MUSICAL DISC PLAYERS - Coiled steel in a spring barrel, when wound, is what compels the machinery to work. It is effectively the pre-electric motor of the music box that, as it uncoils, sets the gears moving to work the device. The device consists of the following ingredients:
- The musical comb is made out of steel, with ‘leads’ (pronounced ‘leds’) added to the bottoms of some of the teeth (usually the shorter ones) to create the low notes. The length of the leads underneath helps to determine the tone.
- Dampers are attached to a rail that is then placed next to a row of star wheels to quell vibrations and make the sound more crisp. The star wheels are the part that plucks the teeth to produce the tones.
- Ideally, a music box will have two sets of combs – an upper and a lower – which will create a richer sound as they play more notes. These react to the star wheels.
- A sound board is placed under the mechanism within the box to amplify the notes.
- Projections that jut out from underneath the removable musical disc trigger the star wheels to move, which then hits the individual teeth on the comb and create the music.
The peak of the industry lasted only about ten years, after which other technology (phonograph, nickelodeons, et.al.) started to take business away. The creation of the Reginaphone, incorporating a 78 record player with the music box, did not improve the decreasing sales. Most disc- and cylinder-player manufacturers were out of business by 1910. Regina was an exception because they diversified, including production of their vacuum cleaners. Paillard moved into cameras and typewriters, Polyphon moved into phonographs. Modern music boxes are almost-exclusively produced by the Japanese company Sankyo, which makes mostly novelty music boxes. Reuge, S.A. in St. Croix, Switzerland, is the last of the old-style music box producers, and they continue to make high-end machines.