Boxguy And Dale Tune Up Boxes

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Project by Boxguy posted 12-13-2014 02:45 PM 3691 views 8 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for looking at this project. Any comments and suggestions are appreciated and welcome. I will reply to all of you Lumberlanders out there who take time to “have your say” in the next 24 hours, so check back for feedback.

At the end of this posting, there is a tutorial index of some of my previous postings that will show you how to build the jigs and learn the techniques for building boxes like these.

Pictured are two music boxes (10’L x 5 1/2’W x 5’H) with Black Cherry Sides and quarter-sawn White Oak tops and corner splines. These music works were purchased from Rockler, but there are many other sources of music box works on line. These boxes feature inset tops and bottoms, a full length steel hinge, three part finger lifts, faux legs, 18 note wind-up works with covers, 16 corner splines, 4 finish coats, and solid construction.

Story: Like many others in Lumberland, Dale and I are both grandpas who know the happiness of making things for our grandchildren to enjoy. For Christmas, Dale wanted to give each of his two granddaughters a music box. Dale and I have worked together on several other boxes over the past few years. Dale does a nice job of making boxes. We started working on these particular music boxes several months ago and of course life’s travails got in the way. There were vacations, illnesses, appointments and the like. But we got them finished before Christmas and Dale is eager to see his granddaughters light up with joy as they see the music boxes he made for each of them for Christmas. As many Lumberjocks know, crafting this type of gift is like sending love forward for years to come.

Construction Tips for Music Boxes:

In terms of sound and mechanical concerns, the bottom of the box is the most important part. Here are some of the things Dale and I learned about building music boxes.

Leave a deeper-than-normal inset at the bottom of the box for the key to protrude from the bottom of the box and clear the table it sits upon. These boxes have a 3/4’ inset from leg bottom to box bottom.

Try to design some space between the very bottom of the box and the table it sits on for the sound to escape. Dale used faux legs and we sanded a little extra off to leave a “crack” between the leg bottom and the table top.

Use 1/4’ plywood for a bottom. If it is too thick the key stem will be too short. 1/4 inch plywood seems to provide a sound board that is thick enough to hold screws and thin enough vibrate well.

Fasten the works securely to the bottom soundboard. Use three or four screws to do this. There will be an unpleasant vibration and buzz as the music plays if the works are not fastened securely.

Be sure to glue the plywood box bottom on all four sides. If it is loose it will buzz on some notes. This is another plus for plywood bottoms since they will not tend to shrink and move seasonally.

Leave extra room around the key hole for the key, and be sure it doesn’t bind when winding and unwinding.

Since these works did not come with a cover, we made covers by cutting down small plastic sugar caddies like you see used in many restuarants. You can also buy these at local restaurant supply stores. They are clear plastic, sturdy, and a good fit for the 18 note movements.

Anchor the cover with two screws. Dale and I chose to keep the inset screw heads uncovered so we could remove the covers and get to the movements to work on them. It saved us several times when we were working on the shut off lever. The two-step drill bit and a stop collar from my pocket hole kit did a nice job of keeping everything centered and not drilling too deeply.

Wow! I hadn’t realized how many problems we solved to get the sound to work well in Dale’s music boxes. Maybe these hints will save some of you time when you make your music box.

Tutorials: For methods used to make boxes like the one pictured above just click on the blue links below. They are arranged by topic.

Making a jig to cut spline slots:
Jig for 45ing corners:
Making splines with a simple jig:
Finishing tips:
$5 band clamps:
Combining Wood Colors:
Sizing Tea Boxes and Dividers From Venetian Blinds
Making Kleenex boxes:
Making music boxes
Routers and Rounding edges
Why round box corners?
Organizing a glue-up table:
Adding splines to a box:
Measuring for spline slot cuts:
Installing an attached top: like that pictured above.
Cutting off the box top and sizing piano hinges
Adding finger indents:
More about finger indents.
Mortising and installing hinges:
Tips on making sliding trays: for inside boxes:
Cutting cloth liners for trays and the bottom of boxes.
Swapping Wood By Mail:
Making a serving tray with angled sides.
Roy Underhill's tool tote.
Teaching Boxmaking

-- Big Al in IN

16 comments so far

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7634 posts in 4201 days

#1 posted 12-13-2014 03:21 PM

Al, Whenever I see that you posted a new project I can’t wait to see what it is that your created. Your post are always a learning experience for me. I Love the wood choices in this box. Warm wood tones are my favorite colors. The oak works well in showing some contrast and music makes it even more special.
These are sweet looking music box’s and I’m sure the grandchildren will cherish them for a lifetime.
Nice job guys! And a great tutorial too.

Thanks for sharing all that you do!

Merry Christmas from us to you! Tony

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View KelSnake's profile


252 posts in 2170 days

#2 posted 12-13-2014 04:01 PM

That is a lot of information! You guys rock! I really like how its all about the grandkids and watching the eyes light up. Isn’t that why we love woodworking, it’s not just the time in the shop, free to meditate on any number of things, but the appreciation seen in the eyes of the one receiving. So aweome!

-- Kel Snake, ~ Mystery By Design ~ Find me on Etsy ~

View R_Stad's profile


428 posts in 2691 days

#3 posted 12-13-2014 05:44 PM

Hello Al and Dale – beauty boxes with music. Great treasured gift idea. Thanks for working out the details for the rest of us. Keep up the fine work.

