Since Sam lives just an hour away from our shop, he decided to come over
and select the exact woods for his creation. Pawing through the piles of Coco Bolo can be a rather daunting (and dusty!) adventure. It can
be difficult to visualize what a bookmatch will look like when viewing a chunk of lumber. Once you resaw it into bookmatches, the colors will
be different, and even the grain pattern will change from the outside of the block.
The piece that Sam selected was thick enough to yield the top and the back laminates from successive slices. We considered a few ideas for placement, but went with the area marked "14533" in this photo.
Flipping over to the back, we discover the expertly crafted continuous wood
backplate. These little marvels are made by laying out the plate on the back laminate before we glue up the body. Then, we cut the shape
with a jig saw, reserving the fallout piece. Next up, we resaw on the big bandsaw, yielding 2 to 3 veneers.
We then layer these veneers with Maple and Purpleheart veneers to stack up a plate that is five layers thick, with the Coco Bolo on the front and back for symmetical stability. The inside of the plate is later covered with pure silver for shielding, but we all know what's underneath.
The plate needs to be finished right along with the bass, and it receives the same attention during this process.
Classic Alembic crown peghead shape is standard issue for the Signature
Deluxe models. Since the color of the body laminates was so striking, we decided to make our own veneers for the peghead faces so they
Tuning keys are arranged with 2 on the top and 3 on the bottom. This places the B string tuner farther away from the string nut, so the winding of the B string isn't in danger of entering the hole in the peg of the key.
It's a good time to mention that the fingerboard on Sam's bass is custom. It's sort of the half-way point between his Spector bass and our comfort taper fingerboard size.
Sam decided on another little luxury item for his custom build, the
continuous wood truss rod cover. This is made in the very same way as the backplate described above. It's one of those features that
doesn't draw attention to itself, and almost goes unnoticed.
On the other end of the attention spectrum is the Bird of Prey tailpiece.
This sculpture in solid brass is shaped by hand. Note the complimentary omega at the top of the tailpiece.
All the hardware has been gold plated so that Sam won't ever need to break out the brass polish. Our default is to space the strings evenly edge-to-edge at the bridge, but Sam was already accustomed to center-to-center spacing, so on his we spaced them 0.70 inches center-to-center.
A tender tribute to his mother Mary, her initials are inlaid at
the 12th fret. It's a reminder of her wish that Sam have the bass he always dreamed of all those years ago. A wish that she made possible
with her generous gift to her son.
When we work on a project that has a deep family connection like this bass, it makes us overjoyed. Our family has been working together for over forty years now, and we believe that family forms the foundation of much of what is good on earth. It was our extreme pleasure to work with Sam, share stories of his mom and enjoy the music he's been making.
Text and photos of guitar by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2011 Alembic, Inc.
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