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The Orgins of the Corkscrew

Image: Two Corkscrews Manufactured by Charles Hull, Birmingham c. 1865

Patent Power Corkscrew

The Simplest Out!
Well adapted for Ladies Use

Directions for Use

Place the Corkscrew on the Bottle as above; after starting the Screw into the Cork, keep on turning till the Cork is drawn.

This is an example of the corkscrew first developed by one of Birmingham’s most prolific inventors and designers, Edward Thomason (1769-1849). Thomason’s corkscrew of the early 1800s included both left-handed and right-handed threads. On turning the crossbar the cork penetrated the corkscrew and by continuing to turn, the cork was removed from the bottle.

Hull’s Improved Syphon Tap

By screwing the worm into the cork, Champagne, Soda Water, Lemonade &c may be drawn off at pleasure, and what remains in the bottle will not lose its effervescing property.

Directions for Use

The wire must not be unloosed. Screw the worm through the centre of the cork till the point is well under. Hold the bottom of the bottle upwards, turn the Tap, and draw the quantity required.

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The idea of a corkscrew is simple, but the instrument was progressively redesigned and modified from the 17th until the 20th century. Though the Romans used cork to seal containers of wine, the modern use of the corked bottle is attributed to Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-65). He invented the wine bottle with a narrow neck in about 1630. These first bottles had waxed linen wrappings attached to the cork, which provided a means of extraction prior to drinking. The necks of wine bottles were made longer and more parallel in the 17th and 18th century. This allowed bottles to be stored horizontally and required corks to fit more tightly. Corks had to be compressed and therefore more difficult to extract. The ancestor of the corkscrew, the bottle screw was devised. It developed from the screw on the ramrod, which was used to clean the barrel of a gun. Surviving examples date from the late 17th century, many of which were made by lorimers who also manufactured horse bits and spurs.

Most corkscrews followed a basic pattern with a simple screw, also known as a worm or helix and a cross bar or ring which the user turned when the screw was introduced into the cork. Corkscrews were not easy to use. They had to be inserted at the right angle and care had to be taken in creating the helix or worm. A poorly designed or inserted corkscrew would break or damage the cork.

During the 18th and 19th centuries designs became more complex. There were several variations on the simple helix to increase pulling power. A flute was cut into the screw to provide greater strength and rigidity. The Archimedean helix was similar in design to that of a woodscrew and was used to extract corks from champagne bottles. In a third variation increased pulling the groove between the threads was hollowed out of the central core. Inventors produced different methods for extracting corks and siphoning liquids from a bottle without removing the cork. Designers used different metals, wood or bone for handles, which could be electro-plated, japanned, carved or engraved.



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