Friday, April 16, 2010

Antique musical singing bird music box automaton

Antique musical singing bird music box automaton
Take a look at this beautiful antique singing bird box from the 1920s made by German maker by Karl Griesbaum.

From the eBay description:
The multi-colored, full-feathered bird flutters his wings, turns from side to side, opens and closes his beak, all the while singing his song in full voice. A bird-shaped brass key is included.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique singing bird automaton

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silver plated singing bird box by Griesbaum

Silver Plated singing bird box by Griesbaum
Here is a nice miniature singing bird box for sale on eBay.

From the eBay listing:

The case is completely decorated with flower arrangements and birds in art nouveau style. By moving the bird shaped button, the lid will jump open and a little bird will appear. It will turn from left to right moving its beak and wings and sing a song with a loud and strong voice. After it is finished it will return into the box and the lid will automatically close again. This is a great collectors piece of high quality. Made around 1950 in Germany by Griesbaum. I have had the complete movement cleaned and a new bellow fitted so it is again in perfect working order. The silver plated case measures 10 x 6,5 x 4 cm ( 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 inch)

Here's the full listing for this Singing bird box by Griesbaum

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mechanical cigarette dispenser music box

Take a look at this charming mechanical cigarette dispenser music box...

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Place de la Musique - home of mechanical marvels

Check out this news story about a massive collection of music machines, arcade games, and other mechanical marvels.

From The Sanfilippo Foundation web site:
The Sanfilippo "Place de la Musique" is known worldwide for its magnificent collections of beautifully restored antique music machines, phonographs, arcade and gambling machines, chandeliers, art glass, the world's largest restored theatre pipe organ, the most spectacular European salon carousel in existence, street and tower clocks, steam engines and other functional mechanical antiques, displayed within a breathtaking French Second Empire setting.

Learn more at The Sanfilippo Foundation web site.

[ Thanks Joe! ]

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton

Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton
Here's an attractive, fairly recently made miniature singing bird music box by Swiss manufacturer Reuge.

From the eBay listing:
Offered for sale is a singing bird music box made in Switzerland by Reuge, probably made in the 1980's. The multi-colored bird is in full feather and will sing a beautiful song. This is in perfect working and singing condition, having been recently serviced by a professional restorer. The clock is separate from the bird automaton and does not activate it. The bird plays by pulling out the knob on the right-hand side. It is in very fine condition, mechanically and cosmetically.

Here's the eBay listing for this particular Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton

Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton
Here is an interesting antique smoking automaton in working condition currently listed on eBay.

From the eBay description:
He has the following movements: Head moves back and forth and tilts upward. Leg raises and lowers, giving the appearance of crossing, the arm with pipe raises and lowers. the arm with feathered fan raises and lowers. A concealed bellows gives the appearance of inhaling and exhaling smoke. Both the SMOKER mechanism as well as the MUSICAL Automaton mechanism are both in good shape. The SMOKER bellows and Tubes are fine and he will actually "inhale" and "exhale" SMOKE. There is an old repair to the base of the wood stool. A piece of the wood base that covers the mechanism is also missing but a simple fix. A hard to find piece in excellent original condition.

Here is the link to the full eBay listing for this Lambert Brothers smoking musical automaton

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Antique Sailing Ships Automaton Music Box
The two small wood and paper ships inside this 19th-century automaton have French flags, so it is likely of French make. The base of the scene is hollow so it can house a Swiss music Box and the tiny mechanism that causes the two ships to rock up and down on the painted tissue paper waves. A very charming antique automaton.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique sailing ships automaton and music box

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Music Box Study No. 5

Check out this amazing study of the larger DIY paper-punch music box by Ben Gerstein. Not only is the piece impressive, but it looks like quite a workout!

From the YouTube description:
Music I punched for the Teanola paper strip music box, identical to the Kikkerland model used in Studies I-IV but twice the size. The mechanism covers 20 notes of the C major scale.

[ Thanks Ben! ]

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Musical Wonder House in Wiscasset, Maine

Musical Wonder House in Wiscasset, Maine
The Musical Wonder House, located in Wiscasset, Maine, is a unique museum featuring more than 5000 restored musical boxes, player grand pianos and organs, spring-wound phonographs, musical birds, porcelains, furniture, clocks, steins, whistlers, a musical painting, and 23 antique coin-operated machines.

The collection is housed in a 32-room mansion dating to 1852. They have an impressive gift shop and -- for the serious collector -- they offer a selection of restored antique musical boxes for sale.

