Balancing Act

Paul Klipsch’s first job out of college was at General Electric in Schenectady, New York in 1926. I believe a guy named Edison was still kicking around at that time. Initially Paul’s work was on radios that were sold to RCA. In 1926 this could be considered “cutting edge” technology. When he left GE in 1928, it was from the locomotive division in Erie, PA. Apparently his childhood love of railroads guided his career path. However, in between these two phases of his GE career was another somewhat mysterious third phase. This involved engine crankshaft balancing.

In the depths of our damp museum basement, an old moldy crate was discovered that contained a substantial document authored by Paul at GE in 1927 (among many other documents prior to WWII). Having less than a clue about the importance of the paper, I forwarded it to Mr. George Allen, Chairman SAE Balancing Committee EG-1A, for an informed opinion. Part of his response is as follows:

I've read the paper over several times, usually late at night. It really is a nice piece of work. Considering his background in EE it is curious that he would have devoted the amount of time it would have taken to grasp the concepts unique to crankshaft balancing.

Balancing is a subject you would think is well discussed as part of an engineering degree. Having gotten my degree in mechanical engineering and physics, I can assure you that's not the case. Vibration yes, balancing almost never. After more than 30 years in the business and countless lectures, meetings and seminars, it never ceases to surprise me how few engineers have had any exposure to balancing. It’s therefore interesting that an EE would end up writing something like this. If ever you find out why he wrote it, I'd love to know.

Crankshaft balancing is very much a specialty within the balancing business. Because of the external forces acting on a crankshaft (from connecting rods, pistons, and such), and the fact that some crankshafts are not symmetrical, there are special rules that apply to balancing them. It can get quite complicated. Obviously Mr. Klipsch had a good grasp of them. Unfortunately ,…. I can't say if he was ahead of his time or not. While today the technology of balancing crankshafts is well understood, it isn't understood by many. In his day it would have been understood by even fewer so, regardless of the time, this is impressive.

Note that Paul was 23 years old when he wrote this. You can see his famous “PWK” signature at the bottom of the hand-drawn-in-ink graphs. Paul always suggested to me that he was “weak” in mathematics. You be the judge.

Please forgive the file size of 19.5 MB - that’s the reduced version. And also try to overlook the insect-devoured portions. I’m just glad we got to it when we did!