Through a combination of grit, trial and error, an ear for music, and an engineering mind, my brother-in-law Tom Rein has managed to make a living for 40-plus years as a string-instrument maker (also called luthier). Tom started his luthier business, Tom Rein Guitars, in the mid-1970s when there were under 50 in the entire U.S. Now, he estimates, there are over 1,000.
After my sister, Laura, retired as dean of libraries for Webster University, Tom moved his luthier business to Saline, Michigan.
Tom has been involved with music from age 10 when he took up the clarinet. The clarinet gave way to the tenor and baritone sax, which gradually gave way to the guitar.
“Being a player helps a lot in developing a signature sound,” Tom explained. “Musicians are always looking for the instrument that manifests the sound that they hear in their head. I’m able to tailor the sound to suit individual players while remaining true to the sound I’ve developed over many years.”
A huge part of Tom’s process is to figure out what type of wood to use for each soundboard, and he has developed an incredible appreciation for trees.