood, also splined. The top was the most difficult part to make due to all the different angles. It is a solid piece of quilted maple framed with rosewood, mitered corners and half blind splines.
The box was finished with several coats of nitrocellulose lacquer using a HVLP spray system and then hand rubbed and waxed. I must say I really enjoyed doing this project, there was a lot more to it then I first thought. But the finished piece was more than I’d hope for. My wife was thrilled, and we were both absolutely amazed with the quality of the tone and the sound coming from this wooden box. The highs are crystal clear and bell like, it also has very nice bass resonance.