Charley's Cat Charley had been shopping around the Alembic website for a while. Before he called, he already knew two things: he wanted a Further, and he wanted a custom medallion inlay.
"The Cheshire Cat is a symbol I just love. In fact, I am a huge cat lover! I picked the Cheshire Cat symbol out of a combination for my love of cats, a love of the Cheshire Cat itself, and a sideways tribute to Garcia. The idea came to me while I was reading Lesh's book, and he talked about Garcia grinning mischeivously like a Cheshire Cat after he had pulled some prank. The image stuck with me, and I thought it would make a great nod to Garcia on the guitar, without being a strict 'copy.' I figured I could personalize the guitar that way. And the backlit smile...really cool."
Susan and Charley consulted together about the inlay design, and the custom features for the guitar like the wood and the side LEDs. Then, it was time to start the building process. While custom projects involving inlays can take a good long while to complete, he told us it was worth the wait.
Now that he's had the guitar for a few months, Charley reports to us:
"Wow, I could go on and on about the guitar. Playing it has really helped me fine tune my hearing more than ever expected. I recently got a hearing test, and the doctor told me I was in the top 1% of people in the world as far as hearing goes. It's weird...sometimes I can even hear electrical devices when they are turned on...a very irritating sound. At any rate, this guitar is helping me fine tune those abilities and translate them into being able to create and sharpen musical sounds. The filters on the guitar give me so much more control than I could have expected, and really leave something to be desired in every OTHER instrument I own. Without doubt, this is the most amazing guitar I have ever played."
When Charley turns on the side LEDs with the flick of a switch, the smile of the Cheshire Cat is also illuminated. Try it for yourself with the "Operate LEDs" button above.
To accomplish this lighted smile, we choose a piece of white river oyster shell from Vietnam that didn't have any defects under the surface. We used some bright lights to screen the shell, and when we found the perfect piece, James used it in the inlay.
Then Ron built a small array of four super bright LEDs. These are run at a low current, so they are not at the maximum brightness and no "hot spots" of light occur. But they are bright enough to give the cat's smile the expected glow.
After they worked out the kinks for the smile lights, James got to working on the inlay. This was a difficult one, lots of little pieces in this cat! The body is made from Purpleheart and Pink Ivory woods. The cat's eyes are golden agoya shell, and he's sitting on a black Tahitian mother of pearl tree branch with abalone leaves.
The starfield is done in sterling silver of varying diameters. Keen observers should be able to identify several constellations of the northern hemisphere.
wood The Bird's-eye Maple top is a fine piece of natural beauty. Each little conical growth bud forms an interesting distortion of the grain that catches the light and has a "bouncy" look when in person. There's also a faint bit of flame figure that makes the piece even more interesting.
The top and back wood are the only construction variance from the regular features found on a Further guitar.
logo The logo is solid sterling silver inlaid under the finish. We've backed the jeweller's casting with mother of pearl and abalone. This whole package is inlaid after the first few coats of finish are applied. Then, after Bob sprays the rest of the finish, the logo is concealed to the touch under the polyester clear coats. Fortunately it's not concealed from the eye! The colors shift and change with different viewing angles and lighting.
LEDs Side LEDs help Charley see the positions on dimly lit stages. We've used a combination of red LEDs with amber LEDs at the 12th and 24th fret positions. Each LED is wrapped in a jacket of pure sterling silver, so even when they are not illuminated, the position is still clearly visible.
plate1 plate2
Usually the Further guitar is fitted with brass backplates. Charley ordered continuous wood for his. Not only are they beautiful, but they are lighter weight than the metal versions.
Each plate is layered from Maple and Purpleheart laminates, with the interior and exterior laminates in Bird's-eye Maple. This symmetrical arrangement gives the best stability to the plate. The plates are finished in the same coating as the rest of the guitar, with the same care.
control layout
Except for the LED switch, Charley's Further has the standard Further electronics. We decided early on that these guitars would be about user control. Each pickup with its own 3-way selector switch for off, on, and bright settings. There's a separate filter control for each pickup too. This isn't a guitar with one voice, it's versatile and able to benefit from each player's unique approach.
"This is a hi-fi instrument," Charley wrote to us, "and is so different than anything I have ever heard. It can really nail those throaty Garcia clean tones from the 70's and more, and with the right tweaking, almost has a piezo quality to it. Add some overdrive, and it really smooths out... all around great, usable tones."

Peghead Peghead back
With the Further, we use an Ebony veneer on the front of the peghead. This shows off the inlaid sterling silver logo with mother of pearl and abalone best. Enlarge the picture with a click, and notice that we don't use pure black Ebony, as under our glossy polyester finish, it would be hard to distinguish from black plastic.
For the back veneer, we use a match for the facing woods on the body, in this case, Bird's-eye Maple. Maple and Purpleheart veneers layer under the facing veneers to add strength and beauty, as in the carving detail at the bottom of the peghead.
Everyone here had a fun time building this guitar for you, Charley. We hope you explore all sorts of new sounds and music with your Cheshire Cat, and that your smile will glow as brightly when you do. Thanks for asking us to build you this treasure.

Front Back


  • Further 6-string guitar
  • Bird's-eye Maple top and back
  • Purpleheart body core
  • Purpleheart and Maple accent laminates
  • Custom Cheshire cat inlay with illuminated smile
  • Mother of pearl oval fingerboard inlays
  • Side position LEDs in red with amber at 12th and 24th frets
  • LED on/off switch (also controls the cat's smile)
  • mater volume control, filter for each pickup, on/off/bright switch for each pickup, effects loop with on/off operation
  • Inlaid sterling silver logo with shell
  • Continuous wood backplates
Sold by: Washington Music
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