Make a Crankie Box

This is Louis Leger. Special thanks to Louis and to Dejah Leger for sharing the crankie diagrams and photos.

These crankie box directions come from Louis Leger, better known around Seattle as Lulu because that is what his young granddaughters call him, so it stuck!

Louis performs crankies with his daughter-in-law Dejah Leger.  You will see Dejah's papercut crankies throughout the "Watch a Crankie" section of this website.  They both perform in their family band La Famille Leger.

This basic design and dimensions were taken from the crankie box used by Anna and Elizabeth   Thank you to Anna Roberts Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle  for sharing their information and helping us get started - we are passing it forward!

These are not step-by-step instructions, but this should give you a basic idea of how to make the box.


  • Two pieces of wood 26" X 10" (this is for the top and bottom)
  • Two pieces of wood 22" X 10" (this is for the sides)
  • One piece of wood 3 1/2" X 26" (this goes across the front of the box to brace/strengthen the structure)
  • Two 1/2" diameter dowel rods 22" long (these are leader dowels or tension rods and they keep the scroll near the front window)
  • Two 1" diameter dowel rods 2' long (these are for the spindle part of the cranks)
  • Two 2" X 4"  pieces of wood  (which connect the spindle and the crank knob)
  • Two crank knobs (you can purchase at the hardware store or make your own, see examples below)
  • One suitcase or drawer handle (optional)
This is a view from the top.
This is a view from the back. Drill a 1/2" holes in the top and bottom boards, insert the leader dowels through the holes.
To attach the crank handle to the spindle . . . don't glue the handle (half moon shaped hole) onto the dowel.
Another close up of the locking mechanism.
Here is the box loaded with the scroll. Louis also added a light fixture to illuminate the box. Or you can use a clamp light, available at any hardware store.
Another view from the front. You can see the stationary "leader dowel" in front the the 1" cranking dowel behind.

Three Examples of Mid-sized Moving Panorama Boxes - late 18th/19th Centuries

Very few mid-sized moving panorama boxes survived from the late 18th/19th centuries.  Here are three examples.

LONDON TO HONG KONG IN TWO HOURS - The viewing box, or Diorama Proscenium as it is called here, did not survive, but a sketch of the box did. It features curtains and was about 24" square. Read more about it here.

Louis Carmontelle

Louis Carmontelle was an 18th century French painter. A separate box was created for each of his "roll transparencies." This box, which is a reproduction, was made by the JP Getty Museum. It has a door on the front of the box to protect the scroll.  Each painting stayed in it's own box.  Read more about it here.

Panorama of a Whaling Voyage, Peabody-Essex Museum (PEM) Salem, Massachusetts. Used with permission.

From the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA,  Panorama of a Whaling Voyage.  It was painted by Thomas Davidson around 1860.

The scroll is 13 inches high and 34 feet long.  The viewing box is unusual in that the sides of the box are covered in fabric. Learn more at this link.

Unusual Crankie Boxes

This gorgeous crankie box was made by Katherine Fahey.

Feeling adventurous?  Check out the Gallery of Unusual Boxes.

This page created in 2012 - updated 2019. Sue Truman❤