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PWK anecdote

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Hey Folks.

By this time most of you know that I worked as a speaker builder at Klipsch for a bit over seven years, from 1976-1983.

Some have said they have enjoyed reading some of my posts that give a bit of Klipsch history as seen by a common employee in those days, so...I have picked this part of the forum to offer up this anecdotal tribute to PWK, the man, the human being...since it is primarily the speaker designs of PWK himself that dominate this section of the forum, and there are many here who have great admiration for his many lifetime accomplishments.

Many of us have heroes or idols whom we look up to...some are parents or sports stars or very unique individuals in their fields. Many of us have more than one person who falls into this very personal category. Except for those of our "heroes" who have been family members, few of us get the opportunity to really learn about them first hand, and even then it may only be a handshake and a "I am so very pleased to finally have met you" that we have had the opportunity to have experienced.

Well, to be honest, when I first began working at Klipsch, I had absolutely no knowledge about Paul W. Klipsch except that my father had told me that he had designed the best speaker in the world. Over the first year or so I was there, I began to read about him and to listen to the stories of other employees who had worked closely with him or who had been with the company when it was a very small operation. There was a sort of reverence for the man among the employees, but also a sort of aloofness by many to approach him because they were so in awe of the man and his accomplishments. I began to fall into this latter category.....idolizing him for his accomplishments, without really ever getting to know him...until...one day...I got the opportunity to see the "REAL PWK."

It was in either 1977 or 1978, I cant remember for sure...in late August or early September that this event occurred.

My father was approaching his 65th birthday in mid-October of that year, and I had wanted to give him something special. He loved to hunt deer, but never killed any...actually I think he enjoyed getting out of the house for a few hours more than the act of hunting...anyway...I bought a muzzle-loading rifle in kit form to build and present to him for his birthday. It was a nice kit and the gunstock was of European walnut and "95% pre-inletted" which meant I would have to do some "wood-to-metal" fitting prior to putting the final finish on the rifle. Upon Initial fitting I saw that the wood to metal fit was outstanding in the inletting at the factory, but the wood was "proud" and would have to be sanded quite a bit to get to the level of the metal "furniture" parts, so that the quality of the finished rifle would look more professional. I had no power tools...just sandpaper and hands, so I decided to take the parts and the stock out to the plant to use the pneumatic disc sanders there to work the wood down quicker.

In those days alot of the employees in the plant would ask permission to work on a small woodworking project in their spare time on breaks or at lunch...sometimes even after clocking out for the day. Generally these projects were approved by the foreman. I asked and the foreman said "ok."

The next day I took the parts to work with me and during morning break I began sanding and fitting them. During lunch break, I had just run to get a soft drink and returned to continue my personal project, when PWK came wandering through the plant heading toward the other side.

Almost nobody was out in the plant at the time, and he saw me sanding on the gunstock, but kept on walking. A few minutes later, he returned and headed straight over to my work table where I was still sanding on the gunstock. This was out of his normal route when he walked thru the plant.

He came right up to me and said "What have you got there?" I told him I was assembling a black powder rifle from a kit for my father's birthday and was sanding on the stock of it. He said "Can I see it for a minute?" I offered it up to him and he put it to his shoulder and said "Good cast-off in the stock...it should be easy to shoot accurately once it is finished." Then, as he handed back the stock to me,he offered his hand and said "I am Paul and you are?" I shook his hand and introduced myself. His response was "I have heard good things about you, nice to finally meet you. When you finish the rifle I would like very much to see it. Just drop by the office after work and show it to me some day" I said I would be sure to do that. Then he went on his way, saying "I will be looking forward to it."

Well, I finished the rifle a few weeks later, but I never brought it to work to show to him, assuming he was just being polite when we talked and was far too busy for me to take up any of his time.

One day I returned from the restroom and the foreman told me that PWK had asked where I was, and the foreman was wanting to know what was going on. I told him I had no idea....and he said not to worry, it probably wasn't anything important. Later that day, I was building cabinets and PWK came back thru the plant...purposely going off his regular route towards me.

As he approached, he called me by my first name, said hello, asked how I was doing, and then asked if I had ever finished the rifle. I told him that I had indeed finished it and had already test-fired it and roughed the sight adjustment in while testing different loads for accuracy. He told me again that he would really like to see it before I gave it to my father, and that I could drop by anytime after work. I told him that I would bring it by the next day, and he said that would be fine.

