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Finding Minnesota: Building Custom Guitars Is Labor Of Love

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In this week's Finding Minnesota, we meet a Minneapolis man who is making sure musicians around the world are staying in tune.

Tim Reede's specialty is custom guitars.

"It can be quiet and intimate or it can be loud and aggressive," Reede said. "(A guitar) really has a place in any musical genre."

Music struck a chord with Reede.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, it wasn't the drums, the singing or the lyrics that caught his ear -- it was the guitar.

"It speaks to the human condition without words, so I was attracted to it immediately," Reede said.

Fourteen years ago, Reede decided to make a career change. He was a cabinet maker, but it turns out that was just his opening act.

Playing in a band he became interested in acoustic guitars, so he went back to school for a different kind of woodworking.

"Building your first guitar, there is an absolute joy in it," Reede said. "When you get it strung up and you play it for the first time, it's an unbelievable feeling that I actually built this thing."

Ninety guitars later, his instruments are being used by musicians around the world.

"The idea behind it is kind of like a piano where the bass strings are longer and the treble strings are shorter," said musician Sam Breckenridge. "That just opens up a lot of new ideas for song writing for me."

Breckenridge is a musician who has bought into Reede's customized craft.

"I'm in love with the instrument. I'll have it forever and if I ever get another guitar, I'll get it from him," Breckenridge said.

For Reede, it starts with finding the sweet spot.

"You can tell what's going to be good for a tone wood by tapping on it," Reede said.

He said he has to buy most of the wood on eBay.

A lot of his guitar wood comes from South America and Africa.

"This is $70 for this wood," Reede said. "It's really hard to find a piece like this."

Then he gets to work.

There are hundreds of steps and it takes about four months to make one guitar.

Reede said he has to keep in rhythm with sandpaper before he can keep in rhythm with strings.

"You want it to sound great but want it to look really beautiful and be really easy to play," Reede said.

He's made guitars with traditional looks, but others with a style of their own -- like a propane tank guitar he made for one customer.

"We actually used the valve and the shroud off a propane tank and you plug the chord right into the valve," Reede said.

When he finishes, like a proud parent, Reede gives each guitar a name.

"It's tough to let them go sometimes, too," Reede said. "You put a lot of sweat into it."

But he takes pride in knowing that artists near and far are looking to him for inspiration.

"It's challenging, but from great challenges come great rewards," Reede said.

Reede's guitars range in price, but on average they cost around $4,000.

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