My take on the music box from the movie Labyrinth. Not only is it pretty, but it actually works!
This is definitely the cream of the crop with regards to my various Labyrinth projects. There’s just something about Sarah’s music box that has really captured a lot of fans, myself included.
For years I was hoping that the Jim Henson company would come out with their own version of the music box.. I thought for sure that if one were to come out, it’d be for the 30th anniversary!.. but that anniversary came and went, and so I finally got off my butt and started making my own music box.
This project actually started way back in 2016, when I got really bored one night and decided to make a cardboard mock-up of the music box. At this stage I was mostly just trying to figure out the general size and proportions.
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I ended up putting that mock-up on my shelf for quite some time, as I wasn’t really sure how to go about building the final product. At some point I ended up making a 3D version of the music box in Sketch-up so I could further tinker with the proportions/size of things. After probably a year of hemming and hawing, I got off my butt and started working on this project again.
I used the measurements from my 3D file and started on a wood version of the music box. Using some craft wood and a bunch of popscicle sticks, I was able to get a somewhat decent second draft going. For certain pieces, like the panels of the hexagonal base or the arches near the peaked roof, I made one piece and used silicone to make a mold and cast multiple pieces in resin. My hope was that this would keep everything as exact as possible.
Unfortunately, when I started doing a test assembly of the wood version I noticed that my angles and edges weren’t quite lining up properly. I think my trouble was that I was working with millimeters, which meant that any small deviation in my angles or cuts was really noticeable.
I thought I had thrown out all of the pieces from the wood version of the music box, but it turns out they were still stashed away in a drawer. I’ve included them here in a gallery to give you an idea of how they were made, which was using various sizes of popscicle sticks, wood glue, and a lot of wood filler. I do think this method is a viable way to make the music box casing if you’re more accurate with your cuts than I was.
I will note, I do think the original wood method would’ve worked, and honestly I kinda wish I kept trying it as I feel like I would’ve gotten a smoother finish using wood. Instead I decided to give 3D printing a try.
The 3D printed pieces are definitely more accurate, but they did require a lot of sanding. And even after making them smooth to the touch there’s still a bit of a texture there that revealed itself when everything was painted up. Ultimately, I just figured I would be more annoyed with an asymmetrical music box than I would one with a rougher texture (And to be fair to my music box, you only really notice the texture in certain lighting conditions).
As you can see in the above image, originally the peaked roof was one solid piece. My initial plan was to do a two part mold of the roof and cast it in clear resin to create a faux glass effect. While the two part mold worked really well, the resulting resin cast was just too cloudy, which I think was due to the roughness of the 3D print. I ended up coming up with a new design for the roof which is shown in more detail later in this post.
July 2020 Update:
After a good few requests I’ve finally gotten off my butt and made my Music box pieces available to purchase through Shapeways. I’ll fully admit I’m a bit nervous about putting them up, I generally avoid selling my crafts because I get afraid that the quality that’s good enough for me won’t be good enough for others (And I hate disappointing people!). In recent months I’ve had a lot of very polite fans ask for assistance in making their own Music boxes, and I think I’ve just got to put aside my self-concious worries so that more people have the opportunity to own their own little piece of the Labyrinth.
As a result, I’m going to add to this blog post some additional descriptions and images detailing the construction of the 3D printed elements of the music box, including a link to the part on Shapeways, and any construction notes I can think of.
I’ll note that I have not included a mark-up on any of the prices, so I don’t currently make any commission off the sales of the music box parts on Shapeways. The price that you pay is the minimum price set by Shapeways to print these pieces.
I’ll also note that back when I printed my music box I used the “White Strong & Flexible” material as that was the cheapest available at the time. While updating this post I noticed that the material my previous orders used are now showing up as “White Natural Versatile Plastic”. I assume that there was a name change sometime in the past few years, but I just wanted to put it out there that I have not recently ordered from Shapeways so I can’t confirm 100% if the “White Natural Versatile Plastic” is the same material as the “White Strong & Flexible” that I ordered in 2017. In addition to the “White Natural Versatile Plastic” material I have included some other material printing options on all the music box listings. If there’s one you don’t see that you’d like to be made an option please let me know and I can update the listings to include it.
In addition to the 3D printed parts you’ll also need some clear transparent sheets, wooden spherical beads in two different sizes (I used 1.5 cm and 1 cm wide beads), and 4 mm wide rods. I’d also recommend some wire, glue, sandpaper, a dremel with a small drill bit, and an exacto knife.
Now, let’s get into the actual construction of the music box.
The Music Box Base is pretty simple. There are 6 small insets on the underside of the base, I used these and a 4 mm wide wooden rod to attach a circular bead to the bottom of the base to make the music box feet. I used a 1.5 cm wide bead for the feet, which came with a pre-drilled hole. I’d recommend using the rod to attach the bead, it makes for a way more secure connection than if you just try and glue the bead directly to the base of the music box.
If there’s a bit of a gap between your bead and the rod (As shown in the below right image) you can use a bit of wood filler to smooth things out (Assuming your beads and rods are made of wood like mine are at least).
I go over the internal mechanisms later in this post, but I’ll quickly note that you will need to drill/cut out a hole for a switch, as well as a hole wherever you place your speaker so that the sound can travel out of the music box. These aren’t built into the 3D model because the exact speaker/switch placement might differ based on what parts you use/how you fit them into the music box.
