Details On My New Custom Ursa Guitar
As many of you know, I’m getting a new hand-built custom guitar forged by Alexander James Colarossi, exotic wood luthier. Being left handed, I’ve always been stuck with sub-$500 black or grey guitars. After 12 years of playing, I felt I finally deserved a nice guitar that would get me through the next decade of adventures.
After many helpful and educational phone calls with Alex, I decided I wanted to have the front of the guitar body be made of Macassar Ebony and the neck be made of Cocobolo. Unfortunately, Macassar Ebony was in short supply at his preferred exotic wood dealership. Alex knew I wanted to get the guitar shipped as soon as possible so he sent me a picture of a beautiful piece of Black & White Ebony which he thought was exceptionally alluring. Within a day, I switched from a completely dark wood instrument to a much lighter orange creamy guitar. If you haven’t noticed, white, grey, and orange are my favorite colors.
My guitar will be made of Black & White Ebony (also known as Pale Moon Ebony), Cocobolo, and American Holly.
At first glance I fell in love with Alex’s Ursa guitar. The shape was classy, minimal, and unique. I asked if Alex could take his Ursa model and make it more of a modern, rougher, and rock/metal aesthetic while maintaining it’s elegance. We played around with 5 or so body shapes before I decided on one:
We were able to come up with a design that could fit all genres of music, especially metal. Metal music comes in so many packages; there are so many sub-genres, styles, cultures, and trends. I believe the design of this guitar could fit every one of them.
Three pick-ups — One high gain bridge pickup, one jazz neck pickup, and a piezo pickup literally inside the bridge of the guitar. The piezo pickup gives the guitar an extra clean sound somewhat similar to an acoustic guitar. The two main pickups are passive Seymour Duncans.
Neck-thru — The neck goes through the body for extra sustain. It also makes the back of the guitar look really awesome.
Wood tuning knobs and pickup covers — The more wood the better! And by wood, I mean wood from trees.
Convenient electronic switch locations — I requested Alex put the pickup switches in a location that’s easier for me to swipe at during live shows. The music I play is fast-paced and I need to be able to switch pickups quickly for solos, clean, and effect-heavy sections.
I will post more updates and pictures of the guitar as the building process unfolds. I’m really excited about this guitar, to say the least.
Cocobolo (Orange) Neck Issues
The image on the right shows his sizing the neck. I requested a thin neck similar to Ibanez's S Series. I find thinner necks to be a lot more comfortable. The neck gradually gets thicker as it connects with the body.
After settling on cocobolo as the fretboard and neck wood, Alex ran into a few potential issues. Alex uses the extra wood from the necks he creates and tests the durability of them and ensures the wood sticks well. He reported the cocobolo neck he had created had a very small chance of breaking after many years of use due to the oiliness of the cocobolo; cocobolo is known to be quite oily. These particular pieces of wood just happened to be very oily. Alex offered to create a new neck and fretboard at no charge. That’s the kind of customer service I was looking for in a guitar shop, and Alex has definitely delivered. Alex recommended a wood that would work well with my guitar: Albesia.
Neck Version #2 - Albesia
Also known as Albecia, “Ablizia Falcata”, Albezzia. I really love this wood and it really harmonizes with the Black & White Ebony that will be used for the body of the guitar. You can see the three main woods used for my guitar on the right (Albesia, American Holly, Black & White Ebony).
Fretboard & Head
The fretboard is made out of a nice piece of striped brown Ebony (Gabon Ebony/Gaboon Ebony). I wasn't sure if I wanted a brown fretboard since most guitar fretboards are brown, but I'm really glad Alex encouraged me to use it. James Fraser's (Gemanon guitarist) new pure white guitar with a brown neck looks great.
The headstock is Black & White Ebony (Pale Moon Ebony) with some ebony veneer. The head went from being mostly beige-colored to a complex combination of black and cream-colored brown. The gold logo complements the wood very well.
Body - Black & White (Pale Moon)
It’s beautiful. I like a lot of the exotic woods I’ve researched, but this one is definitely one of my favorites. It’s incredibly unique and fits the metal genre well. It reminds me of smoke curls, weeping trees, and demonic figures. At the same time, it looks clean and organic.
Shaping + Knobs
Alex sent me some pictures to confirm the body shape and knob/switch placement. We discussed different knob/switch layouts. We went with Alex’s original layout, which isn’t included in the set of pictures above. The center strip of the wood is the neck (Albesia) and the white wood (American Holly) is for the back of the body.
In the gallery, you can see the guitar being glued together. Yes, that is a lot of clamps. The clamps hold the pieces of wood together as the glue dries. I really like the symmetrical pattern from the Black & White Ebony. The cut of the wood is not the final shape of the guitar. The penciled outline on the left picture represents the final shape. I know alex is going to put a lot of time into detailing the guitar. The final product will look even more amazing.
The guitar is starting to come full circle, literally! It’s been sanded and is looking smooth. The image on the left is not sanded at all, the one on the right was roughly sanded, and the center shows my Alexander James Ursa fully sanded.
Wood electronics panel! Why would you want to ugly up this beauty with a plastic cover?! I really like the triangular point at the edge of the wood cover. It’s like a microcosmic representation of the guitar itself: smooth and round with the few points to give it an edge.
Other Curvy Angles
A close up shot of the neck-thru construction. Notice how there is no heel where the body meets the neck. Accessing those higher frets should be quite easier. The middle picture is the back of the neck and head; beautiful Albizzia wood. These pictures were taken before any final sanding.
Truss rod cover on the left and the golden piezo guitar bridge installed. The truss rod cover is made out of Black & White Ebony, the same wood the body is made out of. Alex James cares about the small almost unnoticeable details like I do. The piezo bridge makes electric guitars sound like acoustic guitars.
Next steps: finish sanding, lacquering, waiting, more lacquering, and then shipment!
My "RMA Ursa" guitar is almost done! The pictures below show my guitar being lacquered, buffed, and fitted with electronics (pickups, knobs, etc.). It's incredible what Alexander James Guitars was able to create. The high gloss with gold combo is stunning and breath-taking.
An in-depth review will be coming soon!