Reader Guitar of the Month: The Mule

A versatile workhorse guitar with gritty tone and the capability for swapping electronics.

Name: Steve Reuter

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Guitar: The Mule

Almost 15 years ago, I combined my love of music, obsession with guitar, and respect for woodworking and started to build guitars on nights and weekends. This one I call my “Mule.” I designed it to be strong, dependable, and versatile, but simple, like a mule. The body is walnut and has a universal “bathtub” route with the electronics mounted to the pickguard.

I used quick-connect wiring to allow an immediate swap to an alternate pickguard, which could have a completely different pickup and electronics layout. The current configuration is a DiMarzio Chopper T with a 3-way switch wired to give me series, parallel, and split tones.

The guitar has a walnut neck with an ergonomic trapezoidal neck profile and a 25" scale length. It has a pau ferro fretboard with stainless steel frets, a zero fret, and locking Sperzel tuners. The whole thing is finished in many coats of oil and is rubbed out to a smooth satin finish. It plays easy with an ultra-low action, thanks to the low-profile Schaller bridge.

I don’t play out and these days I spend as much time building guitars as playing them. I love building guitars that I feel match the tones and styles in my head. This one was designed to have a gritty tone like a Les Paul, but in a light, simple Tele-like platform. I built it with heavy blues and Southern rock bands like Gov’t Mule, Blackberry Smoke, and the Cadillac Three in mind. The Mule can nail those tones pretty good. The Chopper T sounds great as a humbucker but can pull off a nice P-90 tone when in parallel and a quacky single-coil sound when split.

It’s a lot of work building your own design from soup to nuts. But seeing your own ideas come to life is incredibly rewarding, especially when you plug it in and turn it up.

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