If there’s one thing I love, it’s gift giving. What I love even more is trying to come up with very creative gifts. It’s something I’ve done time and time again. There was one gift in particular that I was rather proud of: a music box featuring Chrono and Marle from the video game Chrono Trigger.
I’ve had a couple of people curious as to how I made it, so maybe it’s time I finally write about it.
If you haven’t seen it, below is a video showing the music box in action. (
The music box is made up of just a few items:
– a wooden box
– metal paper braids
– double-sided sticky pads
– a small piece of plywood
– a recordable, light activated audio playback board
– Chrono and Marle figure
The easiest items you’ll find will be the chain, tacks, and felt. You can pick these up at your local hobby or crafts store. The colors of these items will vary depending on the box you get.
You might even find the strip of plywood at the hobby/crafts store as well. If not, you’ll definitely find some at a home improvement store. Just expect to be looked at weird when asking for such a small piece of wood. If all else fails, just pick up some paint stirrers there and glue them together.
As for the wooden box, how elaborate you want the box to be will depend on your budget. You can save some money by buying a plain / unfinished wooden box and painting it yourself. You can get fancy and purchase a well designed box. Either way, the main thing to remember is to purchase one that will fit the figures when in a closed and opened state.
The box used for this project.
The coolest piece I found was the digital recordable sound module. I’ll go more into this later. You can find these everywhere on
. There are two different types: push button and light activated. The light activated one would be easier to set up.
Finally, the hardest one to find will be the Chrono and Marle figure. I lucked out as my brother already owned one and gave it to me. As the figure is no longer made, expect to
Putting all the items together was the tough part. Before doing anything, get out your pencil, paper, and ruler and measure, measure, measure. I can’t say that enough.
Before putting everything together, I measured out all items and tried to figure out the best methods for making the box open while lifting the figures out of it.
Shaping the Platform
Why is this so important? If you just put the figure at the bottom of the box, you won’t really be able to see if when you open it, as in the above picture. You want the figures to be completely visible. In order to do that, I had to figure out a way to get the figurine to move from the bottom up to the top as you opened the box.
I looked at jewelry boxes first. I’ve seen some that had a compartment tray that moves to the top when you open it. That seems like a logical step. The problem with this is it’s complicated to do using off the shelf parts. The other factor was budget. Although finding the items needed for this method wasn’t exactly tough, they were not cheap.
The alternate method involved me using the box’s lid to pull the figures up. This method would prove to be inexpensive as it would involve a piece of wood and some string. Luckily, I had a small piece of plywood lying around.
Who needs a bandsaw or jigsaw when you have a box cutter!
You will not want to cut the plywood to the exact size of the box’s inside. I’d recommend cutting off at least an additional 1/16 inch on each side so that the platform will move up and down with ease. Otherwise, it will be a tight fit. If you can place the plywood into the box flat and take it out easily, it should be just the right size.
You can go a step further here and sand the edges down to cut down on possibilities of the platform getting stuck. I was being lazy and didn’t do that. That’s alright. I covered up that little problem.
Moving the Platform
The next thing we need to do is get the platform to move up and down. Now, you’re going to be lucky as I’ll save you a lot of time. When I started testing this, I used string to move the platform. It wasn’t strong enough to handle the figure’s weight. That’s when I moved to the method described below.
Begin by preparing the platform for the chains and braids. You’ll need to cut slits into the four corners of the platform so that the metal braid can fit through. Again, since I don’t like to do things conventionally, I used a flat-head screwdriver and hammer to create the slits. You might want to use actual tools meant for the job instead.
Next, measure the chains from the highest point in the box to its lowest point. Cut the chain at this point using a pair of pliers or wire cutters. Loop the metal braid through the last loop in the chain and the plywood platform and close the braid. You will need to snip the ends of the braid as they’ll stick out on the sides.
Preparing the platform.
Now to mount the chains to the top of the box. Remember the tabs on the top of the braid is the top of the platform. Grab the chains from one side and overlap the last loop in each. Grab a tack and push it through the chain loop and into bottom-center of the box’s lid. Repeat for the other side. Place the figure on the top of the platform.
At this point, the platform and figure will not move up and down properly as the chain is too long. You may notice that the platform moves in a lopsided fashion as well. This is to be expected. You will need to start adjusting the chain to the appropriate lengths. The length of the chain in the front should be the same while the length for the back portion should be the same. The chain length for the front portion will also be longer than the back due to it being further away.
Undo the braids from the platform and move them up one loop on the chain. Repeat until the platform is moving in an appropriate fashion and not blocking the opening and closing of the lid.
Sure, you could probably use math to figure out this out, but that would make sense.
What made this project special was the fact that it acted like a music box without the expense of buying a custom-made music box. Upon research, that easily reached into the thousands of dollars. The piece that made this possible on the cheap is a recordable sound module. These devices are aimed at greeting cards, but for this purpose, they’re perfect.
An example of a
These devices have gotten a lot more advanced since I originally created this. For example, in order to get sound onto the module, I had to connect a separate chip to a special USB connection and then connect the chip back to the board once I put the sound on the device. Now, all you have to do is connect a USB cable from your computer to the module.
A few things to keep in mind. First, the software needed to put the music onto the device is available for Windows only. Second, these modules are limited on memory. So you may need to make some changes to your audio file. As you’ll likely only be including a short song or clip from a song, this may not affect you too much, especially now since these modules support MP3s. (My module only support WAV files, which use a lot more memory.)
Editing the audio file in Audacity.
If you need to make changes, I recommend downloading the free and open-source audio editor
. I’m not going into how to edit files in Audacity, but you can find
. Just remember that the size of the audio file must be smaller than the amount of memory on the module.
Naturally, the song I chose to play was “Chrono and Marle (Arranged Version 1)” from the PlayStation version soundtrack. In fact, the music box sound of the song is what gave me the idea in the first place.
Once the device is loaded with music, stick it to the top of the box’s lid. You may need to move the light sensor around to find the right position needed to have it start playing music. Tape it down once it’s in the location you want it.
All the pieces should be in place. But in the current state, everything is lacking a little. Let’s admit it. The plywood / metal braids look isn’t exactly great. This is where the felt comes in.
This is really easy to do. Measure the felt to be able to wrap around to the bottom of the platform. Once that’s done, center the felt and cut slits for the chains to fit through. You will also want to cut a hole in the center to allow for the mounting of the figure. Wrap the felt around and tape or glue it to the bottom of the platform. If you didn’t cut your platform small enough, you will need to sand it down some more to allow the platform to move up and down. Although not necessary, I cut the end of a mop and used the cotton from it to fluff up the felt a little.
Since we don’t want the figure moving around all the time, we’ll need to stick it into place. Grab one of the double-sided sticky pads and stick one end to the bottom of the figure and another to the platform.
The platform is now decorated with a little more color.
As for the box’s lid, right now you have a sound module showing in plain view. Cut a piece to the size of the box’s lid. Place the felt into the lid and remember where the speaker of the sound module is located. Cut some slits to allow the sound to come through. Be sure not to cover up the light sensor as well.
If you cut it just right, you can just fit it into the hole and it’ll stay in place. You can also hold it into place with glue or the double-sided sticky pads.
The music box in its completed state.
And that’s it. The Chrono Trigger Music box is complete. For someone who doesn’t do the crafts thing, it’s a bit of work. For someone who knows what they’re doing, they could probably achieve this pretty fast and likely improve on it.
If you have any questions or comments about the project, leave me a comment below or send an email my way.