steel corkscrews

The art of extracting the cork started with straight pull corkscrews. These required significant force and was a technique difficult to apply since there could be a problems to center the worm into the cork. Also, the force required was significant.

The Henshall button corkscrew was an improvement in this respect since it helped to center the worm.  However, force was still required to extract the cork. Examples of such corkscrews are T corkscrews, Henshall and folding corkscrews. These were not at all user friendly.

As a result mechanical corkscrews were introduced.  They all had mechanical support to assist the user and help him reduce force to extract the cork. The aim was to reduce effort and also simplify the procedure to extract the cork by turning a handle clockwise instead of up.

In practice mechanical corkscrews have a bell or pillars and a shaft with a helix to penetrate the cork. By a threaded shaft, the shaft can move up into the shoulder of the corkscrew. Thus, only the shaft was moving which let the user use lesser force. Later the handles were improved to make the rotation movement easier, also requiring lesser effort. This was a major simplification.

About the same time frames were introduced. Those frames were mainly pillar ones, constructed to help the movement of the cork upwards. Sometimes the corkscrews had a button to assist the center penetration of the worm. Many producers were attracted to making these corkscrews. They all introduced different twists to their constructions and often were these corkscrews patented. Improvements such as claws or spikes to fixate the cork were common as well as different types of helix e.g double helix corkscrews. The Wilson corkscrew is an example of double Helix direct pull corkscrew.

The early mechanical corkscrews were primarily made in steel and were without handles. These are typically called wing nut corkscrews. These corkscrews had only the wing nut to help extracting the cork. The wing nut corkscrews require strong fingers to turn the nut around the shaft and at the same time extract the cork. Quite heavy work. These corkscrews were reliable and would not break. Above is a wing nut CS made by Wells.

Around 1810 isch handles and sidewinders were introduced. These were significant improvements. The frame could be either a two or four pillar solution. They had a shaft and sometimes a sidewinder to help the extraction. Sometimes the sidewinder was made of bone. These sidewinders usually breaks. The steel sidewinders were therefore more reliable. One reflection is that many of the two and four pillar corkscrews all look the same. One gut feeling guess therefore is that these corkscrews were made in few unknown assembly plants and later only marked with the retailer’s name.

However, some manufacturers patented solutions to separate the worm from the shaft thus allowing a shift in grip without affecting the worm. The most famous of these manufacturers were Coney who invented a clutch mechanism. This is the famous Coney Clutch mechanism.

The mark for Georg Palmer of London.

Mechi of London mark.

A nice four pillar steel corkscrew with beadslike pillars. Quite unusual design.

Unmarked two pillar steel with a clutch solution to release the worm.

BB Wells of London on the sidewinder.

BB Wells mark on a Coney clutch CS.

Let's compare some early steel corkscrews. These four steel corkscrews were probably made 1810 to 1840 isch. From left B.B Wells,  J.J Mechi, Georg Palmer and one unmarked corkscrew. They all have some resemblance. Generally, the sidewinder designs are all different as well as the differences in the dome and the way the side winder wheel is operating.

The mark of Wells, Mechi and Palmer are all punched into to the steel frame. A well educated guess would be to assume manufacturing and assembly in Birmingham. The distributer did not assembly at all. Thus, the mark was sole the distributers name not the manufacturers name.

Early steel sidewinders by Wells, Mechi, Palmer and an unmarket variant. In general, these are 200 years old and still operational

To the right is a Henry Verinder, St Pauls London four pillar steel King screw. A Henry Verinder corkscrew is quite rare altough his knifves are quite common. The CS is clearly market on the sidewinder - Verinder.