Coy Willis - Inventor
Ron and Coy
Photos taken by Poul Sandersen
History of The Mighty D-Tuner
(that is, how in the world did I get into this business?)
It was the spring of 2014 and I was involved in one of my recurring fruitless pursuits: browsing the Internet in search of a better D tuner. I've always liked D tuners and had a variety of them from the unsightly old cam tuners to shiny gold Keith tuners ... but clearly, none satisfied me. In fact, a couple of years earlier, when I finally gave up my day job, I decided to design and build my own ... which I did ... but they didn't make the cut either. Anyway, spring of 2014 ... I ran across the Apollo Tuner that had been patented in 2009. More searching revealed that the Apollo Tuner web site was no longer active and apparently the tuner was no longer being sold. The Banjo Hangout had some outstanding reviews on this tuner, so I placed an ad to see if anybody out there had one for sale ... and sure enough, there were two. I bought them both and installed them on my 60s RB-800 and RB-500 banjos ... and then a third went on my practice "pony" banjo ... I was clearly "hooked" by this tuner!
Serendipity is the only way to describe what happened next. I learned that the inventor, Coy Willis, was still alive and kicking but had evidently grown weary of the Apollo Tuner project. Next thing I knew, a friend and I were in Coy's barn in southern Indiana gathering up his parts inventory, specialized tools, supplier lists, and CAD drawings. Turns out, Coy's day job had been at a large corporation as a real-life, full-time inventor ... so he had lots of experience in creative thinking ... which is very likely the reason his tuner is so innovative, well-designed, and precision built.
I guess the next question would be "Why did I do this?" My answer may sound goofy, but it's true: the tuners were no longer available and I hated to see such a fine piece of machinery become extinct. I wanted banjo players to have this tuner as an option. And I hoped to see tunes like "Flint Hill Special" experience a revival among performers and jammers alike. Coy's invention makes this more likely because it is always ready to go. So, I re-branded the tuner as The Mighty D-Tuner and will produce it in limited quantities ... with hopes that it helps you exercise some of your creativity also.
- Ron Wedekind