One of the questions I am frequently asked by visitors to my workshop, some of whom are friends, some business associates, has to be ''How did you become a string maker?''
Possibly the easiest way for me to answer this question is to first say how I DID NOT become a string maker. My company is not a family business handed down to me, believe me, there is no previous family involvement in string making. Nor was I a musician dissatisfied with the quality or availability of guitar strings. Up until I became involved in the music industry I had never considered the possibility of there being a place in the music industry for me. After all, I didn't and still don't play a musical instrument - a fact, which has baffled many people over the years although I do confess to an occasional yearning to learn the piano! One day maybe I'll start taking lessons.
I actually began my working life as a coal miner, from there I moved to the electricity company and worked as a cable jointer and a linesman for a number of years. I then took a job with a firm manufacturing wire rope, and it was there that I gained my knowledge and experience of wire drawing, plating processes and the many and various applications of wire.
Then came the 1980's, Britains unemployment figures began to rise as many manufacturing industries began to decline. In 1982 I was made redundant from the wire rope firm. I was about forty years old and was forced to take a long look at what I was going to do with my life and career. I had always worked hard and by no means was I going to stop now. A brief period of temporary jobs followed.
Then a friend and ex-work colleague offered me the opportunity to participate in a project he was in the process of launching, which was making music strings. We had both worked at the wire rope manufacturers, so he knew about my understanding and experience of wire processes. His experience was more technical, mine was more 'hands on'. As employment opportunities were becoming more difficult in Britain, I accepted my friends offer and began to learn about the music industry. The company was called 'Albion Strings' and was operated on a franchise basis. I became the first franchisee of 'Albion Strings' making my own strings for my own customers in my own allotted area. After a while however, it became apparent that my friend and I weren't exactly seeing eye to eye regarding the quality of Albion products. His idea seemed to be to maximise the output at the expense of quality, where as I was more concerned with perfecting the strings in the belief that if the high quality could be maintained, then long term success was more assured. This philosophy was borne out in the end by the bankruptcy of Albion Strings. Fortunately I was not badly affected by this turn of events as I had managed to establish my reputation as a high quality, conscientious supplier of good guitar strings in the area I served as an Albion franchisee.
As Albion Strings were going out of business, I took the opportunity I was afforded to purchase the company and close it down and remove the Albion name from the shops. The reputation of Albion had suffered badly and I decided that if I was going to put my own products on the market I would be well advised to distance myself from the Albion identity. It was than when my wife, knowing that I had designed a new string with a new tone suggested that put an 'E' on the end of our surname and call the company 'NEWTONE'.