Here is a link to the website of the Musical Wonder House and here is were you can take a virtual tour of the Musical Wonder House.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Automatic Accordion - Hohner Magic Organa

Automatic Accordion - Hohner Magic Organa
Check out this German-made automatic accordion by Hohner.

A spring-wound mechanism inside the instrument moves a paper roll over tubes connected to the accordion's 44 notes. A foot pump bellows connected via a hose to the accordion provides the air needed to for the instrument to sound its notes.

It's bit like a player-piano/organ strapped to your chest. I had no idea such things existed. Amazing. This one comes with 7 different programmed paper rolls.

Here is the eBay listing with more photographs of the automatic accordion called the Hohner Magic Organa

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Masterful Balboa Park Carousel Egg

The Balboa Park Carousel Egg -- the fifth such egg completed by J. Grahl Design -- is a precise miniature reproduction of the Balboa Park Carousel. The egg features some 56 hand-carved carousel animals, detailed paintings, lights, and decorative trimmings.

18 years in the making, J. Grahl Design commissioned a team of master jewelers, machinists, wax carvers, crystal experts, sculptors, artists, and woodworkers to construct the egg.

Even the music mechanism was created by hand -- and when wound, plays a repertoire of 20 songs from the late 1890s. This fantastic piece weighs in at 80 pounds and with its base and music stand, reaches a height of 27 inches.

The egg is composed of nearly 5,000 parts of an astonishing variety of fine materials including:

* 22 Karat gold used for the outer decorative embellishments
* 20 carats of very high quality diamonds
* Platinum used for setting all diamonds
* Sterling silver overlaid with 18K gold for the base of the egg shell
* Lead Crystal - optical grade
* Brass, and bronze, cast iron, stainless and carbon steels
* Bird's eye maple

To view more work by J. Grahl visit

[ Thanks Nick! ]

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box
Here is a very interesting piece from the 1800's made by Kalliope Musik Werke of Leipzig, Germany. The device features a stand in the center that rotates when the the spring wound mechanism is activated. Because you can place anything you like on the stand, it is very flexible in how it may be used. On the stand, one may place a figurine (as shown here), seasonal items, holiday-related items, special occasion items, or prized possessions. There is also a fine music box inside the box that plays 7 inch kalliope discs.

Here is the full listing for the Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Annotated Video of Mechanical Music Machines

This video features a number of mechanical music devices from the London Musical Museum. The video uses YouTube's annotations function, which points out various facts and features of the machines, making it quite informative.

You can learn more about mechanical music machines from the book Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments by Q. David Bowers - a definitive reference on this subject.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mozart from Scrap-Made Mechanical Glockenspiel

Perhaps you recall the programmable Gloggomobil music machine I wrote about. Here is a related and remarkable DIY project...a weight-driven automatic glockenspiel made from assorted recovered materials. Well done!

From the YouTube Description:
"Andante Grazioso" (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / KV331) played by a "Mechanical Music Box in a Drawer" made from recycling materials found in electronic-waste, bulky trash and at home.

To learn more about mechanical music, check out this post about The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments.

[Thanks bhaaluu!]

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$12,000 French Harp Player Automaton c. 1870

French Harp Player Automaton from 1870I don't have much to say about this other than it must be a both amazing and creepy to see this rather expensive automaton in motion.

From the eBay listing:
"Musical automaton, French, 1870, purchased from Theriault's, cost was $12,000, harp has been restrung by Classic Tin Toy Co., beautiful working order, the hands move across the harp, the head turns back and forth, the eyelids move, as well as the mouth..."

Here the link to the full the eBay listing for French Harp Player Automaton.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

DIY Music Machine - Programmable Gloggomobil

Programmable Music MachineI published a post not long ago about an inexpensive Programmable DIY Mechanical Music Box that uses paper strips to program the song to be played.

Here is its upscale cousin -- the Gloggomobil, made by Naef, a swiss company.

The wooden barrel is spun by means of a hand-crank on the side. Small pegs are inserted into pre-drilled holes in the barrel to determine what note plays and when. The music plays on a small-scale metallophone or Glockenspiel (like a xylophone but with metal tuned bars rather than wood).

Where you see more than one peg on a line, the instrument will play a chord. It looks like it comes with pair of mallets for composing or non-automated playing.

The Gloggomobil will set you back over $1000 USD, but I am told it is of excellent craftsmanship and that they are made in limited quantities. This design cries out for a DIY version.