Of course, the foreman wandered over to see what was going on, and overheard it...and this actually seemed to annoy PWK.

The next afternoon after work (3:30 PM), I went to my truck, got out the rifle, and went to the front desk in the office building. I told the receptionist who I was and that PWK had said he wanted to see me. She said PWK was in his office with the door closed. Everybody at the company knew that if PWK's door was closed, he was NOT to be bothered!!!!! Well, just as I was about to leave, his door opened and out he came with some of the "honchos" of the time. He beckoned to me to "wait-up" and talked to them for a minute or two and then came up to me and said "I am sorry, the meeting ran overtime...Sometimes they forget that I am an engineer, not a businessman...Come on down to the office."

I followed him into his office, and he asked me to sit in front of his desk as he closed the door behind him. Then he asked to see the rifle. I handed it over to him and he put it to his shoulder, feeling how it fit and how it balanced in his hands. He made complimentary comments about it and the fit and finish. Then he sat down and asked if I had any of the bullets for it with me. I just happened to have a swagged commercially made lead ball for it in my pocket and handed it to him. He began to discuss in great detail how accurate blackpowder rifles can be as he rolled the lead ball between his fingers and then he asked me what load I had decided to use in the rifle. I told him 70 grains of FFg behind a pillow-ticking-patched ball had yielded the best results so far. He asked about the diameter of the ball and I told him .490", then he pulled out his dial calipers and measured across the lands of the rifling at the muzzle and then the grooves, and then he took the ball and begain to check it for diameter. He said "That should be about right, what is the rifling rate of twist in the barrel?" I told him it was a compromise twist of 1-12". He recommended I increase my load to about 75 grains of FFg bblack powder, and use Buffalo bullets..."Give that a try and see how you like it."

We talked about rifles and shooting for over an hour, with him often taking his "infamous" notebook out of his shirt pocket and quickly jotting down a note in it, then sliding it back into his pocket....NEVER ONCE missing a word he said or one I said while doing so!! Occassionally, somebody would lightly knock on his closed door. He would get up and walk to the door, not missing a word, open it and ask what the person wanted...then I would hear him say "Can we discuss that tomorrow? I am busy right now." Whenever this happened, I would start to get up to leave and he would say "Please stay if you have the time, don't worry about them, they can talk to me anytime."

After awhile, he looked at me and said "I am thirsty, aren't you? I am sorry that I haven't already offered you some refreshment. Not much of a host am I? What do you prefer? Water?...Soft drink? I'm buying!! Sorry I don't have anything stronger to offer you!" I told him and he went out to the machine behind his office and brought me a canned soda. Then he said "Now where were we?" And we continued to chat for another hour or so. While on the subject of modern firearms, he even told me to bring by some expended brass and some bullets and he would work-up some custom re-loads for me to try out.

Somewhere in the conversation he asked me if I had ever fired any foreign weapons of World War II vintage. I listed off what I had had the opportunity to shoot, and he generally had some questions and comments about each of them... and then I said something about the British Bren machine gun. He had been listening intently, but his ears perked up when I said that and he asked me where I got a chance to shoot that at? I told him Scotland, with the 16th Scot para. He asked me more about what I thought of that particular weapon and casually mentioned that he was a Scottish rite Mason and that he and Miss Valerie were planning to leave for Scotland in a week or so. He said he had never been there and was looking forward to seeing it and where his Masonic order began.

We talked for a bit about Scotland, and somehow the subject got on Scotch whiskey. He admitted he liked to "have an occassional sip on special occassions," and I asked him what his favorite brand was. He said he liked Chevas Regal or a good single malt best. I told him that the Scot paratroopers I worked with considered Chevas "an English abomination of a Scotch whiskey, and that no true Scotsman would ever drink it." He laughed and asked what they liked best. I told him that when they coulld afford it they tended to like Glenfiddich best, but when they couldn't afford it, alot of them drank Teacher's blend instead. While we were talking he had his notebook out again and asked me "Glenfiddich...I have never tried that one..how do you spell that?" I told him and he wrote it down in his notebook.

Well we talked more about things and I saw it had gotten dark outside and I looked at my watch. It was approaching 7:30 PM, the only people left in the office building or the plant were he and I and the night watchman, and my girlfriend would be getting mad if I wasn't home soon. We had been shooting the bull like a couple of old friends for almost 4 hours!!!!