(And I’ll note, if you manage to fit your speaker facing up you won’t need to drill a speaker hole, as there are pre-existing holes in the lid that fits onto the base that will allow sound to pass through).
One other thing worth mentioning: The first time I ordered the base piece from Shapeways I had a bit of a deformity on one edge, presumably the 3D model wasn’t fully cooled before it was packaged for shipping. If this happens to you then you can email Shapeways with a photo and they’ll help you out (In my case they sent me a new print free of charge).
Base Top Plate
As the name would suggest, the Base Top Plate sits on top of the Music Box Base. There are 6 small insets where you can thread 4 mm diameter rods, which together with the poles and arches will hold up the roof pieces of the Music Box. The centremost hole is where the rod that rotates the figurine fits into, while the other holes are decorative.
(Technically in a real music box these would likely be the speaker holes, but since we needed to mount my speaker facing down mine are purely cosmetic).
This is mentioned again later in the guide when I go over the internal mechanisms, but to attach the Base Top Plate to the Base I used magnets glued onto the bottom of the Base Top Plate, and bolts and screws glued onto the sides of the Base. If you are building a music box and have no plans to add the internal mechanisms you can always permanently glue the Base Top Plate to the Base.
This piece fits on a rod attached to the music box motor. How you attach your disc to the motor rod will depend on the exact rod you get. Mine had a small lip built into it, so I cut off a piece of hollow styrene rod and glued it to the underside of my disc so that it could fit around the motor rod at a slightly elevated position.
Poles and Arches
The Poles and Arches are designed to slot together using a tab system. I did find with mine that I sometimes had to use an exacto to shave off a tiny bit of the tabs on the poles as the fit was a bit too tight. The poles attach to 4 mm diameter rods, I’d recommend using a small drill bit to drill out the centre of the rod and the pole so that you can thread a bit of wire into each piece, which will make the connection a lot stronger.
I cut each of my rods to approximately 10 cm high, but feel free to adjust the height to suit your own personal preference.
There is only one Shapeways link for this part as I came up with this 3D model that has all six poles and arches together in one model, you will just need to use an exacto to separate the pieces from the flashing.
Roof Top Plate, Roof Piece, and Roof Inset Pieces
These pieces all heavily dependent on the other, so I’m going to lump them all together so I can talk about them all at once.
The Roof Top Plate fits over the poles and arches. Before you put it in place, I’d recommend connecting the Roof piece into the Roof Top Plate. They should slot together pretty firmly (Which may mean some light sanding is required if you find your pieces are a bit too tight to fit together).
Once those two pieces are together you can add the Roof Inset Pieces, which can be pressed into the 6 panels of the roof from the inside. It’s been a few years, but I think I might’ve had to lightly sand the edges a bit to make sure the inset pieces fit into the Roof Piece. Before placing the Inset Pieces in position I glued a small triangle of thin plastic transparency sheet on the back, to give the illusion of glass panels.
Because the fit of the inset pieces is so snug I actually didn’t even bother to glue these in, so to this day I can still easily pop them in/out of the music box with no issues.
Once the full roof has been constructed you can fit it over the arch poles. After that you will place beads on top of the arch poles (Shown here are 1.5 cm and 1 cm beads). The height of the poles weren’t built to extend through both sets of beads (You can see in the photo below where the top of the arch pole sits), so you will need to fill in the gap with wood filler or your sculpting medium of choice.
The Roof Piece has an inset hole at the peak of the roof where you can slot in two more stacked beads using another bit of 4 mm rod.
So that’s the general construction of the 3D music box pieces! I would recommend painting the pieces prior to assembly, especially for stuff like the roof where painting around the inset panels would be a bit tricky. I used spray paint for all the gold pieces (Krylon Short Cuts Gold Leaf) and acrylic craft paint for the pink panels on the base (Craft Smart’s Pink Chiffon Rose, to be specific). The white areas are actually the unpainted 3D prints, since they were already white I saw no need to paint them.
I hope that this helps people with the assembly of their music box pieces. The remainder of this blog goes over the construction of the figurine and the internal mechanisms of the music box.
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For the figurine, at first I thought I would try and hand sculpt it. As with the wood version of the music box, I found myself unhappy with the asymmetry. So I ended up perusing the toy aisle to see what I could potentially cobble together. I ended up combining the Disney Little Kingdom Anna (The body) with a Barbie Mega Blok figure (The head).
Anna’s outfit and Barbie’s hair is designed to be removed, so it was easy to pop all the unnecessary items off and then move the head to Anna’s body (Though I did have to widen Barbie’s neck hole a bit). Some pastels were used to tint Anna’s body to match the head. I used acetone to remove Anna’s blue shirt, and the eyes from the Barbie. I left the Barbie’s lipstick in place to save myself the trouble of having to draw that on later. I used a fine point brown sharpie to draw on the figurine’s eyes.
The clothes for the figurine were drafted using some scrap fabric I had. The lower sleeves and bodice are glued directly onto the body, while the puffy upper sleeves and skirt were sewn on later. I used a bit of stretchy lace ribbon for the figurine’s bodice, to try and give it an faux embroidery look.