Bridge on the Dire Straits Stratocaster: Japanese or Original?

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Guitars

You probably know the discussion started by John Suhr about the originality of Mark Knopfler red Dire Straits Stratocaster (the one with the maple neck, not the 1961 Strat with the rosewood fingerboard). John Suhr worked on Mark’s guitars in the early 80ies and stated that this guitar was not an original vintage Fender but a ‘fake’, probably a Japanese copy.

I always used to be a bit uncertain what to think about this. John Suhr is of course a great guitar expert who makes wonderful guitars but this does not automatically imply to be an expert on vintage Fenders, especially not back then when information was generally harder to get than it is now, it was of course pre-internet era, and even books on this topic were rare or simply non existent yet. And mind that of course Mark’s guitar was – if it was a vintage Fender – not in an original state: new body finish, new neck finish, new fender decal, new fingerboard, new pickguard,…

In this blog post I will show you a part of the guitar which – to my knowledge – cannot be a copy: the tremolo bridge.


In the picture (from early 1978, Mark got the guitar in 1977) you can see a few details that in my opinion are not possible for any Japanese copy parts from the 70ies. Let’s start with the red arrows: here you can see a part of two of the three screws that hold the tremolo block to the bridge plate on any Fender vintage style tremolo. Well, this does not sound like any spectacular detail but I’d say most Japanese bridges were die-cast one-piece tremolos, similar to the Fender tremolos from the 70ies. All the ones by Tokai or Greco at least were.

There were a few two-piece constructions, I have one on a crappy Japanese copy myself. But on all of these that I found so far, the string spacing is different, almost three millimeters (1/8 “) less (52 mm compared to 55mm). If this was the case on Mark’s guitar, the strings would run differently (blue arrows) across the pole pieces of the bridge pickup (this is Mark’s original 1961 pickguard from his 1961 Stratocaster, with the original pickups). Also the base plates of the Japanese bridges are not as wide, due to the narrower string spacing. There would be a bigger gap between the bridge and the pickguard (green arrow).

These is enough reason for me to claim that this bridge is not a Japanese copy! Before you say, well, maybe it is a Chinese, Corean or European copy part… forget it, in the 70ies there were no copies from other Asian countries except Japan, and the few European copies of this time were not even close to a Fender bridge. They did not have the vintage-style bent string saddles etc. And what about American replacement parts? – Well, these were the 70ies, you could not buy any replacement parts except the ones by Schecter, and possibly Mighty Mite. These however were not close Fender copies but ‘improved designs’ with the more solid saddles, typically of brass, and hard to get in England about that time (Schecter’s first English distributor Chandler Guitars started in 1979).

I still might be wrong but I doubt it: show me a non-Fender bridge like this to prove me wrong!

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Two pickups on the National Style-O on the Nelson Mandela concert

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear

I guess most of you know the the Dire Straits concert at the Nelon Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert in Wembley Stadium, 1988, and have probably – just like me –  watched the video of it many times. I at least have never noticed that on this gig Mark has two output jacks on the famous National Style-O, have you?

Two output jacks on the National – two pickups?

One of the two, the one with the lower output jack, is definitely the Ashworth pickup (AJ21)  he already had during the Brothers in Arms era, just compare the look and position of the cable to the famous CD cover picture. The Ashworth is a passive piezo element pickup.

Ashworth AJ21

About the other we have no information yet. We can see that that the cable runs under the string holder, probably then it goes through a hole in the ‘chicken feet’ on the resonator plate into the guitar body, where the resonator itself rests. We can only speculate what it is exactly: I see mainly two possibilities, one is another pickup that is attached to the resonator cone, or a little microphone. Many acoustic guitar pickup systems use a combination of a microphone and a pickup, like the L.R. Baggs that is used in Mark’s Martins.

Only one of the two outputs seem to be in use

Well, it does not matter too much for the sound on this concert because it seems it was not in use here; I can see a plug in only one of the two output jacks. But it shows that Mark always tried out new stuff to improve his guitar sound.

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Comparing sound: Schecter Dream Machine vs. Fender Strat

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Guitars, Vintage guitars

With the following video I was trying to demonstrate the basic sound difference between a vintage Schecter Dream Machine and a ‘traditional’ Strat.

The Dream Machine is from about 1980, it has a Koa body and a one-piece Pau Ferro neck. The three pickups in the brass pickguard are the tapped F500T’s. It has s a hardtail brass bridge.

The Strat is a 1983 Japanese vintage Squier Stratocaster, unmodified.

Of course the amp & effects settings are 100% identical for both guitars. Also they both have new strings of the same brand and gauge (Fender 09 – 40). Each of the three pickups on the Schecter can be switched to the ‘normal’ coil (tapped) or the overwound (full) coil but I will only use the tapped pickup positions of Schecter in this video, as these are more comaparable to the Fender pickup sound.

Beside the sound difference, note that there is less hum and noises with the Schecter as the metal pickguard and the copper tape around the pickup coil provide a better shielding.

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