Lever corkscrews

Lever corkscrews are corkscrews that rely on a lever mechanism to extract the cork. The lever corkscrews reduces the amount of force needed to pull. These corkscrews usually were of solid quality and were not relying on any fancy mechanisms. Lever corkscrews were introduced around 1850 and onwards until 1900. These corkscrews seldom brake and as a consequence some designs are common. In general, lever corkscrews were constructed based on one or more lever arms to lift the worm together with the cork. Basically there are a couple of broad approaches for lever corkscrews.

The first approach is a single arm lever corkscrew were the force is accumulated to the neck of the bottle. The lever arm turns around a fulcrum and the cork is extracted. Simple and functional. This corkscrew is what you see at the bar end in todays sportsbars.

A second approach is a corkscrew that basically consists of two pivoted lever arms. By closing the lever arms the cork is pulled out of the bottle. The worm is penetrating the cork separately by hand force or by turning the worm connected to the lever arm. Below is two examples of a two lever designs. The original first patented two lever CS by Lund and Hipkins and the copycat by Heeley. Please read the full story of Lund and Hipkins on my page - Some famous corkscrew makers.

A Heeley and son's Lever corkscrew. Basically a copy of the Lund. Ca 1870.

The original Lund - Hipkins patent from 1855.

The two lever arms can be attached to each other in different ways. The most common approach is the London Lever design. This design was invented by William Lund and William Hipkins in 1855. The Lund design replaced the one piece of levers. The Lund invention allowed the upper lever arm to move more flexible when penetrating and removing the cork, thus this corkscrew design was more user friendly. There are many manufacturers of these kind of corkscrews. Thomas Lund and James Heeley were probably the most common manufacturers.

Later some modifications to the Lund design entered the market. To avoid problems with breakage of the screw some modifications were made.  On a Lund lever corkscrew the upper lever must adapt to all movements and positions of the screw. The corkscrew did not allow for any extractions more than a perfect vertical cork extraction. Therefore Arthur Goodall invented and received a patent 1885 for an upright fixed pin that fixates the movement of the upper lever arm. By this simple design stability of the lever arm movement was achieved.

Edwin Wolverson received a patent 1873 introducing a solution where the lever has three links on either side of the lever arms. In I similar way, by introducing two connector links, stability was introduced to extract the cork vertically. One link operates as a fulcrum and the other as a correcting link stabilizing the vertical movement raising the lever arm with the cork. Wolverson called his invention the Tangent Lever. Here I show a variant of a Tangent. It is smaller in size and unmarked.

A variant of the Tangent. Smaller and without a mark. The tangent is quite common.

English patent no 6793. An example of a Goodall lever corkscrew with a vertical pin to introduce stability. The Holborn lever - Nice item !

In general, single levers required force and was lacking sufficient stabilty. Therefore, double levers were introduced to further simplify the extraction of the cork. A double lever corkscrew has, as the name says, two parallell lever arms. As a result less force was needed to extract the cork. This was a simple but appreciated improvement. There were direct double levers as the Heeley Empire lever empire corkscrew or double frame lever corkscrews like the A1 James Heeley corkscrew.  To the right is a Heeley empire. These came either nickel plated or with a copper wash. This one has lost it's wash. At the end of this page I have inserted pictures from the 1902 catalogue showing parts of the Heeley product line.

The Heeley factory made a variety of lever corkcrews and direct pulls. To the right is a Heeley A1 nickel plated lever corkscrew. The A1 came in at least two versions. This is the second one. This variant had the two levers connected by a fulcrum and was patented by Neville Heeley in 1888. The first variant was patented by Baker in 1880. This lever corkscrew had the arms to move freely separated from each other. This corkscrew was unstable. The Heeley A1 corkscrew was an improvement of the Baker since the levers were now connected and thus no malfunctioning appeared.

The Heeley family business started beginning of the 1900 century. The business was traditional by making steel toys and other steel items. The business was located in Birmingham. The shop was large and employed about 150 persons at the blossom years. By 1901 the company was runned by James Heeley. At this stage the company got famous for improvements of polychronographic pens. However, it was still registred as a manufacturer of steel items.

The idea of lever arms could be developed further. This is a nice example of a Henry Armstrong patent from 1902. A second patent patent added two slots and pins in order to make sure the levers to be folded down. By this improvement the insertion into the cork was simplified . A similar corkscrews is the “Pullezi” corkscrew by Heeley.

The Heeley factory was the king of lever corkscrews ! The company was operational until 1940 where they for the last time appeared in Kelly's directory as a corkscrew maker.

So it is fair to assume that the company didn't survive the recession of the second world war.

The two arm levers arms could be improved further. Compound corkscrews were introduced as an improvement to withdraw the cork. Compound corkscrews consists of several levers. By introducing more lever arms less force is needed to extract the cork. The levers are fulcrum joined so they act as push up levers. However, more lever arms creates less stability and thus difficulty to centrally penetrate the cork. The most familiar invention was the Arthur Weir compound lever. The Weir patent was a construction of a series of lever arms. More lever arms created instability causing difficulties to insert the cork. The solution to that problem was to manufacture a corkscrew with two parallell cross bars or sets of levers.

There are two versions with the same basic functionality of a two parallell cross bar lever corkscrew. The first was just two parallell levers connected by a mid bar to pull the cork. The improved second patent was smaller and thus more lady friendly. The lady friendly corkscrew had a top handle to support the extraction of the cork and is more appropriate as a corkscrew. The compound corkscrews are based on a quite stupid idea but the corkscrews actually works consistently !

An example of a single lever Weir. By introducing more lever arms more force could be gained to extract the cork. However, more lever arms less stability.














An original ad for the compound lever corkscrew by James Heeley and son's 1902.


The Empire double levers by Heeley. Original ad as of 1902.


Just to give a flavour of the product line at the Heeley plant.

Weir improved his patent by creating two parallel series of cross bars. By introducing two pairs of levers more stability was introduced. As seen much of the copper wash is still there, and no to little pittings.


An original ad for the compound corkscrew with two levers. Made by Heeley but patented by Weir.








A varierty of corkscrews from the Heeley factory. Wingnuts, London Racks, Steel pillars and Thomasons. At the end of the page two levers.



Further flavours of the productline at the Heeley plant. The factory basically did a lot of iron items.