Once again, my thanks goes out to Falk Keuten who tells me he has had one of these amazing musical, mechanical gizmos for 30 years.

Check out a few more details on the Gloggomobil.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Programmable DIY Mechanical Music Box

Make Your Own Tune Music BoxMost small music boxes use a cylinder with metal studs mounted to a metal cylinder. As the cylinder rotates, each stud "plucks" a little finger that sounds a corresponding musical note.

Player pianos used a similar principle, but the notes were recorded on large sheets of paper, where a holes were punched in the paper to indicate which note strikes and when. By carefully coordinating the arrangement of holes, entire songs can be composed. Some consider this technique -- especially when it was applied to automated looms -- to be the world's first software.

This music box kit works like a miniature player piano. There are no pins, but a strip of paper, into which you punch holes yourself. That's right... you punch your own songs! You can replicate your favorite tunes or compose new ones. The possibilities are endless. In theory you can program your music box to play everything from classical, to country, to heavy metal, to TV commercial jingles.

In this kit, you get the music box mechanism (2 octaves in the key of C), the specialized hole punch, "Happy Birthday" pre-punched song strip, 3 blank song strips, and instructions. You can order additional paper strips for your magnum opus. A very novel, but at the same time historical, mechanical music toy.

Here is where you purchase your own DIY Programmable Music Box.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Automata Mechanisms and Pegasus Automaton

Here is a nice video of several useful automata mechanisms including a crank and piston, a ratchet, and a Geneva mechanism.

The latter half of the video features a beautifully done Pegasus. The piece appears to be driven by the music box movement. I am told that this piece is part of a collection on display in Guma, Japan and is by artist Minoru Takahashi Akira Murakami. Look at all those gears! Well done.

To learn more about making mechanical toys and automata, check out Making Mechanical Toys.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments

Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments by Q. David Bowers must be the definitive reference on this subject.

Published in 1972 by The Vestal Press of New York. Printed in hardcover, this book weighs in at over 1,008 pages with hundreds of black-and-white photographs, advertisements, and reproduction company brochures.

I don't own this book, but it is highly-rated by buyers and reviewers on Amazon.

Here's a link to the text of Vestal Press original advertising text.

 • Preface
 • Introduction
 • Cylinder Music Boxes
 • Disc Music Boxes
 • Player Pianos
 • Reproducing Pianos
 • Coin-Operated Pianos and Orchestrions
 • Organettes and Player Organs
 • Fairground Organs
 • Dictionary of Automatic Musical Instrument Terms
 • Bibliography
 • Index

Take look at the book Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Musee Baud: Automata & Mechanical Music

Comprised of pieces crafted between 1750 and 1940, the Musée Buad in l'Auberson, Switzerland looks like a wonderful museum. If you cannot visit in person, their web site offers a history of the museum, nice photographs of the the collection, audio recordings of music, and a shop that sells music boxes and automata.

From the Musée Baud site:
In our first room you will find music boxes, automata, clocks, singing birds, animated pictures and gramophones as well as other accessories, tools and souvenirs of the time period.

In our second room, one can admire the grandeur of our larger pieces while listening to these unique, priceless, mechanical musical instruments. Among the highlights include the famous "Maesto", an orchestra from 1900 comprised of 10 different instruments. Also in this room is the splendid "Phonolistz Violiona" playing solo violin.

Visit the Musée Buad web site (available in French, German, and English). [Thanks Falk!]

To learn more about mechanical music machines, check out The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fine Diamond-Set Gold and Enamel Music Box

This is another item going auction on Sunday at Skinner Auctioneer's upcoming Science and Technology auction on October 28th, 2007.

This piece is described as a Fine Diamond-set Gold and Enamel Carillon Music Box and is attributed to maker John rich. Stunning.

From the auction catalogue:
...movement and case marked No. 1, signed and dated on the mainspring by Benson & Ibell, August 1796, playing two tunes on a nest of five bells with finely-chased and engraved gilt-brass skeleton movement, chain-drive fusee wound from the top and eight-step change-repeat cam lever-operated from the right-hand side, in gold an deep blue guilloche enamel case with hinged base and lid compartments, the lid with central sunburst medallion of rose-cut collet and bead-set diamonds with emanating rays and diamonds in quartre-lune formation at the corners...
Source: Skinner Illustrated Cataloge #2383, pp. 80-81.

Learn more about this and other amazing automata going to auction from Skinner's web site where you can download PDF sections of the current catalogue.

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