I apologized that I had taken up so much of his time and told him I had to leave. He said he had really enjoyed our chat and would be looking forward for another opportunity to talk with me. He said Miss Valerie was somewhere shopping that evening, so he didnt have to be in a hurrry to get home, but he understood my predicament...then he laughed. We shook hands and I grabbed up the rifle and headed home.

Well...that wasn't the end of the story....

A few days before the plant shut down for Christmas, my foreman came up to me and told me PWK had asked where I was at morning break. The foreman said he told PWK I was on break and PWK told him "Oh, don't bother going to get him, he deserves his breaks uninterrupted."

Later that afternoon, I was at my bench building and up walked PWK with a box in his hands. In the cardboard box, identical cylindrical shapes, neatly wrapped in newspaper, were standing upright. Each one had a little label torn out of notebook paper with a name on it. He looked down at the tops of them and pulled one out and said, "Here, put this somewhere over there where nobody sees it, I will be back in a few minutes." And he walked off towards the other side of the plant with the box under his arm.

Needless to say, everybody in the cabinet shop was watching this. And the foreman came over and asked what was going on. I told him I had no idea. He looked at me for a minute and started to walk away as PWK returned. PWK said hello to him as they passed, and came over to my workbench. Then he said "I hope I didn't get you into trouble. Is everything OK?" I assured him it was.

Then he asked me to get out that newspaper-wrapped cylinder he had handed to me earlier. I did. He said "I am sorry we haven't gotten another chance to chat lately, but it has been pretty busy around here since we got back from Scotland. Bye the way, you were right about Glenfiddich, it is some damned good Scotch!! As a matter of fact I bought over a case while I was there and brought it back to give for Christmas presents. This one is for you. It was funny, but I found out after we got back from Scotland that Glenfiddich is actually cheaper here than it is over there because the Scottish government subsidizes the whisky exports. I have to run now, have a Merry Christmas...and thanks again for introducing me to this brand...Feel free to come by the office anytime after work if I am there." I thanked him and he left.

Although PWK got to where he was making his walks through the plant more and more less frequently over the next few years I was there, he never failed to give a little wave to me, often saying "hello" or stopping for a minute or so to ask how I was doing while he watched me build. My biggest regret is that we never got a chance to sit down and shoot the bull again. My evenings began more and more to be rushed after work due to my commuting to Texarkana for evening college courses.

I did learn this about PWK, though. He was a gentleman. He was courteous. He was an excellent conversationalist, especially if the subject was one of his passions, such as firearms or model electric trains. He was amenable. He took great interest in what others had to say and in their experiences which they spoke of. He had his opinions, but was open to the opinions voiced by others. He cared about people and he believed that a percieved small kindness was worth repayment in spades.

How does someone who you look up to for their many accomplishments increase how much he is looked up to by you? I think I just answered that.

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Very nice story. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.


L/C/R: Klipsch Heresy II

Surround: Klipsch RS-3

Subwoofers: 2 HSU-VTF-2

Pre/Pro/Tuner: McIntosh MX-132

AMP: McIntosh MC-7205

DVD: McIntosh MVP-831

CD Transport: Bang & Olufsen Beosound 9000

Turntable: Denon DP-72L

Cassette: Nakamichi BX-1

T.V. : Mitsubishi 55905


Surge Protector: Monster Power HTS-5000

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That's a great story! Can you imagine these days bringing a rifle to work to show the boss? (I did, at a certain point reading your tale, imagine the two of you passing a bottle of Scotch back-and-forth, heading out to the warehouse to take target practice on some K-33's...)

Again, thanks for sharing-it's been a treat!


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that was great. i would have loved to have experienced that Smile.gif I have heard such great things about Mr. PWK.



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I am an amateur, if it is professional;

ProMedia help you want email Amy or call her @ 1-888-554-5665 or for an RA# 800-554-7724 ext 5

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i have a story to not as good as above...when i was to young to have a car maybe not even driveing yet,,,my mom took me to a stereo shop where i heard paul was going to be that day,he took time to talk to a teenager with no money to buy speakers for sure.and talked to my mom as we were just friends i was to young and nervous to say much i just took it all in he gave be a hand full of bullshit buttons which i still have.i know not much but it was alot for me i was able to buy some la scalas later,went to factory years later some of the best things happen and you dont realize it till to late.i met him three times and impressed me every time......rick tate

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Thanks for the compliment...I just write it like I would tell it, tho. "BB" was for Ronnie Barhams and me...Cornwalls were normally built by a 2-man team...especially the non-decorator ones. After they initiated "forcing" us to stamp our code into the back of the speakers, they said our individual code couldn't exceed 2 letters....so we came up with codes to designate both members of the team....well...that became a hassle, because they tended to pair up whoever wasnt busy at the time into the teams and we ended up with a huge list of codes...finally, the powers that be decided that only the code of the "lead-man" of the team would be used, since the lead man was responsible for his helper to do a good job building and the ultimate decision was that of the lead-man whether the cabinet was ready to go to sanding room yet. Yours were built in that window period when we used special codes for both the members of the team.

