How Can We Have Forgotten How to Make a Decent Corkscrew?

Repairing things is part of frugal living, and far too much of what we buy is built only just good enough. Sometimes I wonder if the people who ‘design’ some products have ever used them.

My parents were into decent wine in the 1970s – this was unusual at the time as the British palate for wine was not noted for its discerning tastes. Revolting sickly-sweet whites like Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch were all to common in British homes. Somewhere along the line they purchased a fine corkscrew, and it served them well. I must have cadged this when I went to university, well, the sophisticated chap in London town has to have a decent corkscrew, natch, along with the other student paraphernalia like the frying pan and electric kettle.

My 1970s corkscrew

This has served me well for the ensuing three decades, but a couple of days ago it snapped – the stepped shaft failed in service, leaving the corkscrew part in a bottle of French Col de la Ser. Disaster – firstly no wine, and secondly, the loss of an trusty old friend. I extracted the corkscrew with a pair of mole grips and DGF and I got to our wine.

Some time ago, when stuck in a Scottish B&B on a rainy day we’d got ourselves a bottle of wine at Tesco along with a similar model of corkscrew. Frugality is served by having our wine in, but I don’t want to be caught short with a bottle of wine and no corkscrew – my days of cracking the neck off bottles had finished on graduation :)

I was rushed some £4 for the modern specimen, but the trouble is that it is a victim of style over substance. Consider the business ends of old and new, shown below

The 1970s corkscrew - this is a good 'un and works well

the 2000s corkscrew, this puppy just doesn't cut it

A moment’s inspection shows that the new one is pretty much a three-inch wood screw on steroids – the damn thing bores a hole into the cork, and the flutes on the side might just get enough purchase to hook out the cork. Or not, as happens all too often, when this puppy just acts as a large gimlet and comes out leaving a cork with a ragged hole in it. On the upside, it works a treat on plastic corks, but the less said about them the better.

Whereas the old-skool version has the flutes filed down so there isn’t a massive core boring a hole straight down through the cork, so the flutes gain maximum purchase. Although DGF had binned the parts on the principle that nobody fixes that sort of thing, I fished them out again.

The problem had been caused by fatigue in the stepped shaft which was made of some sort of sintered alloy which had bubbles or voids inside. It had given way at one of these voids, so I drilled a 2.5mm hole along the axis of the shaft and into the handle, tapped the hole at M3 and splinted the shaft pieces with a long M3 steel bolt all retained with some JB Weld. As long as 4 cm of M3 thread can hold, I’m back in business.

I’ve been on the lookout for a lever type corkscrew with the old design of corkscrew but all I come across is the new crappy design. That’s one of the downsides of globalisation I guess – there’s probably one Chinese factory making all the lever corkscrews in the world. And they’ve failed to road-test their product, or they have all plastic corks, or they don’t drink wine in China. There’s something satisfying about repairing this old friend – I hope it gives me another few decades of service :)

I have an Alessi one with a woman shaped handle, but otherwise like your 70s one. It’s superb, and I recommend it.

Sounds like this one – I’d glad the Italians haven’t lost the art. Dropping 20 nuts on a corkscrew would pain me, however ;) At least it’s amortised over 20+ years…

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 
  • Recent Posts