Building a very special music box

By James Kracht

I now own 45 music boxes. Each one of them has its own history and special role in my collection. Reliving and remembering how each of them came into my possession is part of the joy and uplifting mood that I get when I admire and listen to each one of them. I am a relatively new music box collector but a very long time admirer. I don’t think there is any hobby that I could enjoy more. About 6 years into my music box collecting, I was sitting in my restorer’s workshop in January of 2018. I had long before decided I would buy a very special diamond for my wife for our approaching 50th wedding anniversary, (sized to represent our special number), but started talking to Reg Smith about designing and building a very special music box in which to present that diamond. Hence he produced an unbelievably elegant, exquisite, heavily lacquered, inlaid, marquetry and burl wood, oval small jewelry box of which he had 3. They were designed to hold a music box and a small amount of jewelry. He had acquired them from the Musical Wonderhouse in Maine when it was going out of business. I knew in a flash one of them had to be mine. But, like with the rest of the project, I had to arrange for my son to pay for the box, so that I could keep it a surprise for the upcoming anniversary. That night the music box plan was born. An elegant wooden jewelry box was perfect because for our wedding I had given my wife a beautiful wooden “nonmusical” jewelry box which was later stolen. I knew what the music box would play, our song dating back to our 1968 courting days, “That’s All”. I then contacted a music box maker, Jonathan Herz of TGE Herz Music Box Company in Montpelier Vermont. He is a music box builder who uses techniques from the nineteenth century to build modern-day music box cylinders, that will play whatever you would like. He agreed to build the movement and pin the cylinder. But first the song had to be arranged to play on a music box cylinder. I contacted an arranger, in this case, Jack Perron of HensTooth Discs from Peterborough, New Hampshire, to have the song rewritten, arranged and formatted to be pinned on the music box cylinder by Jonathan. Jonathan purchased a Sankyo 72 note movement and began the process of repinnning, tuning, designing, retrofitting and completing the music box. What a beautiful musical jewelry box it turned out to be. I remember my hands shaking and my heart pounding as I removed it from the shipping carton and played it for the first time. I was so pleased. Then, because it was our 50th or Golden Wedding Anniversary, I took it to an engraver and had a beautiful gold plaque made with 2 stanzas from the song and appropriate names and dates inscribed. After mounting the plaque inside of the lid, and inserting the special diamond it was ready to be presented. Presentation followed a wonderful dinner at a fine dining restaurant in Vero Beach, with a few close family members and friends returning to our oceanfront resort, complete with 33 roses and some very expensive champagne which I was in desperate need of as she opened the gift. The ring is now on her finger and the music box sits on our buffet in our Miami home. It was an exciting and fun project, and probably represents one of the craziest things I’ve ever undertaken. But it’s a wonderful portrayal of both my love for my wife and my love of music boxes. I thank my friend and restorer Reg Smith, music box maker Jonathan Herz, and music arranger Jack Perron for giving us a gift that we will enjoy for the rest of our lives. It is a real treasure.

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