Three Pairs of Klipsch La Scalas
This is a very large webpage, with almost two hundred pictures, that documents
the restoration of three pairs of Klipsch La Scala speakers.
I started this work back in March of 2004 when I was in my old shop.
Updated April 2007 - please note that I have not had the best results using
raw wood veneer with Titebond II wood glue. I am currently using
paper backed veneer with HeatLock Iron-on Veneer Glue and the results seem
Here's my next batch of projects.
Over the last couple of years, I had obtained 3 pairs of La Scalas.
They're a little rough, but perfect for a custom refinishing job.
Two pairs of these are sold already to a gentleman in California who plans
to use them in a home theater. The last pair will be refinish
in Pau Ferro, Santos Rosewood with some very custom features.
These all came to me in pretty rough shape with factory black paint.
There's every imaginable cometic blemish to deal with.
Nonetheless, they are structurally sound, and the components were all
in great shape.
This pair had that gray carpeting glued and stapled on.
6 empty shells just waiting to go to the shop.
Just getting started.
I tried chemical stripper, but it didn't work all that great.
Lot's of 100 grit sanding discs!
I had to fill in where the handles were on one pair of these.
I routed out the handle openings with a rabett joint,
half lap, and did the same on pieces of plywood. The pieces
are glued in place.
Here are the new tops for the Rosewood La Scalas.
You just can't imagine how much filler it's taking to fill holes and
square up edges and corners!
Repairs are being carefully made so that there are no loose
joints or delaminations.
Here's the handle fillers belt sanded down.
The veneer arrives!
I'm front surface mounting the horns on the Rosewood pair.
Here you see the wood has been carefully routed out for
a very tight fit to the edges of the horns. I'll mount the
tweeters by taking the lens off and putting them back together while
I decided to start with the rosewood pair since there was a lot
more work to be done to these. Certainly Wood sent me some
beautiful flitches of Pau Ferro Rosewood about 9' long and 13" wide, so
I only need two pieces wide. The grain will "flow" up one
side of the speaker, across the top, and down the other side; all
matching if I do it right!
Just trying it out with the horn in place and raised up a bit
to see what it will look like.
I don't know who this dude is.
Kinda goofy looking though. The MWM's make great
stands to work on!
I'm installing braces in the bass bins. These
braces will also hold the grills that are going in the bass bins.
Here's the braces installed. They are
glued and screwed in with square-head finish screws.
The upper horn cabinets with the veneer installed.
Notice how the grain "flows" up over the cabinet. I'm
not very happy with myself however, on the other side of this one I
installed the piece upside down. Actually, I'm pretty upset
about this, but there nothing I can do about it now.
The bass bins glued up and drying.
I had a discussion with a former senior Klipsch engineer, and
he told me about tests they had done where they pointed the La Scala
bass bins into corners and they were able to change the bass response and
output. One of the reasons I split the top horns off the bass
bins is so the owner of these speakers
can experiment with the placement of the speakers in
different configurations. Please note that I have finished
the backs of the bass bins and matched the grain from the bass bin up onto
the top horn.
Matching grains from bass bin to horn section.
Matching grains from the side of the bass bin to the top of the
bass bin, but also came pretty close to matching the sides of the top horn
section at the same
time. I made sure to cut the pieces for the sides and the top
of the bass bins from the same point of the flitch. Of course
this only works real well on one side of the bass bin.
EEEERKK! Makes for a nice photo though, eh?
I attached a solid oak trim piece to the fronts of the oak
La Scalas. This finished the edges and provides a place for
the top horn grilles to go.
New bass bin covers for the oak La Scalas. I
installed oak veneer edging on them. The tops and bottoms
of these covers will be painted black.
I've found it's easier to veneer before painting the painted
parts. It took about an hour to tape and
cover the veneer on each speaker .
Overall, this project has taken a lot more hours than I thought,
but I think it'll be worth it.
It took quite a while to get them all unwrapped.
The black paint came out pretty good overall.
Here's one with the first coat of stain. The future
owner of these has purchased a very large bar/aquarium with the same
stain finish. Looks like it's going to be one heck of
a nice home theater/rec room!
Stained with 3 coats of Minwax wipe-on polyurethane.
Getting close now! Assembly is next.
All assembled and sounding great. Working on the grills.
The upper grills have 4 tabs that fit into holes, the bottom grills
will be held in with velcro.
I threw together a few extra pieces for a test system.
It's great to have these to listen to while making the grills!
I stretch the cloth as evenly as possible over the wood frames, and
856 pound crate! It took quite a few hours just to pack
them up and build the crate.
I'm fortunate that I have a lot of nice tools to work with, it
makes the various jobs easier.
March 5th, 2008 - Back At It Again!
It's been over 3 years since I finished up the four oak La Scalas and sent
them to my customer in San Diego. I got the rosewood La Scalas about
half done back then, and for whatever reason, just never finished them.
I recently got a request from a gentleman in the U.K. interested in some
Klipsch Heritage speakers. One thing led to another and he's going
to be the proud owner of these beauties.
Here's some pictures of them after I got them out of storage and cleaned
them up. Actually, in these pictures, the bubbles in the veneer
have been repaired and they have been finished sanded.
