Pele After Tom received his custom Signature Deluxe bass, he started thinking about a guitar. He found a big chunk of Burl Amboyna and asked us to make two instruments from it, a matching guitar and bass. When he saw the first pictures of this guitar taking form, he posted on the Alembic Club:
"May I introduce the guitar I commissioned, affectionately named Pele, after the Hawaiian goddess of fire. Needless to say, she's smokin' hot."
The burl is so densely packed, that it's difficult to focus on any symmetry from bookmatching. Other people commented that the wood looked like an inferno, chiseled from stone, or boiling lava. We must agree, the wood is the defining feature of this guitar.
Pele's Fire The inlay was something of an afterthought. After Tom saw how outrageous the top turned out, the inspiration for the inlay struck. Pele's fire burns across the first and second frets. The inlay is red custom-cast acrylic, golden mother of pearl, and figured white mother of pearl.
Lower horn Thin Purpleheart veneer is evident in this closeup of the lower horn. Dan first resawed the half inch thick Burl Amboyna top laminate. Then, when Chip built the body, he added a veneer of Purpleheart. Once we routed the decorative edge, the look was complete.
Peghead Peghead
Custom made Burl Amboyna veneer for the front peghead decoration. Frequently we use commercially available veneers for pegheads, but when the wood is as unique as this one, we make our own.
To make it, we must first slice it as thin as we can on the bandsaw. Then, we sand it to a thin veneer, about 1/32 of an inch or .793 millimeters.
plate Instead of the standard black plastic plates, or even Mahogany "nearest neighbor" plates, Tom decided to coordinate with the top laminate and have Burl Amboyna plates made for Pele. There is one for the LED battery compartment (shown at right), one for the main electronics cavity, and one for the single battery. We make each one from a stack of Maple and Purpleheart veneer, custom plywood if you will, finished on each face with the decorative Burl Amboyna veneer. The plates would be more prone to cupping or warping if made from solid wood.
THG Knobs Tom had these custom knobs made by Roger at THG Knobs from Ebony with Burl Amboyna caps. They look like they were made for Pele, oh wait, they were.
"What a great guitar!" Tom wrote to us when Pele arrived. "I can't imagine why a guitarist would want to play anything else other than an Alembic. The neck is incredibly fast. It sustains forever. I think the 6230 frets are perfect. The tone is so crisp and clear. At lower volumes with use of the filters, you can get a very acoustic like tone. I then turned up the volume and it made my old Fender amp sing like never before."
Inlay and peghead On departure from this Featured Custom, a final glance back at Pele's fire. May it burn brightly for many years.
"This honor of a Featured Custom is like the instruments you made for me, way beyond any expectations I had coming into this. I expected a couple basses and a guitar, and I received so much more than instruments."

Front Back


  • Skylark 6-string guitar
  • Burl Amboyna top
  • Burl Amboyna front and back peghead veneers
  • Dot inlays
  • Custom "Pele's Fire" inlay
  • Wood backplates
  • Side LEDs in amber with red at 12th and 24th
  • 6230 frets
  • Heaping scoop o' mojo
featured custom

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Text and Photographs of guitar © 2006 Alembic, Inc.
Original artwork © 2006 Susan L. Wickersham

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