The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on September 22, 2002 · Page 38
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 38

Hays, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Page 38
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KANSAS SUNDAY • SEPTEMBER 22,2002 • THE HAYS DAILY NEWS E1 ASSOCIATED PRESS in his basement workshop. Famed Nelson Palen of Beloit is seen through a template while holding one of the archtop electric jazz guitars he made jazz guitarist and singer George Benson bought one of Palen's creations. Man's handmade guitars strike new note By GARY DEMUTH ASSOCIATED PRESS BELOIT — Nelson Palen builds some of the sweetest sounding guitars in existence, and he doesn't even play the instrument. Palen might not be a musician, but during the past three years, he has earned the respect of jazz guitarists throughout the world. When these professionals pick up one of Palen's archtop guitars, they instantly know they are playing an instrument with a unique tone, depth and resonance. Famed jazz guitarist and singer George Benson bought one of Palen's guitars last year at a classic guitar show in Long Island, New York. Rodney Jones, professor of jazz guitar studies at the Manhattan School of Music in-NeWYork" and former lead guitarist on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," was so impressed with Palen's guitars he offered to endorse them. "What makes them great is an intangible thing, like a great painting," Jones said from his home in New York. "Having played the guitar for 39 years, I know a great,one when I feel it. Nelson's an artist who just happens to make guitars." Since 1999, Palen has built and sold 18 guitars and has 10 more in various stages of completion in his basement workshop. Each guitar sells for about $4,800. Palen's sudden success has taken him by surprise. A design engineer at Sunflower Manufacturing in Beloit, Palen, 56, had been a woodworker most of his life and for 12 years designed and sold decorative wooden bowls. While that was satisfying work, Palen was itching to find something to make that would really challenge his carving skills. A co-worker there encouraged him to make his first guitar. Palen credits the Internet with supplying him a wealth of information on archtop guitar-building, an instrument used primarily in jazz music. He took an Internet-based guitar-making class, and bought a video on the subject. He also corresponded with other archtop builders. The back panel and soundboard (front) of the archtop are "What makes them great is an intangible thing, like a great painting. Having played the guitar for 39 years, I know a great one when I feel it. Nelson's an artist who just happens to make guitars." — Rodney Jones, professor of jazz guitar studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. made from two thin wedges of wood. When these pieces of wood are glued together and carved into a dome shape at the center, the look is similar to that of a violin. The front of Palen's guitars are made from Engleman spruce from the northeastern United States, and the back plate and sides are made from Oregon, Washington or Vancouver maple. To cut a precise shape for the guitar, Palen uses a homemade lathe he' built • eight years' ago from scrap iron. After shaping the guitar, Palen use's a cabinet scraper to shave the wood even more finely, stopping periodically to tap the surface of the wood in a technique called "tap tuning." "You listen to the tone produced. You should get a clear tone — not a particular note, but a crisp tone," he said. He continues the scraping and tapping until the tone is just right. "Each one will sound just a little different, as opposed to some- thing that's just an assembly-line product. You try to make them the same as possible, but each guitar is unique." Palen estimates it takes him about 150 hours to build a guitar, working 30 hours a week on evenings and weekends. Palen built three guitars before he got up the courage to sell one on the Internet. A man from New Jersey bought the guitar on eBay, then told his business partner about the ' instrument's high'qUality.'Sudden- ly Palen had a promoter and distributor, Lou Del Rosso, who runs a business called He said the instant he held Palen's guitar, he knew it was remarkable. "The tone is just wonderful," Del Rosso said from his office in Summit, N.J. "I've had many professional players comment on its resonant tone. Anyone with a good ear can tell how good it is." George Benson certainly knew. The famed jazz guitarist tested one of Palen's guitars at the Long Dan Flemming of Beloit plays the first guitar Palen made in his basement. Flemming encouraged Palen to try to make a guitar. ft dfUigMgm WRNi <w« not chfefe play! Island Classic Guitar Show, then turned to Del Rosso and asked if he could buy it. "He said it was a beautiful guitar, and then he handed me his American Express card," Del Rosso said. "I almost fell over." Today, Del Rosso said, there is a waiting list for Palen's guitars, and he believes as Palen continues to refine