Lever action screwpull corkscrew

lever action corkscrew
Designer Le Creuset screwpull
Dates Early 1980's to date

Description

The lever pull corkscrew is manufactured from a black polymer composite and aluminium and has a Teflon-coated large diameter helix screw (or worm) which creates and effective anchor through the cork's horizontal width but due to the properties of Teflon, it can still glide easily. The tine is not round but slightly elliptical which allows more contact with the surface area of the inside of the cork, thus reducing tearing and allowing more vertical force. The screw is replaceable. The polymer has a matt finish and the aluminium is a brushed finish.

The corkscrew has two gripping handles that latch onto the top of a wine bottle and a top handle that drives the corkscrew into the cork using a ratchet and quickly removes it. To do this it uses both increased torque and a vertical lever to pull up on the cork. With another movement of the top handle the cork is ejected from the corkscrew.

It is a strange shape, not dissimilar to a rabbit (which has inspired another brand of a similar corkscrew). The design is more about ease of use than aesthetic quality and is highly successful. The cost of a basic model is approximately 50.

A Personal View

Before starting to explain why this is a good design, it would be prudent to set the scene. It is a special occasion (big birthay, anniversary, birth of first baby, divorce, you get the picture). You have been saving a really special bottle of wine and you have prepared a fantastic meal and you need to open the wine in order to begin. You put the corkscrew into the bottle and......

a. The cork breaks and the bottom half is stuck in the bottle

b. The cork breaks and you spend most of the meal picking bits out of the glass

c. The cork is stuck and you have the bottle between your feet while deperately pulling at the corkscrew, and by the time you have all had a go, the meal is cold.

We've all been there. Sometimes there doesn't happen to be a strong man or wine waiter available to help out.

Wine is consumed throughout the world and more then 26 million litres are produced worldwide each year, which provides a very good reason for the designers of corkscrews to want their share of this huge market. As many of the people who buy wine do so for consumption in their own homes, and many of them are not strong men or wine waiters, it is fair to assume that there are millions of potential customers looking for a decent corkscrew.

So, what do we need from a corkscrew (apart from removing a cork)? There are several requirements;

The cork should be removed with as little brute force as possible, whilst keeping the cork intact, no shredding or breaking.The corkscrew should go in straight to avoid breaking the cork and the pulling action should not cause the bottle to shake and therefore disturbing the sediment. It must not crack the bottle or break the corkscrew. It has to fit all shapes and sizes of bottles.

This is quite a tall order and so it is not surprising that so many attempts at improving the original corkscrew that was thought to be invented at around 17th century to open beer, medicine and cosmetic bottles.

Wine experts estimate that pulling a cork out of a bottle with a corkscrew requires the same force as lifting 100 pounds of weight. The lever action corkscrew uses a vertical lever which increases the torque and therefore can be used efficiently without excessive strength and without shaking the bottle. The levers that are attached to the neck of the bottle ensure that the worm (this is the proper name for a helix-shaped screw) is directed into the cork straight which prevents the cork breaking. It is extremely easy to use (even on subsequent bottles when your eye/hand co-ordination is deteriorating!)

It has to be said that all the benefis of the lever action the corkscrew are to do with its practicality. Aesthetically, it is not anything to write home about, and possibly not beautiful enough to be given pride of place on the mantlepiece. Any self-respecting sommelier is hardly likely to swap the traditional waiter's corkscrew for this version. However, for use by the non-professional, it is fairly compact and so can be tucked quite neatly into a drawer.

Should this corkscrew be considered a style icon? Well it has taken nearly 300 years for this highly sophisticated and yet simple item to evolve, and it has the potential to be in millions of homes around the world so it should be taken seriously as an icon, but style? Well, probably not!

waiter's corkscrew double-winged corkscrew

Context

Although the corkscrew was first used in the 17th century, inspired by the tool called a bulletscrew or gun worm, a devise that extracted unspent charges from musket barrels, glass-blowing technology was not improved until the early 18th century and wine could be stored for ageing.

On 24 August 1795, Samuel Henshall patented the first corkscrew in Middlesex. Many other designs have been tried since, two of which are the single lever waiter's corkscrew invented by Carl Wienke in 1882, which is most commonly used still by waiters, and the double-winged corkscrew from an H.S. Heeley who was granted a patent in 1888, which has pivoting links to improve the leverage of the cork.

Both are still in use but both still require a degree of skill from the user to place the corkscrew centrally in the cork. The waiter's corkscrew has a lever on one side to aid the removal of the cork but this is not as efficient as the lever action corkscrew. The double-winged corkscrew is probably a bit easier to use than the waiter's, but it requires the user to wind the worm in and then push the wings down to remove the cork. This sometimes results in the cork not quite being pulled out and so brute force has to take over to complete the removal.

Links

www.bacchus-antiques - If the history of wine and corkscrews fascinates you, look no further than this link

www.inventors.about.com - more history (and home of the two pictures of corkscrews, right)

Author: Paula Beresford Date: March 2007