Barry Jelly

Barry's Bowl of Jelly Barry has ordered several Alembics, starting with an all Purpleheart and Walnut custom. It seems that all these years later, he still can't get the Purpleheart out of his system, so we made him this new bass, dubbed "Jelly" for her wonderful purple neck and body.
The last instrument we made for Barry was a Rogue with Series I electronics. He knew he wanted the same basic set up on Jelly, but this time it was Series II electronics. We skipped the pickup selector switch and added a separate standby switch next to the stereo/mono switch.
A custom neck feel and select woods complete the custom picture.
Sidelines An unlined Ebony fingerboard assures a consistent and melodic sound, but there's no visual references. With inlaid lines, you wind up sliding over different materials, which affects the sound (especially once the board shrinks at a different rate from the inlaid line).
To give the player both a visual reference and the sound and feel of a blank board, we offer sidelines. These inlays are small pieces of Maple on the edge of the board only. From the audience view, there's not a hint of the little clues on the edge.

truss rod cover The continuous wood truss rod cover almost blends in completely. Since the neck is solid, we make this decorative piece from the next slice of wood on the neck blank, which is always made a little thicker than needed. We make a 5-ply stack of Maple and Purpleheart custom plywood and add this little slice on the top.
We attach the plate in the usual fashion with machine screws in threaded metal inserts. Go ahead and make as many truss rod adjustments as you like, you won't strip these screws.
Peghead Barry preferred the shape of the Orion 4-string peghead, especially with the slightly smaller nut width he ordered. Facing veneers are Coco Bolo which we custom cut from the same piece as the body faces. Interior veneers are alternating Walnut and Purpleheart to coordinate with the neck laminates. You can see this best on the back of the peghead.
On the last bass we made for Barry, he asked for black tuners with gold buttons, so on this one, he requested we match up the surplus parts.
tailpiece Classic Alembic bird tailpiece and bridge in brass finish offers some contrast to all the dark woods.
heel It's the Purpleheart that gives Jelly her name - such a wonderful grape color alternating with the slightly cool brown of Walnut. Here on the heel carving, you can see the blended transition from the glossy finish of the body to the satin finish on the neck.
Backplate Never miss an opportunity to preserve precious wood with continuous wood backplates. Sure they cost more, and don't make it sound any better, but boy are they ever pretty!
To make them, Bob scroll saws the plate from the back laminate before Chip assembles to body. That little fallout piece is resawed to get two very thin sheets. We sand these very flat and thin, then add them to the front and back of a Maple and Purpleheart custom plywood we've made. Even though the interior is eventually covered with silver shielding, keeping the laminates symmetrical make the finished piece much more stable.
Coco Bolo detail This Coco Bolo top has lots going on. While it has some very dark broad graining, the background color is a litte lighter orange-red tone than we're used to getting (it will darken more with time). The accent laminate is Walnut, and therefore low contrast. Even the Purpleheart core isn't shocking since the contrast in colors is so low.
Jelly From any angle, Jelly is just beautiful. The rubout of the finish is so shiny, the tailpiece is perfectly reflected.
Thanks again, Barry, for asking us to make such an interesting bass for you.

Front Back


  • Custom 4-string bass
  • Coco Bolo top and back
  • Purpleheart body core
  • Walnut accent laminates
  • Purpleheart and Walnut neck
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Continuous wood truss rod cover
  • Fretless with inlaid sidelines
  • Series II electronics with stereo/mono switch and standby switch, no pickup selector switch
  • Rogue body shape
  • Orion peghead shape
  • Mixed-up tuners
  • Polyester gloss finish with satin neck feel

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Photograph of neck shavings © 2004 Mica Wickersham
Photographs of bass © 2004 Alembic, Inc.

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