Repairing Automatic Musical Instruments

We are often asked about repairing music boxes and pneumatic instruments. The cost to do so will vary, depending upon the condition of the item, and that cost may exceed the box’s value in the case of modern music boxes. However, when a strong emotional connection exists, repair cost may be a minor consideration. More elaborate pneumatic instruments or antique music boxes are almost always worth repairing, unless damage to them is extremely severe.

Most musical movements can be repaired, especially if the musical comb is intact. A competent repair specialist can substitute parts or make new ones, if original spare parts are unavailable. If the musical movement is beyond salvage, it can be replaced with a new movement from one of the modern manufacturers, often with a tune of the owner’s choosing.

If an antique music box has suffered a run (when the governor controlling the unwinding of the spring motor disengages, allowing the cylinder to spin rapidly and violently), as evidenced by broken comb teeth or bent cylinder pins, this damage can be repaired by tooth replacement (or, if luck is with you, a substitute comb) and pin straightening by a skilled technician.

If your instrument needs repair or servicing, please consult the MBSI web site links page to find a qualified technician as near to you as possible. Some specialize in the repair of certain types of instruments, such as cylinder or disc music boxes, bird boxes and whistlers, mechanical organs, and automata. Our links page also lists dealers who buy and sell instruments as well as people who repair and restore almost the entire range of automatic musical instruments.

If there is no service technician conveniently near to you, it may be wiser to ship the instrument to one more distant than to entrust it to a person not accustomed to working with these rather specialized machines. In cases where you feel the need of a consultation but find no one nearby to consult, we may be able, by the use of our Member Directory, to refer you to a collector in your area who has experience in the care and operation of your type of instrument and whose advice may help you to find the best technician for your needs.