THE STAGES IN THE MANUFACTURE OF A MUSIC AUTOMATON
A Reuge music automaton takes about three months to produce (more for special designs and/or complicated movements), during which our craftsmen breathe life and soul into their creations in every step of the creative process. The mastery of many professional skills, some of which are highly specialised for the fabrication of music automaton, is necessary to produce one of these fine creations. Unique expertise is indeed the secret of mechanical music.
The arranger transforms the score into a tune. He is a magician who masters both technology and music. Many hours of work are required for the multitude of notes in a piece of music to take the form of a harmonious tune.
A machine drills minuscule holes in the cylinder in accordance with the positioning established by the arranger. The next step is pinning. A steel wire as fine as a needle is inserted into each hole, before being cut to form a pin.
Each cylinder is inspected visually with utmost care and attention to detail. Using a magnifying glass, a craftsman checks that all pins are perfectly straight and none are missing. If a pin is missing, they use a “poussette” (pusher) to insert a new one by hand.
The inside of the cylinder is lined with resin, thus sealing each pin in place to ensure high-quality sound. The composition of this resin is one of Reuge’s most closely guarded secrets.
Combs, speed governors and spring-housings are stamped from strips of steel or brass. The unceasing movement of this essential step, ever since the early 20th century, ensures very high-precision parts.
A drill-bit cuts teeth into the solid steel comb. Designed and developed by Reuge, this machine creates the combs under the craftsman’s watchful eye.
Hardening gives the comb its desired hardness. Once heated to nearly 800°C, it is plunged into a bath of warm oil. The comb’s extreme hardness is then reﬁned by tempering. Neither too brittle nor too elastic, the comb thus achieves its incomparable sound quality.
Lead is then poured under the comb teeth for the bass notes. Weighted in this way, they produce a clear and rounded sound. A craftsman then saws the lead by hand to create the individual teeth.
Like a piano, a music box comb has to be tuned. The secret of a perfect sound lies in the vibration of the teeth. The craftsman checks their vibration frequency, then uses a grinder to ﬁle each tooth to the correct note.
Their eyes ﬁxed to a binocular magnifying glass, the craftsman grasps each kevlar damper in a pair of tweezers and glues it under the teeth which produce the bass notes. The dampers absorb parasitic vibrations and ensure purity of sound.
Musical movements are assembled entirely by hand. The cylinder, spring-housing, speed governor, trigger and tune indicator are assembled together on the base-plate. The craftsman’s precise gestures then breathe life into the movement.
Fixing the comb is the ﬁnal and most delicate assembly operation. The craftsman ﬁxes the comb opposite of the pins, neither too close, nor too far. The craftsman achieves the most perfect sound by relying on his experience and his musical ear.
After a ﬁnal inspection, the movement is inserted into its box. The craftsman closes the lid with emotion, knowing the enchantment it will create when its owner opens it.