As with almost every veneer job I did with raw wood veneer, I had bubbling
issues. It seems that using the iron-on method with raw wood veneer
is trickier than one might think. The problems are more than I want
to ever deal with again, which is why I will not use raw wood veneer and the
iron-on method in the future. I have had very good luck with the
iron-on method using paper-backed veneer and Heatlock glue. I get
my veneer from Oakwood Veneers and the Heatlock glue from Joe Woodworker.
I originally designed these to have slant wood feet, very much like the ones
McIntosh used on some of their wood cabinets years ago.
These are made of mahogany, and I'll stain them to be darker than the rosewood.
Like liquid rosewood poured over the speakers!
The front mounted horns have been painted black, but I have considered many
different colors, one of which is shown below.
Making the grills for the bass bins.
I used mahogany for the feet and applied tinted oil to color them as dark and
red as the rosewood will be.
Fitting the Lexan covers for the bass bins.
New woofers have been ordered from
Bob Crites and new Universal crossovers have been ordered
from ALK Engineering
I put another coat of paint inside the bass bins where the woofers go.
The Crites woofers are just a little too big to fit inside the La Scala
bass bins, so they need to be trimmed a little. I wrapped each in a
plastic bag and exposed the area to be cut.
I used a grinder to grind about an 1/8" of material off the flange of
each side of the woofers.
The woofers are installed and wired into new binding posts. The covers
used for the woofer access panels are 1/2" thick Lexan. I milled them
to fit the routed-out openings and drilled them for the bolts that hold them on.
The bolts are copper colored alan-head that screw into T-nuts
imbedded in the wood blocks that I installed around the woofer access opening.
My past experience with these woofers is that they need to be broken in.
So they got a 12 hour workout trying to keep up with the MCM's!
Little brothers usually look up to their big brothers.
The tweeters are front mounted without using the Z-brackets. I rebuilt
them with new diaphragms and assembled them right onto the motorboards.
K-55V midrange drivers.
I'm using danish oil finish. The first coat was applied lightly and
wiped dry. Before the second coat was applied, I used wood filler to fill
in the numerous small cracks in the veneer. I mixed different colors and
used them to match into the color of the grain as best I could. Then I
oil and used a very fine sanding pad to dissolve the wood filler, mixed it into the
oil and wet sanded the finish. This filled in any little cracks and gave
the veneer a nice hand rubbed shine after wiping it with a dry cloth.
I've got about 10 hours in on the finish and I'm about half done.
The ALK Universal crossover networks are just beautiful!
Every time I order something from ALK the items are nicer than I
expect. These are definately worth an extra $500.
I can't wait to hear how they sound.
Making grills for the bass bins.
Sorry, not the greatest pictures, my listening room is very dark right now. I
have these set up in a small room that I use for listening at my shop.
They are singing now, and wow, what a sound. La Scalas are the first
Klipsch speakers I ever listened to and ever owned when I was just 14 years old, but
I've never heard any sound this good. I'm using a tube-fired CD player, and
a pair of Dynaco Mark III's (40 wpc) and in this small room, they are making very
low bass. The mids are a little too laid back for me, but so smooth.
The new owner can adjust the mids on the crossovers.
One more wipe down with oil and a final cleaning and they'll be ready for
I've discovered something surprising with these speakers. When I started
this project a few years ago, and made the decision to split the tops off the bass bins,
I thought I might like to try turning the bass bins into the corners of a room to see
if they would corner load, sort of like a Klipschorn. Well I tried it, and
I am very impressed with the results.
Here they are in my little listening room of my shop with the bass bins turned
into the corners.
The spacing to the wall is critical. I tried them farther out and closer
in and this is where they sound the best. Note the odd angle.
This is where I got the best center imaging. The mid horns are actually turned
out so they are not pointed towards me, and in my sitting position, the saxaphone
player is right in front of me, slightly higher than the midrange horn!
Please note how the grain of the wood flows down from the front of the top horn
section to the front (back!) of the bass bins. Just to show that I
really did think of turning the bass bins around when I was veneering them.
I cannot believe how good these speakers sound in this room. With the bass bins
turned into the corners, I'm actually getting more low bass AND more mid-bass too!
What I thought would happen is that the mids and tweets would be too loud compared to the
bass, and I also thought the upper bass would suffer. But that's not the case
at all! Very surprising! The mid-bass frequencies are making it
the mix with ease, perhaps even better than when the bass bins are pointed right
straight out. Instead of the mid horns being too loud, the mix is
actually balanced more
to the bass, which is to my liking anyway. Couple that with the fine
sound quality of the ALK crossovers with the mids set back in the mix a little,
and this is a powerful and smooth sounding system. I'm getting this
HUGE low bass, which frankly, La Scalas have no business making.
This is obviously the room making this very low bass.
One interesting thing is that the midrange horns seem even clearer and more
detailed, I think maybe because they are not competing with the midrange coming out
of the bass bins. So here we have it. I've stumbled on a combination
of things that are working so well together, that this is truly one of
the best sounding systems I've
ever heard, and I don't say things like that lightly.
I moved the speakers to my living room at my house, which is a much larger room
really made for Khorns, and they didn't sound the same at all. They sounded
very good, but they didn't load up the room with deep bass like back in the smaller room
of my shop. What I hit on at the shop with these modified La Scalas, the
Dynaco tube amps, the tube CD source, the room, was really something special.
The speakers are done now and here are the "Glamour Photos".
This next photo shows a small red dot under the back side of the top horn
This is matched up to the bass bin that has a small red dot.