Tim Reede Guitars Luthier Interview 1 Background
I started as a craftsman about the same time I started playing guitar in 1982.
I was working in a machine shop using a metal lathe.
Later, I studied sound engineering in Ohio in 1986, then moved to Minneapolis and worked at a record store called the Electric Fetus.
In 1989 I started playing in a band. In 1994 I went to school for woodworking. I worked as a cabinetmaker for many years after that. It wasn’t till I got into playing acoustic guitar that I started thinking about building one.
I always played electric guitar before that.
There is a school in Minnesota that teaches guitar making, so in 2004 I quit my job and went back to school.
After that I went back to work at the cabinet shop and began building guitars in my spare time. I no longer build cabinets but I do work for the guitar school where I learned lutherie.
Between that and building guitars, I don’t have much time to play music regularly now.
After I left the cabinet shop, I was doing repair work as a subcontractor for a couple of instrument shops around town.
It was almost always acoustic and electric guitars and basses, occasionally a mandolin or a ukulele.
The Nomad and the Falcon are probably the most popular acoustic models that I make.
These are derived from classic historic designs, although I have made many modern design changes, and the materials that I use are often different too. I also have my own unique designs in the Librada and the Mercury.
The Librada is an acoustic/electric guitar that is very popular too.
It is built like an acoustic guitar, with an X brace and a spruce top. It has two pickup systems, electromagnet and piezo and two output jacks. So you can combine the pickups or you can process the signals separately. It is a versatile guitar with a small and comfortable body.
The Mercury is a chambered solid body electric guitar with a unique style of its own.
For my acoustic guitars, the body shapes are not customizable, except for adding a cutaway.
But all of my guitars are unique and most often the materials are chosen by the customer.
Sometimes they want an inlay designed specifically for them, or they may want a wider nut, arm bevels, side ports, different scale length, or a multi-scale fingerboard. On electric guitars, changing the shape is much easier, so if someone wants to change that, I can do that too.
To answer the last part of that question, most of my customers are finger-style acoustic players.
Some are professionals that are highly respected, others are couch players that just want a really nice instrument.
I do use a computer design program for some things.
It is most helpful with custom electric guitars to draw the body shapes and bridge and pickup locations, but it comes in handy for rosette and inlay designs too. I also have a computer controlled router that I use for electric guitars, multi-scale fingerboards and a couple other things.
Wood choice is very important. Not just the species but also the way the wood is cut and dried.
So I am very picky about the wood that I use. For sound quality, it can often be a matter of personal preference but I can say that we consider the size of the acoustic body and how the guitar will be used. Will the player be playing solo or with a group? Do they use a pick? etc.
Some woods are bright sounding and can work well with a larger body where the instrument is naturally bass heavy. Solo players often want an instrument with a wide frequency range with a lot of sustain, while players in a group might be better served with an instrument that is more midrange focused to cut through the mix. Once we establish these parameters, it narrows it down, and then choices can be made based on other criteria, like cost or esthetics.
I don’t have much problem finding woods. Occasionally something will be hard to find.
I can use any product upon request but I do have several suppliers that I use regularly.
Ameritage cases are very nice, K&K pickups are great, Gotoh tuning machines are very nice, Lollar pickups and Hipshot are quality products that I often use for electric guitars.
If it is a wooden part or an inlay, I will make it myself, with a few exceptions.
Otherwise I do not dabble in making pickups or hardware.
I trust the professionals who have been doing that for years.
It really depends on the instrument.
For electric guitars I always prefer a hand wound electromagnet pickup. If a client wants something specific I can do whatever they want.
There have been a few unusual requests, but those are mainly about the design and not as much about electronics.
I guess that is why a customer would want a custom instrument made for them.
For example, I had one client that used a violin bow to play his electric guitar, so special accommodations were made for a tight fingerboard radius and they also wanted to play the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece so that was given more space.
I have also done lighted side dots using fiber optics so that was unusual too.
I use nitrocellulose lacquer top coat for the repairability but I will use a UV cure sealer and clear grain filler.
This gives a flat and stable surface to lay the lacquer on top.
I will recommend K&K piezo pickups and their internal microphones.
They have great bass response and the mic adds a sparkle and airiness to the top end. They have an external preamp that allows the player to blend the two sources.
I prefer the soundboard transducers like these over the under saddle type piezo.
Fingerboards can affect the sound in small ways.
Rosewood adds a little sparkle. I like ebony too, but for other reasons.
It holds frets well, it looks great and it wears very little.
I do not make amps or effects.
But I do know a few builders. Metz Amplification, Savage Audio, Casey Gooby makes nice amps and pedals, and Humphrey Amps makes beautiful acoustic guitar amps.
I do recommend that aspiring luthiers go to school.
There are quite a few good ones out there. As I mentioned earlier I teach guitar repair and construction at the Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing Minnesota. Also the Galloup school of guitar building and repair, and Roberto Venn School of Lutherie are also highly regarded.
Tom Bills also does an online school called The Luthier’s EDGE.
Clearly, building guitars requires much more investment than doing instrument repair work.
And there is more work out there for repair people. So I recommend that anyone that wants to get started begin there.
You will still need many specialty hand tools, but a small bench power sander, a router, a small bandsaw and a drill press is probably enough to start doing repairs,
then someone can grow from there.
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