THE STORY BEHIND THE PENSA-SUHR MK1
(serial number 001)
Taken from: http://www.thegearpage.net
Mark Knopfler with his Pensa-Suhr MK1 during the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, Wembley Stadium, London, UK, 11th June 1988.
John Suhr dd.31-08-2010:
Ed King liked my personal guitar, which was solid Quilt Maple, as did Peter Frampton. So that is what I did for both of them. Mark Knopflers was an interesting story, naturally I don't remember it the way Rudy does, something about designing on a paper napkin LOL. I already had a good portion of it built before we decided it was for Mark. In fact you can see the body as I was working on it in an old D'Addario add. The first carved top I made was out of Alder, made a few, I think one of the first was for my dear buddy Eddie Martinez. Lots of sawdust flying around those days! They are all interesting stories for me buried in blood sweat and tears. Knopflers was the most challenging since I had less than one week to paint it and build it for the Mandela concert, I was scared it would stick to the case !
Reply from a forum member:
That is really fascinating Suhr, reading these stories is really great. Since I first saw Mark Knopfler playing his Pensa-Suhr it immediately became the guitar of my dreams, I just a teenager and to this day MK is my favorite artist even better now than in the Dire Straits era. I never owned one of those (and think I never will) but that was the major factor which drew me to your guitars. I currently have two and a third one on order, all thanks to the fantastic work you guys do as well as MK's influence. It could be any other one: Tom Anderson, Tyler, you name it; all great builders but in my case the MK factor makes the difference.
Having said that: can you elaborate a bit more on the history of MK Pensa-Suhr ? How did the whole thing started ? How has it speced ? etc.
John Suhr :
I already had begun the carve, it was just something I wanted to do. I had just finished one in Alder unbound. It was actually my first bound carved top and the lack of tools at my disposal made it a real challenge, I armed myself with a Die Grinder, some sanding disks and a router and let some dust fly. When I was in the carving process Rudy decided it would be a great guitar for MK for the Mandela Concert. They went out to lunch and talked about details like Pickup color etc but otherwise it was pretty much already set in stone. Mark had some extra ideas like tapering the headstock which I explained it was too late. He also didn't like the rings not matching the pickup color and wanted Ivory color so I mounted the humbucker from the back so no ring was used. He decided the bridge should be locked to the body since he had no intention of using the trem really but enjoyed the stability of a locking setup. I used his normal 6105 fret wire and added the EMG SPC on the push pull pot, EMG SA, SA, 85, I also put a circuit in there to try and balance out the Bridge middle combo. Building it on the fly at the last minute I realized the body was too thin for the switch and have a control plate not hit it so I had to get creative by cutting down the back of the 5way switch. It was Mahogany Back, 1 Piece maple top Lacquer Colors and Polyester top coat even on the neck since it is the only top coat that would dry in 2 days. At that time Anderson was cutting our raw parts but this was not programmed yet. So basically I only had a perimeter Body and neck to work with, it was only 2D no neck shape, no body carves etc, so everything else including paint was done by me which was kind of rare since we didn't really have a spray booth intended for that. Usually we had Pat Wilkins do the paint who also used to do Andersons paint since painting in NYC was sketchy. Eventually Mark grew less fond of the guitar as the neck was slim and he started to prefer larger necks. It always had a very unique tone though through his Jim Kelley amps.