Giant Sized Music Box

Giant sized music box

Giant sized music box

This giant sized music box was built for a client who wanted an adult ballet dancer to perform a short routine for an event. An old fashioned look was required so a convex sided box with timber trim top and bottom was decided upon with floral decals on the side. A giant sized silver key was also built that fitted into the top of the music box to give the illusion of being able to “wind it up”.

The most complex part of the giant sized music box build was constructing the convex middle section. A timber skeleton was built with curved inner support panels on which bendy ply could be attached. After the first two opposite sides were attached the curve of the remaining sides were carefully traced using the exposed inner panels as a guide. The sides were then trimmed to almost the line and then sanded to the final shape by hand. This was accomplished by glueing sandpaper around a length of 30mm tube which was then drawn back and forth following the curve of the inner panels. It was important to get the outer curve of the sides to match exactly the inner support panel curve so that the bendy ply would contact all four surfaces when folded over them. This ensured a neat join of the side panels once they were sanded back.

First two sides attached

First two sides attached to the inner framework

Marking the side curve

Marking the cutting line for the side curve

Sanding the side panels

Sanding the side panels to match the curve

Side panels sanded

First two sides sanded and ready for last two side panels


Once the music box middle panels had been sanded to match the curve of the sides the remaining two sides were attached. Liquid nails was used along all internal faces and the edges of the first two side panels. Once attached the adhesive was spread evenly along the inside join of the sides to ensure a good bond. The weight reducing holes in the inner framework facilitated access to these areas.

Next the music box base and top were built. These were quite straightforward to build and the top used 30mm thick pine that would support the dancer. Timber mouldings were cut to make the music box look more interesting and small cabriole legs were purchased to add that bit of old fashioned charm.

Music base unit

Music box base section

Glueing the top section

Glueing the top section


The music box parts were then undercoated and painted. Floral decals printed on stick-on vinyl were attached to the middle section after the final painting had been done. A final over spray of matt clear polyurethane blended the decal and the topcoat of the music box and also added a bit more adhesion for the decals around their edges.

Attaching floral decals

Floral decals are attached to the middle section

Assembled music box

Assembled sections ready for final clear coat

Giant ballerina music box
Music box with Ballerina

Oversize Tiffany Style Gift Box

Oversize Tiffany style gift box

Oversize Tiffany style gift box

A dance prop in the form of an oversize Tiffany style gift box was required for a competitive dance routine. The box was to be big enough to conceal the dancer inside and light enough so it could be carried onstage for the routine with the dancer inside. It also had to be strong enough on the top so the dancer could perform her routine on the lid.

For rigidity the dance prop frame was constructed using 12mm hollow square steel with extra braces in the base and lid sections for additional support. To keep the weight as low as possible it was clad in 7mm marine ply which was liquid nailed to the frame. Small hand cutouts were cut in the sides to enable it to be carried and a small lip attached to the front of the lid to make opening it easier.

When the dancer burst out of the oversize box by throwing open the lid it put considerable stress on the lid stays. These were custom made using 3mm flat steel to stop the lid opening too far so the dancer to get out and close it easily. Another 30cm square wooden replica of the oversize box was built to act as a step to facilitate the dancer stepping up onto the closed lid. This was incorporated into the routine to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Tiffany style box opened

Tiffany style box opened

Heavy duty hinge stays

Heavy duty hinge stays to support the lid

Fred Astaire Dance Prop

The above video shows highlights the skill Fred Astaire displayed in his performance of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from “Blue Skies”.

Dance prop cane

Fred Astiare in full flight

Watching Fred Astaire make a dance prop seemingly come to life in a scene is testament to his imagination and skill as a performer. A dance prop is in important element in any film or theatrical production and there was no greater exponent in the art of using them than Fred Astaire. He was able to bring the most mundane objects to life in his dance routines. Who can forget him partnering with a hat rack dance prop in “Royal Wedding”?

Dance prop cane in “Blue Skies”

One of the most ubiquitous props in theatre is a walking stick or cane. There is a clip from “Blue Skies” in which the cane dance prop takes on a life of its own in the deft hands of Fred Astaire. How the cane flies from the floor into his hands remains a mystery to me however his tap dancing still demonstrates the pure talent that was Fred Astaire. Long takes, minimal cuts and the clever use of a dance prop cane and mirrors make this clip a joy to watch.

Sydney Dance Company Show

Above is a short video showing the dancers props being used in the SDC production of “Are We That We Are”

Sydney Dance Company double billTwo new works from the Sydney Dance Company premiere on March 23rd 2010. The first work by Rafael Bonachela, “6 Breaths”, is set to a newly commissioned score by Italian composer Ezio Bosso. The second, “Are We That We Are”, is a physical exploration into the existence of altered states of consciousness within human experience created and performed in by Adam Linder. The costume designs were realised by Jordan Askhill.

The costume props for the production were produced by DecoWorks in close collaboration with the designer.