How to fix a winding music box

Written by michael e carpenter
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How to fix a winding music box
The cylinder plucks the combs creating the notes in a music box. (music box image by Paul Moore from

Music boxes are devices that play music when a spring is turned to play a disc, record or cylinder. Music boxes date back as far as the 16th century in Switzerland, according to BRS Group, Inc. Music boxes that use winding keys are considered windup boxes. With time and use the boxes may get worn and break. Fixing a windup music box is a delicate process. There are many small parts which, if damaged, will ruin the box. Great care must be taken when repairing a windup music box.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • WD-40
  • Pin point oiler

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  1. 1

    Help the spring unwind if the box will not wind up any further. The spring has been wound too tight and must have the tension taken off to work properly. Carefully wind the key in the opposite direction, just like when it was playing, to relieve tension. Do this slowly and carefully as not to damage the spring, gears or key.

  2. 2

    Wind the key on the music box to tension the spring. If necessary, help the spring unwind by turning the key in the opposite direction. Repeat this step two or three times to see if the music box will return to normal functioning.

  3. 3

    Apply WD-40 using a pin point oiler to the key winding stem if the key and spring remain stuck. (Pin point oilers have long needles to apply material; you can find them at hobby stores.) Let the music box sit for a few minutes, then try to play it.

  4. 4

    Apply WD-40 using the pin point oiler to the top, centre, and base of the governor endless screw assembly. The governor endless screw assembly will be toward the bottom of the music box to one side of the combs. Governors come in many different varieties. The screw threads should be visible in the governor.

Tips and warnings

  • Fixing a music box yourself may void any warranty it came with.
  • Consult a professional if the spring is broken or not connecting to the gears.
  • Do not touch the comb of the music box or it may begin to oxidise. If you happen to touch it, use a clean dry cloth to wipe it off right away.

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