Music Box Mechanics

A Swiss inlaid rosewood multi-tune cylinder music box

p4A ItemID F7949591
A Swiss Cylinder Eight-Tune Music Box

p4A ItemID F7939949
A Swiss Nicole Freres cylinder music box

p4A ItemID F7939828
A Swiss ten-tune cylinder music box, circa 1900, in a grain-painted case

p4A ItemID F7937775

Notes on Mechanical Features of Music Boxes

Feather Dampers: Music boxes generally have dampers to prevent a harsh grating sound from being heard as the cylinder pins strike the same vibrating tooth in rapid succession. Basically, most, but not all, of the early pieces had either no dampers or feather dampers, though some of the best early pieces had steel dampers arranged in some unusual ways.

Tooth or Teeth: One of the most basic components of a music box – basically a flexible spring-like steel strip which, when rigidly held at one end and plucked on the other, gives forth a clear, ringing tone. The tooth may be altered in pitch by manipulating the tooth’s thickness, width and weight so that, in effect, a complete musical scale can be achieved.

Originally, prior to 1800, most mechanical music boxes using tuned steel teeth had those teeth screwed down individually. Later, so called ‘sectional combs’ were made which had teeth in sections of two, three and eventually five or more. Then one of the great makers, perhaps David LeCoultre, invented the solid (one piece construction with multiple teeth cut into a single block of steel) comb.

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