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Username: daved

Post Number: 13
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - 9:27 pm:   Edit Post

Hello all!

I now find myself in the possession of my 2nd Alembic with a warped neck. Both of these instruments were purchased used (one at a store, the latest via Ebay). Apparently, I'm not good at diagnosing a warped neck upon initial inspection, but my luthiers have spotted them within seconds.

The basses in question are an '87 Spoiler and a '94 Elan. Both are 4 string. Both have E strings which rattle the frets quite abrasively when being played with anything other than the most lightest of touch. My luthier was able to temporarily remedy the situation with my Spoiler via some process involving heat, clamps and what I can only assume was a modicum of voodoo. Luthier # 2 did not have much experience with heat/clamps/voodoo and suggested a heavier gauge string might do the trick. I installed 45-105's and it's only slightly better.

So what's my point, you ask?

1) Is neck warping on Alembics a fairly common thing?
2) What causes a neck to warp?
3) Is there any long term fix to this or do I just deal with it?

For what it's worth, I own 4 other Alembics and have not had any neck problems. I really wish the guy I bought my Elan from on Ebay had mentioned that there was a neck issue. I'm confident that's why he sold it.

Thanks in advance for any input.
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1847
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - 10:32 pm:   Edit Post

If you're not familiar with Joey's Post on Setting Up Your Bass then go read it right now and try it out yourself. It's easy to go from extremely low (with perhaps a gentle rattle to all notes) to extremely high (guaranteed no rattle).

Alembics are designed to be adjustable. For instance both the 87 Spoiler and the 94 Elan should have an adjustable nut, and two truss rods. Joey's famous post explains how it all interacts with bridge height.

If after that you still have a rattle, you might have a fret that needs levelling - but of course two luthiers should have spotted that.
Username: borisspyder

Post Number: 30
Registered: 10-2004
Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2008 - 7:01 am:   Edit Post

I'm sounding like a broken record...some Alembics seem to have incredibly stable necks (hopefully most of them) and some are just awful. I've seen both & read about both here on the forum.
Advanced Member
Username: keurosix

Post Number: 275
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2008 - 6:44 pm:   Edit Post

I think it has to do with something like the fact that they start life as trees, and as such don't always grow in nice straight comfortable lines. As they are cut, dried, and then glued up with other non similar pieces of wood (read "pieces of trees") they don't always behave like we'd want them to. Hence, warps, bows, live and dead spots, etc. Most of this can be adjusted by design, but not always all the time.
Senior Member
Username: dela217

Post Number: 892
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 - 3:32 am:   Edit Post

I've had LOTS of Alembics, probably around 25 or so. The only time I have run into a neck problem was the result of a previous owner doing something crazy, like leaving it in the trunk of a car for a while. That, and I've noticed that they don't like to be soaked in floodwater. Mine have all been VERY stable. Usually when I get an Alembic (used), I find that there are lots of adjustments I need to do.

I find what works well is that I loosen the truss rods completely. I let the neck do what it needs to do with the tension of the strings on it. Once it settles in, usually a day or so, I can adjust the rods and action accordingly. I think Joey's post is a good one too!

Senior Member
Username: jacko

Post Number: 1710
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 - 4:18 am:   Edit Post

How's your post-katrina project coming along Micheal?

Advanced Member
Username: white_cloud

Post Number: 342
Registered: 11-2007
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 - 11:14 am:   Edit Post


Sorry to hear about the problem you are having. I had a Jaydee back in the mists of time that had a crazy neck that no-one could fix so I know how it feels! I lost all confidence in wood basses for a time after my bad experience and switched to graphite.

Unfortunately wood can behave in ways that are not always easy to predict. If a good luthier cant sort this issue then perhaps you should consider shipping back to Alembic for further inspection!

In my experience as a furniture maker the use of clamps/moisture/voodoo on a wooden bass neck would probably only be a temporary fix on something which has a lot of tension placed upon it!

And yes, sounds like the ebay seller knew he was getting rid of a problematic bass! A real shame for you buddy - but a cautionary tale for those who buy instruments using this type of method! Its risky!

Senior Member
Username: dela217

Post Number: 893
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 - 12:01 pm:   Edit Post

Graeme - It's coming along nicely. Mica and company have been doing reasearch and lining up their ducks to finally start this project. It sounds like it is going to work out just fine!

As far as the other basses, they are all working except one that is having electronic problems. I still gig with the water logged basses, they don't look too bad from a distance! The bass that Alembic made for me in 2000 is working like a champ. And even though it looks a mess, the neck is absolutely perfect! I guess I just have good luck with Alembic necks. Nah, it's not luck. I think their necks are pretty sturdy, IMO.

Daved - Don't give up on it. Try another luthier and see if they can give other advice. Best yet, send it back to Alembic, they will make it right.

Username: mica

Post Number: 5230
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 - 2:06 pm:   Edit Post

Michael's correct that we should be able to make any needed repairs to your basses. First, we'll need to know exactly what's causing the problem you've observed.

Your basses have some years on them, and it's not uncommon for instruments to require some TLC, especially since you haven't babied these since they were built. We have no idea the conditions they lived in before you received them.

You mentioned you put on some 45's as a heavier gauge of string. What strings did you have on it before (that I'm assuming you prefer)?

What you don't mention is the condition of the truss rods. If they are not fully loosened, then I suspect a combination of truss rod adjustment, and either some fret milling or string slot filing will resolve the problem. If they are loose, and the neck is backbowed, a heat bend is in order.

A proper heat bend don't involve any voodoo, and it's only required if your truss rods are fully loosened and the bass requires yet more forward bow that the (usually lighter gauge) strings aren't providing to the rather stiff neck.

You can call us if you want to make arrangements to get one or both of your basses serviced. We'll take good care of 'em.

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