How to Make a Simple Music Box

Written by katherine kennon
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How to Make a Simple Music Box
Music box (music box image by Vladislav Gajic from

For centuries, music boxes have been the beloved possession of people from all walks of life. The musical snuff-box was a staple of high society in the 19th century, when boxes and other containers were often personalised but not highly creative in appearance. Now, thanks to accessible technology and the availability of materials, anyone can create a music box. Homemade music boxes make great gifts and can be suited to any taste, decor or budget.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Box or container
  • Movement kit or microchip/circuit board kit
  • Power drill

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  1. 1

    Choose a container large enough to hold the chosen movement. Traditionally, music boxes have been made using simple mechanical parts in a wooden box with a hinged lid. The box includes a crank that can be wound up to prepare the music. Then, when the lid is opened, the music plays and a small figurine spins inside slowly. This traditional set-up is ideal fif you wish to use an actual box or other large container to build a music box.

  2. 2

    Choose a movement. “Movement” refers to the mechanical parts found in a music box, and can be purchased in kit form from many craft and hobby stores, as well as some hardware and speciality stores. It is important to choose a movement that is small enough to fit inside the desired box or container while still allowing space for the movement to operate properly. Movement kits generally include a crank and shaft that needs to be fitted to the outside of the music box.

  3. 3

    Drill a hole in the container large enough for the crank shaft to fit through. Refer to your movement kit’s instructions when choosing a size for the hole.

  4. 4

    Install the movement carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  5. 5

    Cover the exposed movement with a concealing panel. This will ensure that the movement is not disturbed by items placed inside the box. Sometimes a simple layer of fabric is all it takes, depending on the contents the music box is likely to have upon completion.

  6. 6

    Test the mechanical parts to make sure they are functioning properly, then finish your music box however you like.

  1. 1

    Select a container that, when closed, will allow for complete darkness.

  2. 2

    Place a computer chip/circuit board tab inside the container where it will lie in darkness. These electronic devices can be found in musical greeting cards and talking picture books, as well as purchased from craft and hobby stores. Since the device operates by sensing light, the programmed music or sounds will begin playing as soon as the box is opened and light streams in.

    Do not cover the tab with fabric or any other concealing panel, as it will interfere with the device’s ability to discern light from dark.

  3. 3

    Finish the music box with whatever embellishments you desire.

Tips and warnings

  • When the simple music box is complete, embellish it to suit yourself or the recipient.
  • Wood boxes can be painted or stained.
  • Glue photos, dried flowers, beads, gemstones and other decorative items to the outside of the container.
  • Patterned or textured fabrics are also popular additions to the interior of the music box.

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