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Username: stout71

Post Number: 1
Registered: 7-2011
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 11:53 am:   Edit Post

Here are a few option ideas I am toying with and I'm hoping I can get some feedback. Any help is greatly appreciated. I will start by saying that this bass will very likely be a King Signature 5-string.

1) Can I get the Gotoh machine heads in gunmetal or nickel-plate, along with every other piece of metal hardware? I think the dark metal looks really cool, and you almost never see it on a bass/guitar.

2) Can the neck be a little wider than the "comfort" option? I'm primarily a 4-string player and have gotten very used to 19mm string spacing. While I don't expect that spacing on a 5-string, the width of the neck at the last fret would be ideal if it were about 3.3".

3) Can I get a 34 1/2" scale bass to slightly stiffen the feel of the B-string? I don't want to negatively affect the tone.

4) Is it possible to get a custom cutout, like the Omega or Heart, but with a "3-leaf Clover" design?

Outside of these options, everything else is selectable on the custom quote page. Given affirmative answers to the questions above, what is a possible lead time on something like this? A general range is fine. Many thanks.
Senior Member
Username: tbrannon

Post Number: 1415
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 1:08 pm:   Edit Post

Welcome Jerry!

I don't work for Alembic, but they can do plating- check out Charles' custom to see an example of darkened hardware-

2. They can make the neck to any dimensions you want- in fact, a lot of people will send in a bass or neck to have them copy that neck. Either that or you can simply send dimensions and they'll get it perfect for you.

3. I'm sure they could- but I'd suggest you call Alembic to chat with them to discuss this. You might find you don't need the 1/2" extra/less. Alternatively, many Alembic dealers know these basses really, really well and can discuss these options with you. If you look on the dealer list, Will Gunn knows has been playing these basses since the early 70's and knows them as well as anyone I've ever spoken to.

4. Sounds like a cool option- I'd definitely discuss this with Mica or Susan. They can certainly do the woodwork, but they'll be able to tell you how it might affect the instrument.

Sounds like a cool bass...
Username: stout71

Post Number: 2
Registered: 7-2011
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 - 10:11 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for the helpful info, man. I never thought about how the cutout could affect the sound / strength of the bass. Definitely a consideration.
Senior Member
Username: briant

Post Number: 594
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 7:46 am:   Edit Post

I'd suggest calling Susan or Mica to discuss everything. That said all your asks above are doable; they just cost money and take time.

Lead time gets exceedingly difficult when you have truly custom options. When you start piling custom options on top of custom options things get really sketchy. They (Alembic) arent going to just start cutting wood and throwing a final piece together. They design, mock-up, test fit, etc this all takes time and depending on the difficulty of the custom thing they are doing they might not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or third. I seem to recall a custom tailpiece (3-4 years ago?) for a bass that went through many iterations prior to a final that was agreed upon by Alembic and the customer. That process took months from my recollection.
Username: stout71

Post Number: 3
Registered: 7-2011
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 10:38 am:   Edit Post

Thanks again. Although I haven't gotten a more concise turnaround time yet, I have finalized all of the options and the only thing left for me to do is throw my deposit down. I took questions 1 & 3 out of the equation already.

The price Alembic charges for nickel plating is more than I'm willing to pay, given that I can take the handful of parts to a local shop and have them do it for $100. (I realize that there are other considerations.)

I am foregoing the neck lengthening. I don't want to risk having a negative impact on the tone, which is in my opinion, at least possible. I'm not confident I'd notice a difference in feel with an additional 1/2" anyway.

Anyway, I hope to get this thing ordered next month. All of your comments are appreciated. With something like this, turnaround time isn't really a huge consideration anyway. Each additional month I wait is an additional month I have to fuel the budget!
Senior Member
Username: tbrannon

Post Number: 1424
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 12:39 pm:   Edit Post


Have you talked to Mica or Susan about the process they take on the nickel plating?

Only asking because my memory tells me that they've refined the process over several years with a couple different platers to get it 'right'. I get the impression that getting all the small parts of the hardware done so that they look right and function properly is a pretty tedious process. I'm not sure that any place that does chrome/nickel/gold plating will necessarily get you results that will last and/or be high quality.

Not trying to push the Alembic cost on you, but it might be a good question to ask the folks at Alembic. Good luck with the build, I'll be curious to watch it develop.
Username: stout71

Post Number: 5
Registered: 7-2011
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 12:46 pm:   Edit Post

I haven't, but mostly because I don't want to put those guys through too much work before there is an actual bass to build. Taking nothing away from the quality of the plating that Alembic has done, the costs (to me) outweigh the benefits, but I will discuss this in detail with them later. Don't get me wrong - I want a high quality job. If I go the reasonable price route and get burned, shame on me.
Username: mica

Post Number: 7416
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 4:09 pm:   Edit Post

I've been meaning to make a page explaining some of our processes like plating, so I figure now is as good of a time as any to start getting it documented. Pardon the long post, I can get rather wordy when trying to describe things.

Part of the price difference is geography. It's very likely that the CAL EPA plus the federal EPA requirements make the cost of doing business in California higher than most other places, and all of our platers are in California.

The process for plating hardware involves 2 setups. Once, about halfway through finish, we do a "preset" where the hardware is fitted for the setup that particular instrument. While the bass is back in spray, the hardware is prepped for plating.

Prepping for plating involves lots of sanding and buffing, more than for the regular polished brass finish. In fact, we don't buff the tailpiece for the polished brass hardware, it's sanded then a clear coat of polyester is applied.

Once the hardware is prepped for plating, we send it to the plater. For chrome or nickel, we take it over to a local supplier (or sometimes he comes and picks it up!). The gold and black nickel are sent to two different suppliers in southern California.

Even to send it is a bit of an ordeal. We make a heavy Maple base to bolt everything to. It looks like a tray and it serves to keep the parts from getting damaged on either trip they are making. It also helps the plater make sure they get all the parts out of the baths, since there is an outline on the board for each part.

Once the parts are back to us, we reassemble the bridge. That has to be done with care, and we have to check first that the plating wasn't applied too thick, or the pins and screws won't fit, or worse, deform the metal when assembled. Some gentle coaxing and everything is back together.

Once the instrument is completed, we get to do the setup again, and you never have to polish the brass.

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