David Sheppard, founder of Heirloom Musical Creations in Dripping Springs, Texas, designs and builds exquisite music boxes with a focus on sound quality, custom engraving and glass etching. Sheppard says a visit to an Amish gift shop influenced him in 2006 to turn his woodworking hobby into a family business.
“I had a hobby for a number of years of making small wooden chests. Then, while my wife and I were on vacation in Lancaster, Pa., we visited a music store full of music boxes. That’s when I heard a real world-class music movement for the first time.”
Sheppard says prior to that experience, he had only heard entry level 18-note music boxes that were often slightly off pitch. After that experience, he found a supplier of finely made music movements and began experimenting with various woods, and the size and shape of the chest, until he was satisfied with the tone, volume and visual appeal of the finished music box.
“The sound is affected by the thickness of the wood, the type of wood, and the dimensions of the chest,” he says. “Resonance is everything with a music box. There’s no other way to amplify the sound. Only certain woods are good. If the wood is too hard or too soft, it won’t resonate well.”
Most of his music boxes are personalized; clients tend to buy them as gifts for special occasions, such as births of children, retirements, graduations, weddings and anniversaries.
When ordering a custom box, the client starts by selecting a “David” or “Grand David” style of box. Next, the client selects a wood species — hardwoods such as walnut, mesquite, pecan and cherry. Further customization includes selecting the stain, wood-engraving pattern, glass-etching pattern, size of music movement — ranging from 50 to 72 notes — and the melody.
The 72-note music box plays for about 10 minutes. The music includes either three different tunes, or three different parts of the same melody. Most of the 50- and 72-note boxes play classical music, while the 30-note music boxes play more modern music.
The music boxes range in price from $195 to $1,395, the latter for heirloom-quality pieces.
“People are fascinated because a quality music box is not something they see every day. The sound they experience surprises them because most people are used to the little 18-note movements. When they hear a good quality movement, it fascinates them.”
Contact: Heirloom Musical Creations LLC, Dripping Springs, TX 78620. Tel: 888-687-2691. www.hmcmusicboxes.com
This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.