Dawe Family Music Box

This music box has been in the Dawe family for four generations of the Dawe family and has been the responsibility of seven different members of the Dawe family in that time. It was purchased by John Shepard Dawe around the turn of the 20th century. The box does not belong to any one person, but instead belongs to the the entire Dawe family. Whoever is in possession of it is merely just a temporary custodian of the box until the next member offers to takes up its protection and care. Responsibility of the box was recently transferred from Joanne Blake to Barry and Erik Dawe in 2017. It is an exquisite Dawe family heirloom, and its restoration and preservation is one of the first projects the Dawe Family Trust is looking to accomplish.

Dawe Family Heirloom Music Box

A little about the box… The music box is powered by a hand crank (located on the side of the box) which stores energy by compressing a set of springs hidden within the box. The stored energy is used to power the drive which provides the movement to the music disc. The music discs are 24.5″ diameter steel discs; each disc is a unique song. There are over 30 different discs, all over 100 years old. The disc is captured in place by a bar with rollers which holds the disc in place about a central axis while it rotates, bending it slightly as it is held down. The disc is rotated about a central axis by a revolving star-ring with teeth, with the perforations on the perimeter of the disc are captured by the star-ring’s teeth. There are stand-offs with wheels which also support the disc from below. As the captured disc is held down and rotated, small perforations called plectra, which run radially out from the center of disc and across its entire surface, are forced into contact with a musical comb. When the plectra strikes an individual tine on the musical cone, an individual note is played. The tines of the music comb increase in frequency as you move away from the center of the disc and out to the edge. Multiple tines can be struck at once. The speed is controlled by a rudimentary clutch; the control/lock mechanism for which is broken. As the disc rotates, the various tines of the music comb are struck by the plectra of the disc, resulting in multiple notes being played at once; a song:) The sound from the cone is captured and constructively focused by a large leather horn which opens up at the top of music box, resulting in a surprisingly loud amplification of the song that easily fills a medium sized room.

The sound from the music box is warm and clear. However, the most unexpected beauty of the box (besides the fact that some of the songs are actually quite catchy) was the thought/realization that Dawe family members, long gone, listened to the exact same discs/songs and heard the exact same sounds as we did while playing it. Thus, it became apparent that this is more than just a music box; it is a type of de facto time machine. I say it is a time machine for it is able to bridge the gulf of time between generation of Dawes by allowing for a specific, shared experience to be enjoyed by generations of the Dawe family that never drew breath on this Earth at the same time.

While the music box functions, there is a lot of interaction and handholding with the box to make it function properly and actually play a disc. In other words, there is a significant amount of work that is needed to restore the box to its original working form. Its disc movement is noisy and at times unsteady; it clearly needs to be lubricated and rebuilt. The leather sound horn is torn and has pulled away from its mount, cracked, and needs to be replaced. There are multiple spots where the wood veneer is peeling and has come loose from its originally mounted surface. There are several missing parts and mechanism that need replacement so the unit can function properly. In other words, there is work to be done! We will post photos once the restoration process gets underway:)