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How to make music roll boxes.

Completed.jpg (27kb)

These notes and illustrations show the method I use to manufacture two-part covered boxes for my organette rolls.

While not particularly difficult, it is tedious process with many individual steps. However, it does require a high degree of accuracy at every stage if satisfactory results are to be obtained.

Six to eight boxes per day is about my best average, which is definitely not a commercial proposition.

I have never seen an organette roll in its original packaging, so I have no idea if these boxes are authentic or not. Perhaps a little wooden chest-of-drawers might have been more in keeping with the times... Perhaps I'll go and make one...

Materials.jpg (5kb) Materials.

The boxes are made from a type of cardboard known locally as "10-sheet paste board". It is about 0.035" (0.9mm) thick, with a smooth white finish on both sides. It comes in sheets about 640 x 1020mm from an artists' supply store.

The tops are covered with a heavy coloured paper (or thin card) about 0.010" (0.25mm) thick. This comes in many colours, but I generally stick to red, black, and blue. The box bottoms are covered with a "recycled ivory" office paper about 0.005" thick.

Dimensions.jpg (10kb) Dimensions.

First, decide on the inside dimensions for the bottom of the box. For my Celestina rolls, I chose 45 x 45 x 190mm, giving dimensions A = 45, B = 190, C = 45, and D = 192 in the illustration. The blanks are cut to an overall size of (A + 2C) x (B + 2C), or 135 x 280mm. Allowing for the thickness of the card and the covering, the outside dimensions of the box bottom will be 47mm wide, 192mm long, and 46mm high.

The inside dimensions of the top must provide sufficient clearance to give a smooth fit over the bottom, allowing for the thickness of the top covering. I find a total gap of about 1.5mm to be satisfactory, plus about 0.5mm for two thicknesses of the covering. So the dimensions for the top are A = 49, B = 194, C = 46, and D = 196, giving an overall size of 141 x 286mm.

These dimensions are marked out very accurately on the pasteboard with a steel tape and a sharp pencil, and the blanks are cut out with a straight-edge and a snap-blade knife. A single sheet will make seven tops and bottoms to these dimensions.

Marking.jpg (17kb) Marking Out.

To assist with marking out the box blanks, I constructed two templates from some surplus fibre-glass printed circuit board. The templates are cut and filed to the exact dimensions, making sure that they are true and square.

The templates are placed over the blanks, and the cut-outs are marked lightly with the knife.

Cutting.jpg (13kb) Cutting.

A heavy straight-edge is placed exactly along the knife marks, and the corners are cut out. The knife blade is changed whenever it takes more than a single stroke to make the cut. Many layers of newspaper are used to absorb the excess.

Marking and cutting must be extremely precise, as the difference between a good fit and a sloppy fit (or worse, a good fit and a "won't fit") is only about 1mm - the thickness of the card.

Notching.jpg (14kb) Notching the end.

Small cuts need to be made as shown to allow the box ends to fold up between the two sides. These can be done freehand with the point of the blade, for a distance equal to the thickness of the card.

Scoring.jpg (14kb) Scoring.

The cardboard must be heavily scored along the fold lines. The tool used should indent the card to about a third of its thickness, without cutting or damaging the surface. The little wheel on the end of a glass cutter makes a nice line, but is too difficult to position accurately. I use the side of a large mounted bag needle, which can be rolled against the side of the straight-edge to give very fine control.

The straight-edge is placed exactly over the cut edges of the end tabs. The score marks for the long sides need to be just outside the line (by about one third of the card thickness) to compensate for the width that is lost in the folding. The scoring across the end tab should be one card thickness inside the line.

Folding.jpg (17kb) Folding.

The sides and ends are folded upwards and inwards, applying firm pressure all along to ensure a uniform result. The sides need to be folded to about 45° past vertical, but will spring back again when released. If the outside surface of the sheet appears torn or damaged after folding, the scoring needs to be deeper.

Checking.jpg (13kb) Checking the fit.

If all is going according to plan, the box end will fold neatly between the two sides, especially at the bottom, with everything straight, square, and matching. If results are disappointing, check the measuring, cutting, and scoring to find the cause of the problems. It's amazing how large a millimetre can be when it's in the wrong place.

Cut&Folded.jpg (17kb) Cut and folded box blanks.

When trials are coming out neatly and reliably, proceed to make up a batch of box blanks (tops and bottoms), ready for assembly and covering.

Gluepot.jpg (8kb) Glue.