his skills, his reputation will grow. "Consistency is the most important thing Nelson has," Del Rosso said. "I think his woodworking background helped a lot, but he's also able to produce guitars that have a consistent sound, and that's not an easy thing to do." Jones agreed: "His guitars have a resonance that transcends the wood. I think it's an intuitive process for him.' He'Has a sensitivity and awareness of his craft, and he puts love and feeling into each guitar he makes. He's an artist through his craft." Fire district can't spend tax money on new hydrant By CARL MANNING ASSOCIATED PRESS BURLINGTON — To Owen There's way of thinking, it was a fairly simple situation — busy Beto Junction needed a fire hydrant, so the county fire district would pay to install one. But Thero, a member of the Coffey County Fire District No. 1 Board of Trustees, soon found that what's logical and what's legal aren't always the same. The glitch came from an attorney general's opinion earlier this year saying the fire district can spend tax revenue for fireflghting equipment, but that a fire hydrant really isn't firefighting equipment. "We just thought it was ridiculous that a fire hydrant couldn't be considered firefighting equipment," Thero said. "It's just not there for the dogs." Thero, of Lebo, drives a wrecker for a garage at Beto Junction, where U.S. Highway 75 and Interstate 35 intersect. Each day, hundreds of truckers and tourists pull in and out of truck stops on opposite sides of Highway 75. So far, there have been no major accidents or fires. "We have been extremely lucky," Thero said. "It's only been by the grace of God that nothing catastrophic has happened." Three years ago, Thero suggested to the other four trustees that a fire hydrant be attached to a rural water district line at Beto Junction. The hydrant would be used to fill the fire district's tanker trucks, cutting down on the time to get more water. "Everybody thought it was a good idea, but doing it is something else," he said. Currently, when one of the 3,000-gallon tanks empties, which can be within 15 minutes, it's a half-hour round trip to the nearest tanker-refilling site, in Lebo. County Fire Administrator Bill Walker said putting hydrants throughout the county would be expensive and impractical, but having them in strategic areas could b£ a good .idea.. t ,_ "When we nave a major incident there, it will take a lot of water and I can see having a water supply up there for us," Walker said of Beto Junction, 16 miles north of this county seat. The nonbinding legal opinion said the law allows a county fire district to use its funds to "acquire, operate and maintain firefighting equipment." But it also said while fire hydrants are mainly for fire protection purposes "in our opinion they are a part of the facilities in a water works system rather than fire fighting equipment." Attorney general spokesman Mark Ohlemeier said the opinion reaffirmed a 1992 opinion and likely would apply to the more than 300 fire districts in the state. But he noted it only addresses the narrow issue of whether the fire district can pay for the installation of a fire hydrant. "As state law stands right how, that is how it is," he said. "It's up to the Legislature to change the law and include fire hydrants as firefighting equipment." That's what Sen. Jim Barnett, whose district includes part of Coffey County, is thinking about doing just that during the 2003 Legislature. "It concerned me that we can spend money on firefighting equipment but not to install a fire hydrant that would necessary to fight the fire," said Barnett, R- Emporia. In his office, Walker talked about how 98 percent of all fires are extinguished with water. "What else do they use hydrants for? To me it is part of the overall equipment we use," he said. Walker said it would cost $13,000 to $18,000 to connect the hydrant at Beto Junction. He said the fire district collects some $770,000 annually to maintain its seven stations that cover the 750 square mile county with 135 volunteers firefighters. "If the law was changed tomorrow, it doesn't mean we would rush out there and put it in," Walker said. "We would take it to the board. It would give them another option they don't have." Walker said the only fire hydrants in Coffey County are in ..towns .which .paid /or them...He said any fire hydrants placed in the rural areas could be financed by the county commission, water districts or through private contributions. Increase productivity and profits,with cost-effective technology solutions from Nex-Tech. 877.625.7872 LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCES ENRICH TMP-MARIAN STUDENTS Over the past few months, TMP-Marian students have gained knowledge and leadership skills all over the world! Dodge City Community Colie^e ^ ^ \ Notre Dame, IN BusinessWeek ^ ' *f^", : '\*!j^<, ^y s global Issues Seminar %& '7Em|p6rlaState,Unlversity;*4>, _ .$#*•' t STUCO r Cahnp FHSU KansMfbiuth -, Leadershi^^.Ohfer'ence >\ , <> Canada World You Kansas . 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