One day build–Make an Orpheus retro/sci-fi, light-up desk robot music box with moving gears

Review by C.J. Bunce

Our next recommendation for anyone looking for a great weekend project is the Orpheus Music Box Robot Kit from Robotime, a wooden 3D puzzle music box craft kit that results in a steampunk desk-shelf cheerleader to lead you on as you plunk away on your keyboard.  You can build it in anywhere from 4-8 hours, but it has precision parts and you probably want to take your time and spread the build out over a few days.  The kit includes everything you need to build it, including six sheets of 221 laser-cut pieces, sandpaper, screws, screwdriver, plastic dome, a bag of dowels of various sizes, light and light switch, classic music box mechanics, and white glue.

All you need–except two small batteries for the LED light–comes in the box.

Orpheus has poseable arms and legs, and they are sturdy.  Much of the kit does not require glue–the fit of the components and quality of wood (more firm than traditional balsa model kit wood) makes for a surprisingly solid final figure.  The legs and arms aren’t operational with the rest of the moving components.  Those that move are the key-cranked music box (mine played the song “I Love You, Baby,” but this might vary) and the music box is tied to a retro, sci-fi propeller and gears housed in a Robby the Robot style plastic dome “head.”  You can pose the robot as standing or sitting.

Begin with the arm, and see most of the types of connections you’ll use for the rest of the project.

The first step is building the arms.  The kit states it is recommended for ages 14 and up.  This makes sense, mainly because of attention to detail–some younger kids will have no problem with this kit just as some older people who don’t follow directions may get frustrated with it.  This is primarily tongue and groove construction, with some slide clasping for added support.

Some parts are glued, but most are not, allowing for free movement. This also allows you to pull pieces apart if you find an error later.

The only difficulty level arises when gluing components, and the instructions specify what and when to glue (it’s important not to glue unless noted, in case you need to pull parts apart later).  If you mess up a glued part–easy to do when missing the nuance of a direction of a part in the visual instruction image–it can usually be pried apart, but care is needed.  The legs are the reverse of each other, and one challenge is building the second leg in reverse with only the written instruction to do so (without visual guides).

First step on the music mechanism, and a set of completed legs.

Next is completing the six sides to the chest box, which houses the metal music box components.  Note: If you have access to shops that sell those inexpensive $5 or less music box song boxes, you could swap any song for the included music box mechanism, and the features should work so long as it runs the same kind of spinner that used to tie-in to items like spinning those ballerinas in vintage music boxes.  Here that same shaft spins the propeller and visible gears.

Six walls form the chest box, with a seventh wall forming a weighted lower level.

From here you slide in the light switch, which is housed in the back panel via a clever slide-open door (to replace batteries).  The batteries you’ll need: AG13/LR44 button cell batteries, which are a step larger than the common laser light batteries, but sell for only a few dollars on Amazon.  These only run the LED light, which lights up the tinman-style heart and the dome through the included light-diffusing paper.  The chest gears are ornamental.

View of interior of chest box before adding LED light, switch, and battery housing.

The final step is lining up the wooden gears atop the chest box.  Use the key to begin the box via the hole in the robot’s back.  If it sticks you can sand the spokes of one of the gears so the mechanism moves freely.  Then secure the dome base, the dome, and ornamental trim, followed by antenna and leaf ornamentation.  And it’s finished!

Here is the final robot with music and lighted heart:

All told, this took me three sessions, taking my time, of about 90 minutes each.  The result is a cute robot to cheer up anybody.  Build it for younger kids to enjoy, or older kids and adults can build it without much difficulty and appreciate this new desk friend, too.  Get your Orpheus Music Box Robot Kit now, available via a variety of vendors, here at Amazon.

(Thanks to our friend Jenn in Florida for this fun kit!)

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