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Review: Northumbria Tuning Gears

Review: Northumbria Tuning Gears

Reviewed by Gary Southwell

Originally published in American Lutherie #63, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013

Northumbria Tuning Gears
Doug Blake and Alan Robson

For most of us guitar makers, the only items on our instruments we do not make ourselves are the tuners. So it is an important choice for us to find something that complements our own work both in performance and aesthetics, and all at a price with which we or our clients feel comfortable. Whilst there is a plethora of cheaper massed-produced tuners, for many years there has been very little choice in the high-quality handmade range, Rodgers being regarded by many as setting the standard.

So I was interested when about a year ago, Doug Blake and Alan Robson (who are Northumbria Tuning Machines) visited me with a prototype tuner they had been working on. With Doug being an experienced precision engineer and Alan a serious guitar enthusiast and amateur guitar maker, they promised to make a good team. The prototype itself had excellent styling, closely based on the Landstorfer model. It had simple, elegant plates with sharp detailed outlines, and (like the originals) no engraving, complemented by simple waisted shafts fitted with beautifully hand-turned ebony buttons that felt wonderful. I was less impressed with the inconsistent feel of the mechanism over the six strings. Also they generally felt too loose and sloppy, and not quite smooth enough. To their credit Doug and Alan took these criticisms away (with other people’s comments no doubt), and, over the span of a year, improved the feel and consistency to a point that today I consider them to be amongst the best tuners available.

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