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Antique Corkscrew. Should You Buy One

Updated on April 18, 2012

Should you buy an antique corkscrew? Well, personally I think, yes you should, unless maybe you are tea-total, but maybe even then.

If you've read my other hubs, you'll know I have a love of fine dining, gourmet food and luxury wines, so personally, if I'm going to spend £30-£50 on a gorgeous bottle of wine (probably a Bordeaux - yes, I know I witter on about them, but Bordeaux wines are divine!), then sometimes I like to have a little something extra that adds to the ritual and the enjoyment.

Antique corkscrew

Butler's friend corkscrew
Butler's friend corkscrew

If you've gone to the trouble of buying a really good bottle of wine, and then spent some time anticipating settling down and drinking it, perhaps with a special meal, then why not go the whole hog by enhancing the ritual with other wine accoutrements that you can cherish.

First of all, you'll need to open the wine, so why not buy a lovely corkscrew, or maybe start a corkscrew collection, then not only can you spend time choosing your wine, but you can spend time choosing which corkscrew to use.


One of the nicest gifts a friend has given me, is the bottle opener that her Grandfather used to open his nightly bottle of beer. The opener was the classic hand-held opener, made of steel, and tarnished with the patina of use. A poor man's item, nothing flash or fancy, but an item with history. My partner now uses it to open a beer bottle occasionally.

It's this that makes me so interested in antique corkscrews, the fact that they've had some use. As far as antiques go, I love the ordinary, the mundane stuff that people have used as part of their everyday lives, stuff that's been handled and says something about how life was lived. The only problem is that once you've bought one antique corkscrew, you'll keep seeing them and want to add to the collection! However, you can always buy some to give away as gifts. If you know someone who has a collection, or a traditional style kitchen, or who loves wine as much as I do, then an atique corkscrew could be a great gift.

In addition to all this, most antique corkscrews are relatively inexpensive, so you can start an antique collection for very little money.  There are some really good bargains out there if you browse the junk shops or online stores.

There are many styles of corkscrew out there, not all centred on what we think of as the typical screw shape - this, in fact, is called the worm - fixed to a handle.

The butler's friend style of corkscrew has two straight, flat, metal blades attached to a metal handle. Often made of brass or steel, the so-called Butler's friend enabled a person to open a bottle of wine, taste it, then re-cork it using the same implement. To use this corkscrew, one slides the two blades down between the cork and inside of the bottle neck, and simply pulls to remove the cork. The bottle may be re-corked by doing the process in reverse.

The First Recorded Corkscrew

Most corkscrew designs date back to the first ones made in the late 1700s, and since then there have been more corkscrew patents than you can shake a stick at.

It is thought that the original idea came from the type of blade that musket men used to dig out unspent powder from musket barrels. In 1681 there was a recorded design of a steel worm used for the drawing of corks from bottles.

in 1795, the Reverend Samuel Henshall patented the first corkscrew, which comprised a button between the worm and the shank, thus preventing the worm from entering the cork too far, and which forced the screw to turn with the crosspeice, making de-corking easier.

Most other corkscrews consist of a helical worm attached to some sort of handle. Traditionally the worm forms a T-shape with the handle. Handles are often found made of wood, bone, ivory or silver, and some may have a brush at one end, for removing dust and debris from around the cork.

The Sommelier blade consists of a worm which folds away, much as the blade of a penkinfe does. The handle also has a little bar on it, which acts as a lever when braced against the bottle neck, thus making de-corking easier.

Lever arm corkscrews are relatively modern. As the worm is worked into the cork, arms at either side, which are on a ratchet raise up, when the cork is fully inserted the arms are lowered, thus levering the cork from the bottle.

My modern corkscrew, which I use for speed rather than enjoyment, is similar to a lever arm in shape.  It has a fixed arm at either side, which rest on the bottle lip.  The corkscrew in the central housing is worked into the cork, but as the arms are fixed, each turn of the worm withdraws the cork.  I have to say that this is the easiest and most robust corkscrew I have ever used, and would heartily recommend it to anyone. 


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