Restoration of Singing Bird Box

The simple black horned panelled case was broken in places and badly stuck together but was redeemed with a nicely painted enamel lid of a cock fight. The bird which had lost most of its feathers, predictably did not work and had its wing caught up in the grid. The tail spike was badly bent to one side where someone had forced the lid closed. When I tried to extricate the bird there was a squeak or two at a repeated pitch before it immediately got caught up again. This was basically to do with the start button not remaining open when activated. Cosmetically, all the metal parts were also badly corroded.

Having got the mechanism out of its box I was able to examine it more closely. Although it had the simpler type of ‘going barrel’ movement, it also had some unusual features about it. The governor fan was positioned at the back of the movement rather than at the side and the control to turn the bird from side to side consisted of a pivoted curved rack segment, instead of the more usual reciprocating bar rack. The maker’s trademark depicted a windmill surrounded by the letters ‘OMM’ and it was numbered 294.

The restoration commenced by remaking a worn part that was designed to keep the box open during its full cycle. This part had become so thin that it no longer engaged the control lever as it should. The piston that controlled the so called ‘swannee’ whistle was stuck tight in its cylinder. This meant it could only whistle one note. Some old lubrication had dried-up and gone hard. After applying some solvent to help loosen it, I was able to gently tap the cylinder around its edge with the end of a musical box key to release it. A slight polishing was all that was needed for it to work properly. I was pleasantly surprised that the bellows appeared to be in good working order despite the fact that it had an old patch on it. Replacing the zephyr skin covering was not something I was looking forward to.

From Issue 4, Spring 2016 of Mechanical Music World. To read this article in full become a member and receive a copy. Full details on Membership Page