Nov 102009

A long while back when I was engaged to be married and the wedding was fast approaching. I really wanted to find a personal and unique wedding gift to give to Christy, my wife-to-be, on our wedding day. Being musically-minded, I thought it would be really special if I could write an original music box theme and have a music box made that would play it. It would be a one-of-a-kind music box that would play a song that no other music box would play. I tinkered around on the piano and came up with a really nice theme that I thought would work great.

But as I researched music box companies and what was available, time and time again all I found were music boxes that played well-known songs, or if you were lucky, you might get to choose from a list of songs, but no provisions for submitting an original song and having the music box manufactured to play the song you submitted. I even took apart a music box in order to determine whether I could figure out a way to make my own cylinder, complete with all the right bumps in all the right places to play back my theme, but it appeared far too difficult to do.

Fast forward many years, and I’m happily married to my lovely wife. I’d been shopping in a store in Santa Monica, and happened upon a cool and fun wind-up toy made by Kikkerland. Once I got back home, I looked up their website to check out what other wind-up toys they had. Their wind-up toys are great, and I’ve since collected a handful of them.

But among the other items on their website, I found the Mechanical Music Box Set which I later purchased from Toy Joy, a super hip and fun toy store in Austin, Texas. The very simple and affordable set (I got mine for less than $15) accomplished something that no other music box I’d found had accomplished – by punching holes in a paper strip not unlike a very small version of the paper rolls used in player pianos, you could make the music box play whatever you wanted, the only real limitation being a two-octave range.



This Mechanical Music Box Set is awesome. It comes with the music “box” mechanism itself (the part where the actual music comes from, with the tines and the handle that you turn to feed the paper through), a hole punch specifically designed for punching precisely positioned small round holes, several blank music strips, and one music strip pre-punched with the song “Happy Birthday.”

The strips of paper are marked with the five lines of a treble staff, horizontal grid lines to precisely mark pitches, and vertical grid lines to precisely mark timing (i.e. 16th note intervals, 8th note intervals, depending on the song you want the music box to play). By using the hole punch and lining it up on intersecting grid lines, you can punch holes that are specific notes with specific timing. As I mentioned before, the set comes with a few blank strips, and Kikkerland sells refills too.

Once you have a completed music strip, with holes punched for all the notes you wish the music box mechanism to play, you simply feed the strip into one side of the music box mechanism and turn the crank to steadily move it past the tines, where the holes in the music strip trigger the tines to play the individual notes. The music box mechanism itself is fairly small and a bit difficult to hold while turning the crank, so I enlisted the help of a friend, who built me a nice wood box to house the music box mechanism, complete with an opening on the side for the crank, and slots on either side for the music strips to enter and exit.

Today is my wife’s birthday, and later this month will mark 20 years since the day I proposed. I’m still very much in love with her, and I’m glad that I’m finally able to immortalize Christy’s Theme with my awesome Mechanical Music Box Kit. To watch my YouTube video that shows the music box and also serves as the “world premiere” of “Christy’s Theme,” click here.

More on the Kikkerland Mechanical Music Box Set at their blog here.

  2 Responses to “DIY Music Box Adventures (and a love note for my wife)”

  1. Would your friend make the box again for someone? Thinking gifts for the grandkids. Thanks for the video I stumbled upon while on Youtube.

    • I’m fairly certain that my friend couldn’t get more wood enclosures built in time for Christmas. They may be willing to build more though. I don’t know how much they would charge, but let me know if you want me to check into the price and timeframe. As a reminder, they only built the wooden box – I had to purchase the music box set separately.

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