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HDBRbuilder the new book about PWK would certainly have been enriched if the authors would have included your story and insights about the man. Reading the book with your insights into PWK and the Klipsch building process is a double treat. -HornED
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I am willing to provide whatever information I can recollect about construction techniques and ways to make minor to major repairs. I am also happy that most of my comments thus far have been so well-received.

There are alot of anecdotes involving PWK that I personally was NOT involved in, but obviously occurred because everyone who had been witness told the same basic story. Few, if any of these are what should be posted in a public forum...especially by an individual who was not witness to the events. Let's just say that he was a complex individual who enjoyed a good time and had a few eccentricities. His humor was sharp-witted but often a bit dry at times...he liked to make others use their brains to find the humor in some of the things he said or did. He also had a rebellious streak in him...finding ways to do things he was told couldn't be done. There were several times when I would arrive at work to see a number of employees in a group laughing about something PWK had recently "pulled" on some person or entity. He is about as far from ordinary as anyone I have ever met.

From what I understand, PWK may be the only surviving individual who recieved his pilot's license from the Societie de Aeronautique (sic)at the time he got his or earlier. In those days that French-based organization was just about the only recognized issuer of pilot's licenses. To liken PWK to Edison, Bell, and others of that ilk, is only fair, because like them, he has spent a lifetime in "inventive, educated, thoughtful, tinkering," not only in order to transform an idea into a creation, but to never accept that creation as a final perfection...always striving to improve upon it. Let's just face facts here...although PWK has patents in all types of things, to say HE is "a legend in sound" could not be more accurate. I dont care who makes it or claims to have invented it, there is a bit of PWK in every loudspeaker made today...in every radar unit...in every sonar unit...in every fish-finder used in recreation...etc...etc...etc...WHO ELSE can lay claim to that legacy?

As for PWK's book and those written about him, I have never had the opportunity to read any of these, but would love to have copies of them to see other aspects of PWK's life experiences and accomplishments. Maybe somebody out there has an idea where these may be purchased.

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Look in the upper left-hand corner on the rear edge and below the joint of your heresy cabinets. If you find an "A" or "AB" stamped in there it was me who built them. The stamp may be fairly faint, or have been overstamped by the sanding ladies with one of their codes, but either way there should be a stamp there.

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thanks so much for the memories. he was a gentleman and courteous as you say. it brings back some good memories. he just so happened to be in phoenix, az when i picked up my cornwalls back in 82 at a local shop. i was going through flight training in the usaf at the time and we spent about an hour sitting in the shop on a couch talking airplanes and the confederate airforce! just a great time for me to actually meet the man. thanks again for those memories. frt8dog.

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Son of a gun! This guy built my speakers 25 years ago. Thanks for doing a good job, HDBR. The fit, finish and integrity of the cabinets are still remarkable.


P.S. Since my wife and children were out of the house for a little while tonight, I got to rock my Cornwalls. Since we have a new baby in the house (#3), it's been a long time since I've had a chance to "blow out the carbon" (car term, guys). I had forgotten how good they sound when you crank 'em up. Three mile smile.

This message has been edited by Klipschguy on 04-20-2002 at 07:33 PM

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Thanks, glad you are still enjoying your Cornwalls after their having been around a quarter of a century. I always took pride in my quality of assembly...my father raised us up according to: "Any job worth doing is worth doing right."

re: your comment about "blowing out the carbon", another PWK anecdote comes to mind:

Back in the days when vinyl was king, PWK was noted for leaving his volume set at his normal listening level as he rubbed his finger across the turntable stylus to clear it of any dust...with a resounding "WHOMPWHOMPWHOMPWHOMP" coming from the speakers. Most audiophiles of that era disdained this practice, believing it was hard on amplifier and woofer. PWK's response to this was "Bullsh*t, it's good for these speakers...it knocks the dust off the woofers."

This message has been edited by HDBRbuilder on 04-20-2002 at 08:34 PM

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