The Thorens Interchangable Disk Music Box

Welcome to my Thorens interchangeable disk music box page! I hope that those interested in these machines will find answers to their questions here. If you would like to add information I will be glad to post it here. not hesitate to contact me with corrections. You can reach me via e.mail at:
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Sources for restoration information and parts.



Tour of my Thorens Box

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History of the Music Box

A watchmaker from Geneva Antoine Favre,  first incorporated a mechanism for sound production  into  watches, perfume bottles, pendants in the year 1796. This mechanism used , a "music comb". The comb is made from hardened steel. The long teeth on the comb are of varrying length and when plucked produce different musical notes according to their length.  A cylinder was installed that revolved at a set rate. Pins were then set into this cylinder so that they would pluck the teeth of the comb to form notes. This was a form of computer program.

Cylinder music boxes allowed the listener to enjoy music without having to have a human performer. The one important limitation in the beginning was that one had to put up with the music on the cylinder in the box.  Eventually this was overcome by a provision for changing the cylinder. In this way many tunes could be played on the same machine. At first this was accomplished by changing the position of the teeth in relation to the cylinder so that in one position one song was played and when shifted another could be played on the same cylinder.  As many as 12 tunes could be played on the same cylinder.

The invention of Symphonion disc music box made changing tunes much easier as well as less expensive. The first Symphonion (a.k.a.  Kalliope) boxes were  made in Leipzig, Germany during the late 1880's. Projections were punched  onto a steel disk which plucked the comb. The disks for these   symphoniums could be  as big as 24 or even 27 inches in diameter. The  24 inch disk generally  plays for 2 minutes. As these disks were standardized each machine could play many disks.  Sometimes bells were added to accompany the comb. A switch could turn the bells on or off. 

Once the mechanisms had been developed the possibilities for inserting music boxes into many other mechanisms such as clocks and boxes were endless.

The History of the Thornes Company

A survey of the company's history, developments and product line

1883 Trade registration of the family-business of Hermann Thorens, established in St.-Croix / Switzerland, with the purpose of manufacturing musical boxes and movements.

1903 Manufacturing of Thorens' first Edison-type phonograph.

1906 Change-over to the manufacturing of horn-gramophones for shellac records.

1913-1964 Manufacturing of cigarette lighters

1914-1952 Manufacturing of harmonicas (except for the time from 1921-1938)

1927 Conversion of the family business to a joint-stock company (AG)

1928 Development of the first electric motor (direct drive) for gramophones.

1929 Development of the first electric phono pick-up (employing a magnet principle).

1933 Manufacturing of wireless appliances, partly in cooperation with the Strassfurt-Imperial Company of Germany.

1940-1950 Production of professional disc-cutting lathes and phono pick-up cartridges.

1943 Production of the first record changer.

1954-1960 Production of the mechanical razor "Thorens Riviera".


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It is interesting that the disks for this machine are about the same size as a CD. In what other ways are they alike?

What impact do you think the growth of popularity of music boxes do to the music performance industry?

Why would one turn from live performance to a music box?


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Restoration and Parts Assistance

Thorens Entries from the Mechanical Music Digest


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Thorens Treasury of Music Boxes, Elpa Marketing Industries, 1979.

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Helpful Links

About disk music boxes


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Tour of My

Boxes come in many different styles. Some are painted with. This one is plain with natural wood grain.
Bottom view. Instalation of mechanism is by screws which can be seen here.
There is no latch. Cover opens to reveal mechanism.
Key for winding is in top left. A small metal tab below it on left is the on off switch. The comb is to the right. To insert disk one places the start arrow toward the key to insert gear into key base gear. Then you pull retaining bar over from right till it latches on left.
Top part of disk showing label. Note title number and start arrow.
On the back side of the disk you can see the outside gear which engages with the key base gear. The disk is punched with protrusions which pluck the comb.
Mechanism in Playing Position.

Recent sales on Ebay

Thorens Swiss Wooden Music Box with 5 Metal Discs  $275.0016Jul-23 18:09



Thorens Music Disc Box w Matching Case w 30 Discs! 1949  $292.0029Jul-20 20:20


Now On Youtube


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