GWATHNAR Shadow Flame

Gwathnar Bass Ken has been through the custom ordering process twice before. After his Buckeye Burl Rogue, he commissioned a Walnut Excel. He wanted something much different from what he already had, otherwise, why have more than one Alembic? After consulting with Valentino, a Series II design emerged from their discussions, of course, with a hearty sprinkling of custom options.
To make Gwathnar sonically unique in his collection, Ken asked for the Ebony neck laminates. Since he lives within driving distance, he was able to try several instruments in our showroom to assist in the difficult decision making process. It's one thing to read about the impact Ebony has on the sound, but another altogether when you experience it firsthand.

Spalted Maple 'Shadow Flame' top The Spalted Maple top on this bass was the inspiration for the name. It's got excellent flame figure to begin with, then the spalting creates artistic flames scribbled by Nature. Within the black boundries, the coloring and figure seem to dance like fire. This is one of the finest examples we've seen of this wood.
In Tolkien's Elvish language, Gwathnar translates to "Shadow Flame" and is perfectly descriptive for this mysteriously beautiful wood.
CW TRC With such a delicious top laminate, the urge to "continufy" is strong. Here, we've made the truss rod cover from continuous wood instead of the traditional brass we use for this model.
Especially against the Ebony of the fingerboard, the near-black spalted lines look splendid.
CW Backplate Even more "continufication" on the back of the bass. With an almost marble-like appearance, the wood is just begging for preservation in the plates. So before we glue the back in place, Bob cuts the plate out with a scroll saw. Chip can then continue gluing up the body. The piece reserved from the scroll saw cut is then resawed so we can get the veneer you see, and one for the inside. These are layered with Purpleheart and Maple veneers for added strength.
The plates must go through the same finishing process as the rest of the instrument. We know it doesn't make it sound one bit better, but it does look really, really cool. It also shaves a few ounces off the weight compared to brass backplates.
CW HX pickup Ken asked for the humcancelling dummy pickup to share the continuous wood theme as it is flush with the body. It isn't a separate plate in this case. The reserved piece of wood is glued to the top of the cast coil. It then goes through finish with the rest of the plates.

Peghead Peghead
We can get all sorts of commercial veneer, and often, it coordinates very well with the lumber we use for the tops. But sometimes, you just can't get the match you're after without making it yourself, so that's exactly what we did.
A piece from the same board as the top was resawn on the bandsaw very thin. Then, we sand those thin sheets even thinner to get the final veneer thickness. We can then glue up the peghead in our usual fashion.
Ken's peghead is layered with Maple and Walnut veneers on the interior, and faced with the perfectly matching Spalted Maple veneers on the front and back.
Logo inlay Excellent logo inlay in sterling silver with mother of pearl behind the cloud and abalone behind the alembic and the dragon. Impossible to tell from a photograph, the mother of pearl is very opalescent, with undulating figure that really looks like a cloud. Likewise with the abalone - the greens and blues and flashes to purple can be almost alarming.
contour In the tummy contour, the Walnut accent laminate shows off. The edge of the reflection indicates the extent of the contour carving. It's a very comfortable feature, helping the bass to snug right up against your body.
The Ebony neck laminates are revealed in this partial back view. Even one Ebony laminate starts the earth shaking, with two, this bass has a most solid bottom end. Ebony also contributes its signature fundamental sustain.

Chrome Hardware The brass harware is chrome plated. The chrome plating is harder than the brass it is covering. Plus, chrome does not corrode or tarnish like brass, and only needs a simple wipe with a cloth to clean.
KP inlay Ken's initials are inlaid in white mother of pearl at the twelfth fret in Tolkien's elvish language. We've done slight variations of this inlay on the other two Alembics in Ken's collection.
Gwathnar is now Ken's "number one bass, and I have two backups that are better than anyone else's main bass (except, of course, other Alembic owners)!" He told us that the "Series II has a more open sound, and that with the added bass of the ebony laminates, and the clarity of the Series electronics, it combines the best features of both the Rogue and the Excel with much greater flexibility."
Ken's "Evlish Trio" is a fine gathering of Alembics, made possible by his good taste, and his wife's good nature and understanding. Thank you!
Front Back


  • Series II 4-string bass
  • Spalted Maple top and back, bookmatched to center top
  • Rogue II body shape
  • Continuous wood backplates, truss rod cover, and humcanceller
  • Custom 12th fret inlay
  • Chrome plated hardware
  • Ebony neck laminates
  • Side LEDs
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Text and Photographs of bass © 2006 Alembic, Inc.

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