-- Rod - Oregon

View Boxguy's profile


2880 posts in 3116 days

#4 posted 12-13-2014 06:50 PM


Tony, Merry Christmas to you too and thanks for the thoughtful words and encouragement. The Black Cherry and White Oak combination will age well as the cherry darkens with time and gets that deep rich patina. I liked your table, top, and catapult postings. Looks like you are having fun with grandpa projects as well.

Kel, if you are good and very lucky you get to have grandchildren and they are the joy of my life at the moment. I especially liked your bench project. It has such nice lines.

Rod, your rocker is a masterpiece. Thanks for posting that. Dale and I did have fun solving some of the special problems that music boxes present. For me solving design problems is one of the most fun parts of woodworking. But the emotional kick comes from the reactions of others.

-- Big Al in IN

View exit116's profile


140 posts in 2640 days

#5 posted 12-13-2014 07:20 PM

have a good holiday and as always thanks for posting.

-- Money: if you do not have fun earning it, have fun spending it, I do not enjoy spending it so I have fun earning it.

View DocSavage45's profile


9017 posts in 3691 days

#6 posted 12-13-2014 07:28 PM


Went to a weekend designing seminar. On one of the days we were asked to make a piece for the alien. Mine was for an alien, collecting data, and leaving soon. My design is strangely like your rounded edge boxes. ! Mine had drawers in the front to hold note cards for the trip back!

Seeing the boxes triggered that memory! LOL!

Nice work as always!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View jim65's profile


1020 posts in 2781 days

#7 posted 12-13-2014 08:17 PM

Very nice projects and a great gift for the grandkids, they will love them!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View Boxguy's profile


2880 posts in 3116 days

#8 posted 12-13-2014 10:49 PM


Exit, a very merry Christmas to you as well. I especially liked your Legos wall display. Thanks for the compliment.

Doc, I liked the story. Thanks for sharing, and I hope the trip home went well. The home made window is a good idea.

Jim, thanks. Nice to hear from the Italian contingent of Lumberland. Music boxes are a classic form of combining wood and sound. I especially liked your Christmas carvings.

-- Big Al in IN

View Mean_Dean's profile


7052 posts in 3995 days

#9 posted 12-14-2014 12:08 AM

If these boxes sound as good as they look, they’ll be beautiful music to the granddaughter’s ears!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View jeffswildwood's profile


4576 posts in 2825 days

#10 posted 12-14-2014 12:22 AM

Very nice boxes. I too would love to try a music box someday. These turned out wonderful! These will be a lifetime of joy gift. Al, it’s so nice that you share your skills with others. I changed an old saying just for you “build me a box and I’ll be happy for a day, teach me to build a box and I’ll be happy for a lifetime”! Merry Christmas.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View NormG's profile


6506 posts in 3852 days

#11 posted 12-14-2014 12:45 AM

Great music box, love the way the hinge is mounted int eh relief area and the design for the finger opening area

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Boxguy's profile


2880 posts in 3116 days

#12 posted 12-14-2014 01:58 AM


Dean, these music boxes do sound great. I will have to get the report back from Dale on the granddaughter’s reactions. Dale and I had a good time making these music boxes and talking about life in general. That is always a fun part of working with Dale.

Jeff, it pleases me to think that I have been some addition to your making boxes. Try a music box. They are fun. You can get cheap mechanisms by buying used plastic music boxes at junk stores and putting them into your own boxes.

Boxmaking is a pleasant task once you have gotten a system for construction and are tooled up to do the job. Working with Dale, Joe, Derrick, Jerry, Josh, John, Thomas, Maddy, and Caleb making boxes this year has been a pleasant experience. They each have made boxes with me this year, and I have learned something from each of them. I tell them I give boxing lessons and finishing school.

Norm, thanks for the compliments. If you are interested, the index at the end of my posting will give details on how you too can make and install hinges and how the three part lift is made on a spindle sander.

-- Big Al in IN

View Dave777's profile


303 posts in 4917 days

#13 posted 12-14-2014 02:29 AM

Thanks again for inspiration. This is on my list for 2015 Christmas. As always wonderful execution of a great project, I really like the tutorial ( that means I really need them). Thanks so much for shsring your skill and allowing me learn from your efforts

-- the stone rejected by the builders will become the capstone

View Tooch's profile


2013 posts in 2724 days

#14 posted 12-14-2014 04:13 AM

Al I love the story and all of the helpful hints. I used your Faux Feet concept on an anniversary box for my wife this past year… just never got around to posting it. The concept works great and I liked how it makes glue ups become very forgiving. If things don’t line up perfectly the faux feet help hide it (after a decent amount of sanding, of course).

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View Boxguy's profile


2880 posts in 3116 days

#15 posted 12-14-2014 06:49 AM


Dave, thanks for the kind words. They keep me going. I’ll look forward to seeing your music boxes posted. Look around Goodwill and junk shops for plastic or plaster music boxes with good tunes. It makes buying works cheap. I made a really special Christmas present music box for my daughter a couple of years ago. This 50-note works is a real step up in sound and price. Some on-line sites let you hear the melodies before you buy.

Tooch, Thanks for the comment and kind words. I like the look of the faux foot design. It seems to lighten up the look of boxes. Andy used a similar faux foot design and was a source of the idea for me. I hope you are enjoying teaching as much as I did and do.

-- Big Al in IN

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