Blue Orca

Blue Orca Early in Rusty's career, after hearing Stanley Clarke playing "School Days," he ordered an Alembic from a mail order catalog sight unseen, not realizing that there were different models. When his Series I Standard Point body arrived, it was clearly not the same bass Stanley was playing, and while he loved the sound, he struggled with the large body and long neck. He sold that bass to buy a motorcycle.
Fast forward 25 years and another motorcyle found a new home to finance a new bass. As he was trying to decide between a Brown Bass and the more expensive Signature Deluxe, his wife, Lissa, told him to get the more expensive one. About a year later, Rusty assembled all of his bass gear for a photograph. Lissa walked in the room and counted his basses (9) and suggested he should have an even 10, to which he said the only other bass he'd really want to buy would be a custom Alembic... and she said, "Get it!"
wood The blue burst over the dynamic Quilted Maple calls to mind water and waves. The effect is amplified since the top is bookmatched to center and the neck is concealed from the front view of the bass. You can almost get lost in this ocean of blue, which Rusty selected to remind him of the beautiful water of Resurrection Bay, Alaska, the location of a family home with deep emotional ties.
Because raw Maple can range from almost white through yellow to nearly orange (and this piece was very yellow), the first iteration turned out on the green side, and we had to sand the paint off and start again.
Orca Inlay Lissa loves orcas, and she's always been a huge supporter of his music, so naming the bass and including the orca inlay was an easy decision. While our long history with beautiful inlays gives our customers confidence that we can reproduce almost anything, it's important to remember that inlays are neither paintings nor photographs - they are basically tiny mosaics. Rusty wanted the orca look underwater. After a number of design ideas, the final version incorporates ripple abalone on the back of the orca that mimics the look of light dancing through ocean waves.
Blue Orca Nameplate We've got a "house font" we generally use for our nameplate inlays. It's a slightly rustic uncial that you can see on dozens of previous featured customs. This bass called for something a little different. With the sleek design theme, Rusty selected Peregrine from three choices presented by Mica.
This is the first time we've used this font as inlay art. The letters' structure combined with the almost fluid serif on the L and A match the design of the bass very well.

bridge While gold plated hardware is standard on Series II instruments, Rusty envisioned darker hardware that would be easy to maintain and hold up well over the long-term. Ruthenium plating fit that ideal with its smokey-nickel appearance and fantastic durability as a platinum group metal.
Gotoh tuners aren't available with ruthenium plating, but their Cosmo Black finish is only slightly darker. We couldn't find them anywhere domestically, and a Canadian source only had the 4+1 inline configuration. Our distributor in Japan found exactly what we needed and shipped them to us very quickly.
We duplicated the string spacing of the bass that Rusty learned to play on, which has rather narrow bridge spacing for a 5-string. The spread of the strings is small enough that we could use our 4-string pickups and keep more of the gorgeous wood top.
peghead peghead
Blue Orca also features the rare combination of the Europa body style with the Knobby peghead. While at the 2013 Texas Gathering, Rusty studied and photographed all of the different peghead designs present. He later photoshopped various designs onto his dream bass and asked both his wife and Alembic to pick their favorite; the Knobby selection was unanimous.
A look at the back of the peghead reveals the natural Maple back veneer. The satin neck stops just short of the peghead veneers, so the Quilted Maple on the back of the peghead is nice and shiny.
The neck recipe is a favorite combination featuring an Ebony center neck laminate, Maple pinstripes, Vermilion and Rock Maple. The Ebony is nearly twice the usual width, which asserts the fundamental sustain. Vermilion anchors the tone deep in the bass response. The visual contrasts are striking.
Logo Inlay As with all Series II instruments, the logo is inlaid under the finish. On a blue bass, that would cover the silver and shell with blue paint. So we first paint a layer of frisket over the inlay to protect it from the color, removing the frisket when the paint is dry. We repeat this process until all the layers of paint are applied. The end result is a smooth to the touch little work of art.

LEDs Of course no Series II would be complete without side LEDs, and there was only one color We inlay a tiny sterling silver circle around each LED, so that even if you choose to turn them off with the switch on the front of the bass, there is still a side marker indicator for your fret position.
Masking Rusty wanted the beautiful neck exposed all the way through on the back. While we have done many paint jobs with selective color, this is the first time that we left the entire length of the neck in a natural finish on a neck through contruction. "How'd they do that?" is a question Rusty will have to get used to answering.
To accomplish this selective finish required masking the neck so a layer of blue paint could be sprayed on the body. This in turn creates a seam where the painted parts are now taller than the unpainted parts, so the next step is removing the masks and masking the painted parts to paint the clear and level everything out. And since there are 5 layers of paint, it requires 10 total masking efforts to complete the finish.

Case "I saw Flip's (FC Spoiler on the Alembic Club) custom Elan Blackened build thread and he got the Jan-Al case with his," Rusty told us. "I loved the wheels on the case and decided that I would get the same case if I ever got another Alembic. I wanted the maximum protection for my Europa, so the case was a must! The blue fiberglass was a nice surprise, thank you for that!"
We deeply appreciated the opportunity to make this bass for you, Rusty. We loved that your vision for this bass was crystallized from the very begining of our talks. Your confidence really pushed us to do some things we hadn't attempted before. It was also a blast to meet you and your family on your trips to California. Hope to see you again!

Front Back


  • Custom 5-string bass
  • Series II electronics
  • Europa II body shape
  • Knobby peghead shape
  • 5A Quilted Maple top
  • Bookmatch to center top
  • Vermilion and Maple accent laminates
  • Walnut body core
  • 5A Quilted Maple back
  • Blue burst selective finish
  • Maple, Vermilion, and Ebony neck
  • Side LEDs in blue
  • Blue Orca nameplate
  • Blue Orca custom inlay
  • Abalone oval inlays
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Continuous wood truss rod cover
  • Ruthenium plated hardware
  • Ordered through Guitar Resurrection
featured custom

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Text by John Terry and Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2015 Alembic, Inc.
Photos by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2014, 2015 Alembic, Inc.

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