I use traditional "hot glue" for all my mechanical music repairs and restorations, and I find it equally suitable for box making. Many folk go to great lengths to find alternatives, but once you learn to use hot glue, you'll never look back. Search the archives of the Mechanical Music Digest to find out more than you ever wanted to know.

The most important things are to keep the temperature more-or-less correct, to watch the consistency of the glue and constantly replenish the water lost through evaporation (the water in the kettle provides a ready source), to work quickly once the brush leaves the pot, and to use the right sized brushes for each operation to avoid excess glue and squeeze-out.

The glue pot shown here started life as an electric kettle with an egg-boiling insert. Maybe one day I'll build a thermostatic controller...

CornerTabs.jpg (6kb) Assembling the corners.

The box corners are reinforced with paper strips. I just happen to have a lifetime supply of 1" (25mm) paper tape left over from the Teletype days, which I fold in half and guillotine into 45mm lengths. Ordinary office bond paper would do as well.

The strips are attached to each end of the long sides first. When these are dry, apply glue to the inside of the paper tab and about 1mm along the box side, and to the cut edge of the box end. Fold the box end into position and stretch the paper tab around the outside to hold it tight. Smooth out, check the position carefully, and hold for 30 seconds or so until the glue gels. Repeat for the other three corners and set aside to dry.

Covers1.jpg (11kb) Gluing the cover blanks.

The covers should wrap inside the box by about 12mm all round. It's easier to cut the blanks oversize and trim them later if the stock size is suitable. (The A4 sheets that I use to cover the bottoms only allow about 6mm wrap at the ends).

Cut a pair of guides from scrap card to assist in positioning the tops and bottoms centrally on the covers. Apply a smooth coat of glue to the bottom of the box, place it into position, and run your fingers around the inside to press it down firmly. Wait a few seconds for the glue to gel, then set it aside to dry.

The boxes expand rather dramatically at this stage. If you're working on the kitchen table, don't start this operation anywhere near dinner time.

Covers2.jpg (12kb) Cutting the cover ends.

For this operation I use a strip of 1/2" x 1/8" aluminium as a straight-edge. Lay the strip against the long sides of the box, and cut on the inside from the box end to the edge of the cover sheet. Then lay the strip across the end of the box, and cut on the outside as shown, removing the rectangle section and leaving fold-over tabs on the cover sides.

Covers3.jpg (10kb) Trimming the cover sides.

Fold the cover sides and form a sharp crease. Lay each side on the table, place the 1/2" straight-edge along the open edge as shown, and trim off any excess covering.

Covers4.jpg (12kb) Cutting the corners.

Trim the extended cover sides at right angles, so as to be a neat fit when folded inside the box. Use a small straight-edge along the inside of the box end, or just cut freehand. Trim the end tabs at a slight angle to relieve the corners.

Fold the long sides up and into the box to form a sharp crease, then unfold ready for gluing.

Covers5.jpg (11kb) Gluing the cover sides.

Apply a smooth coat of glue to the side of the box, place the side flat on the table, and run your fingers around the inside to press down firmly. Wait 15-20 seconds for the glue to gel.

Using a smaller brush, apply a thin coating of glue to the extended side cover, fold it inside the box, and press down firmly. Keep applying pressure along the full length of the fold until the glue gels.

It's very important to avoid excess glue and squeeze-out from this stage onwards.

Covers6.jpg (12kb) Finishing the ends.

Fold the end tabs inwards, fold and crease the end cover, and trim off any excess length with the 1/2" straight-edge. Then trim each edge of the extended tab to fit neatly between the sides (as shown), and fold inwards. Unfold everything ready for gluing.

Gluing is best done in three stages: the end tabs, then the end cover, then the wrap-around. Working alternately from end to end allows each stage more time to set before the next operation.

The weather map looks pretty good today - I think I should be out in the garden.

CirclePunch.jpg (6kb) Cutting the thumb notches.

The thumb notches in the box tops are cut with a 3/4" round punch from the local craft shop. These punches are only intended for paper, but they will cut the box sides quite cleanly with a bit of a push.

I made up a simple jig to hold the punch and to position the box centrally. The wing nuts adjust the depth of the cut to give an exact semicircle.

Drying.jpg (13kb) Waiting to dry.

Allow the completed boxes to dry overnight before assembling.

FinalTest.jpg (14kb) The final test.

Original text and images Copyright © John Wolff 2003-06.
Use at own risk; beware of errors; suggestions for improvement welcome.
Last Updated: 20 April 2006

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