How do Singing Birds work


How do singing birds work - the big reveal:


At Douglas Fisher, there is always a superb range of singing bird boxes and singing birds in cages, but what do they do exactly?


Inside, hidden within the case you see, there is a very intricate clockwork movement of obscene complexity comprising spring, cogs, cams, levers, rods and a whistle. In fact over 150 moving parts in the average going-barrel movement with nearly twice that for fusee movements.

With each box, there is a slide or pull which when moved to the right, makes the oval lid on the top flip open and from the depths of the movement as if by magic, a beautifully feathered bird rises, instantly standing in the vertical position, hiding his entrance point through the shaped grille cleverly. Instantly, he sings accompanied by exceptionally accurate birdsong, made possible by bellows and whistle within the movement.  The bellows are constructed from small wooden paddles seperated by very thin paper or animal skin which is treated to make it incredibly flexable.  With the design encorporating two push-pull valves and a resouvoir, a constant tank of air is fed towards the whistle.  Timed exactly with the bird movements, a large diameter cam is cut with various steps, curves and ridges - the higher the ridge on the cam, the lower the note sung.  The whistle chamber has a central piston which moves in position in relation to the song cam ridges, making the chamber smaller or larger, raising or lowering the note in turn.


The bird during his (or her) performance, opens and closes the beak in perfect time with the whistle, flaps both wings and amazingly moves body from side-to-side.  Just to make the illusion even more perfect, most have the tailfeather bobbing up and down at the same time. 

When the song comes to a close, the bird very suddenly drops down through the grille with the lid closing down just as quickly as it shot up to start with.


All this done with the actuation of just one simple flip of the finger from the opertor - the rest is undertaken entirely automatically by the magic within. 


With cages, the bird is of a larger size, seen in full view both on and off but exactly the same movement principles for automaton and song features.


Douglas Fisher describes all boxes and cages on a one-to-one basis with all individualisms for each piece observed and noted.  This means that full confidence is ensured by simply strolling through our site viewing the many static, 360-degree sequencing and video clips of each piece - our commitment of making sure all our clients' requirements are fully catered for from the very beginning.


For the more seriously exploring, a full movement inspection of any piece for clients is welcomed.


Fusee movements

The first generation drive type, seen on boxes from 1790-circa 1865.

This design of drive is, just on its own, quite amazing.

It comprises a small going-barrel spring, but with no edge cog drive.  Instead the outer case of the spring case is quite fat with a polished surface.  This surface is designed to have the fusee chain wrapped around it, anchouring onto the sister wheel next to it, which is conical in form and grooved to accept the chain.  In the wound position, the chain is pulled onto the conical sister wheel, winding the spring barrel as this operation happens.  When in motion, the chain is pulled from onto the spring barrel until the chain pulls tight when the full length is reached. 

When makes this method - a typical spring drive method from that period - is the manufacture of the 8-inch long chain.  Each chain link is typically less than 0.8mm thick, and per link there are two link pins which are less than 0.3mm thick.  Each link would have been made by hand, usually by very young people using their fresh eyesight.  To see one in detail under a powerful eyeglass is really a wonderful sight.    


Going-barrel movements

The second generation drive type, usually seen on boxes from circa 1870 onwards.

The drive is sourced from a single length spring tightly coiled within a barrel, looking very much like a drum.  Once wound, the core of this barrel from which one end of the spring is firmly attached, is held from uncoiling, with the outer case of the barrel having a cogged edge for the controlled tension escape.  With the pace controlled by a governor - much the same as the most important component of a clock - the spring slowly distributes its power to all the moving parts through cog runs and rods.