Dire Wolf

Jeff's Dire Wolf
When I awoke the dire wolf
six hundred pounds of sin,
was grinning at my window
all I said was come on in.

And Jeff did. He invited the Dire Wolf into his collection. It seems being the August special is appropriate as the one year anniversary of Jeff's initial contact with us for the design of his custom bass. When we began our discussions, Jeff already knew he wanted a 5-string in the new Balance K body style in Coco Bolo. He also knew that the bass must bear a dire wolf inlay.
Jeff had been studying Featured Customs and other in progress basses on the Alembic Club. One feature that spoke to him early in the design phase was a neck recipe he saw on one of Valentino's basses, with a central Ebony laminate. At one point, he considered having a Heart Omega peghead carving, but this was set aside as a possible distraction to the carving at the bottom.
Well into the construction, the original specification for DW initials below the 24th fret was changed to its namesake, DIRE WOLF.
Wolf Inlay Jeff really liked the wolf inlay Doug Irwin did on one of Jerry Garcia's Alembic guitars, and wanted something similar, only a little meaner in appearance on his bass. Susan designed the inlay to have more of a scowling expresssion, complete with Jeff's request for a little drool. After a few skectches, Jeff approved the design and materials list.
When most of the finish was sprayed on the bass, James started the inlay. The Ash medallion is framed in sterling silver and Ebony. The wolf's coat is Flame California Walnut, and his muzzle is Buckeye Burl. Golden mother of pearl lines his ears and forms his eyebrows. White mother of pearl, abalone and Ebony eyes are highlighted with glints of sterling silver. The wolf's nose is black Tahitian mother of pearl and his fangs are sterling silver. Custom cast red acrylic tongue hangs from a Pink Ivory lined mouth, dripping iwth mother of pearl.
Peghead The Balance K body shape is considerably smaller than the traditional Standard Point and Omega shapes. With that in mind, we redesigned the Crown peghead, scaling it down to coordinate with the proportions of the new body shape.
The Coco Bolo we selected for the body was unusually dark, and commercial veneers would not do. Instead, we made our own veneer for the decorative faces of the peghead.
Peghead back In this picture of the back of the peghead, notice the interior veneers are alternating layers of Maple and Purpleheart. There are five veneers on the front of the peghead, and five more on the back. All those layers of wood and glue make the peghead strong.
The neck is our typical Maple and Purpleheart, with a central laminate of Ebony. The Ebony adds a deeper bass response, and greatly increased fundamental sustain. Just about everyone noticed this bass' sultry voice during testing.
Also evident is a nut width considerably smaller than many modern 5-string basses. This width was a special request of Jeff's. He and Mica worked out the dimensions based on his preferences of other basses he'd played combined with Mica's analysis of the measurements he collected. With Jeff's excellent communication, we were confident to offer the advice. We built the neck to a size that Jeff had never actually played before, but one that felt completely natural from the instant he picked it up since it was specifically made for him.
elbow cut The Balance K body evokes the feeling of the the traditional Standard Point and Omega bodies, but it's designed for 5 or more strings and even extended scale lengths. It is also considerably lighter in weight. Another way to increase comfort and reduce weight even more is to carve away the area that contacts your upper arm of your fretting hand. Called an elbow cut, this special carving removes the wood that might otherwise crash into your elbow while playing. It also exposes the layers of the body, making them visible from the front.
tummy cut Same story for the back, only this time it's called tummy carving. This contour allows the bass to snug right up to your ribcage, with softly carved edges for even more playing comfort.
Heart Omega The Heart Omega carving compliments this entire bass design, and shows off the seven layers of the neck beautifully. The seven layers of the body don't look half bad either.
Custom Curvey Tailpiece Jeff saw this tailpiece shape proposed for another customer's bass, and although we didn't use it on the original project, Jeff asked us to make one for this instrument. The curvey shape echoes the main part of the omega carving, and also the neighboring circular body inlay. Nice touch, and for now, the only one like it.
Coco Bolo Backplate It would be a crime to do anything but a continuous wood backplate on such a luscious example of Coco Bolo. The zig-zagging grain is low-contrast, but the color is so deep and rich that is is simply breathtaking. We say this all the time, but's it's even more beautiful in person.
Dire Wolf Inlay To finish off the customizations, Jeff had "Dire Wolf" inlaid below the 24th fret. We need to use a very thick slab of mother of pearl to compensate for the curvature of the fingerboard or the inlay would fade to nothing at the extreme edges. Our technique for this type of decoration is to make a through and through design by first cutting out the letters completely through the shell. Then we fill the empty space with a mixture of Ebony dust and epoxy. Unlike engraving, this design will survive a relevel and refret.

Jeff's enthusiasm inpired each of us that participated in creating this bass. It's our hope that Jeff and the Dire Wolf will be lifelong companions.

Front Back


  • Signature Deluxe 5-string
  • Coco Bolo top and back
  • Walnut accent laminates and Maple pinstripes
  • 32" medium scale Maple neck with Purpleheart and Ebony laminates
  • Custom body inlay
  • Ebony fingerboard with abalone ovals and custom inlay at 25th fret
  • Balance K body shape with tummy and elbow contour and Heart Omega carving
  • Custom tailpiece shape
  • Black Alembic-Gotoh tuners
  • Black Schaller straplocks
  • Continuous wood backplate and truss rod cover
  • Signature Electronics, custom drilling pattern and side mounted jack
  • Continuous wood truss rod cover
  • Purchased from Superbass
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Text and Photographs of bass © 2005 Alembic, Inc.
Original artwork © 2004,2005 Susan L. Wickersham

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