COMMON CORKSCREWS II © 1989, by Ron MacLean
I would like to thank Bob Nugent for his patient guidance, Francis Hutchinson for English
Registration information and my sister Jean for her cover illustration and sketches.
A large number of common pocket corkscrews with metal
sheaths can be found at antique shows and markets. They are patterned after the steel and
brass cased picnic screws of the late 18th and 19th century. The case forms a crossbar
handle as well as providing the convenience of an encased corkscrew for pocket carrying.
Many examples appear similar in construction, but with closer inspection differences in
materials, markings or methods of fabrication may often be found.
I was prompted to identify and document this portion of my
collection to keep track of the diverse number and variety of models found. I have
restricted my documentation to metal sheathed picnic screws and have not included the
Clough and Williamson type wire examples with rolled sheet metal or wooden sheaths. I am
certain that many more examples exist in your diverse collections.
The following detailed descriptions and photographs of
picnic corkscrews cover a wide variety of models produced in England, Germany and the
United States over the past 100 years. Many are fitted with a crown cap lifter, usually
with a closed end tubular sheath and sheath hole in the head to allow insertion of the
sheath to form a crossbar.
To help position the sheath at mid-point in the sheath hole
it is usually tapered, fitted with a circumferential ridge or a reverse dimple to locate
the sheath. In examples with a straight uniform diameter sheath, the sheath usually fits
snugly in the sheath hole positioned in the head.
The following methods were used to secure the sheath to the
corkscrew head to both cover and protect the screw:
1) Snap-on - a tubular thin sheath with side slits on one
end swaged inward to fit snugly over the shaped shank of the corkscrew head.
2) Wedge - a heavier tube without slits held in place by
friction on a slightly tapered shank.
3) Threaded - female threaded sheath mated to a threaded
Most examples are fitted with a snap-on thin brass sheath.
The open end is swaged (rolled inward) with two narrow slits to give a spring action to
hold the shaped sheath on the head when not in use.
|1. Nickel-plated cast brass head
with a wire helix worm and a snap-on thin sheath with side slits. Not marked, the sheath
on this style of corkscrew was often used for beverage alcohol advertising. Another
example with side slits has the sheath open at both ends. I am not aware of an English
patent on this style or type. It was advertised as a "Good Cheap Line" in the
1884 catalogue of W&J Plant, Wolverhampton (page 16).
|2. Similar to #1 except with a
heavier straight brass wedge sheath and a turned brass finial.
|3. Similar to #1 above except
with a positioning ridge formed midway on the snap-on sheath. On this example the side
slits have a small circular opening on the closed end to help prevent further case
splitting. This example is fitted with a center point speed worm.
|4. Similar to #1 above except
with a nickel plated cast brass crown cap lifter marked "REGO 717886". The
nickel-plated brass snap-on dimpled sheath has side slits. This was a registration issued
to M. Myers & Son Ltd., 95 Charlotte St., Birmingham, England on December 19, 1925.
The copyright expired on December 19, 1940. Another identical example, often found in
Ontario, is also marked as above plus "REGD. CANADA 37-7826 MADE IN ENGLAND".
The sheath hole is positioned below the cap lifter lip.
This model is illustrated (page 17) on a display card in a 1928 catalogue of
Wood, Alexander & James Limited, Hamilton, Ontario. Another advertisement (page 18) is
from the 1932 catalogue of Caverhill, Learmont & Co. Limited, Montreal, Quebec and
shows the corkscrew with the sheath fitted in the sheath hole. This model was also sold
with a leather carrying case.
|5. Similar to #4 except with a
short, wide crown cap lifter made from nickel-plated cast steel and a dimpled snap-on
brass sheath with side slits. Not marked but presumed to be English.
|6. Corkscrew has a snap-on
tapered nickel plated brass sheath with side slits and a cast brass head fitted with a
brass pivot rivet and a stamped brass crown cap lifter which folds over the sheath hole
for pocket storage. The stamped section is marked "RD 731702". This was
an August 24, 1927 registration of William Arthur Willets, Henry St., Birmingham, England.
The copyright expired on August 24, 1932. The registration was for the crown cap lifter
|7. An example with a dimpled and
brass snap-on sheath, side slits, steel pivot rivet and a pivoting stamped steel crown cap
lifter that folds into a slot in the head and sheath hole. The cap remover section is
marked "J.H. & S.LD./ BRITISH MAKE", an abbreviation for James Heeley &
|8. Nickel-plated cast brass head
with a short crown cap lifter marked 'RQ 762004" with a dimpled snap-on brass sheath,
side slits and a wire helix worm. This is a 1930 British registration possibly by M. Myers
& Sons or W.A. Willets. The sheath hole is positioned above the cap lifter lip. The
sheath is marked "JOHN HOPKINS & CO LTD 'GLENGARRY' SCOTCH
WHISKY". This is the company which bottled scotch whisky in crocks with the popular
corkscrew trademark on the side
It's worth noting
that the Glengarry jugs were stoppered with flanged or capped corks which didn't require a
corkscrew for opening. This model was sold with a leather case. This patent was sometimes
fitted with a threaded blue or amber colored composition sheath.
|9. Nickel-plated stamped steel
crown cap lifter marked "REG DES 791251 MADE IN ENGLAND" with a dimpled brass
snap-on sheath, side slits and a wire helix worm. A March 3, 1934 registration by M. Myers
& Son Ltd., Charlotte St., Birmingham, England whose copyright expired on March 16,
|10. Similar to Figure 1 No. 4
except unplated and with the crown cap lifter and a tapered push on case made of a cast
aluminum/zinc alloy. The head is marked "MADE IN ENGLAND". Another similar
example not shown has a cast polished aluminum crown cap lifter and straight sheath with
both the sheath and its leather carrying case marked "STROUD RILEY'S
|11. Chrome plated steel with a
wire helix worm and a crown cap assembly that folds down, for convenient pocket storage,
over the dimpled snap-on brass sheath with side slits. The cap remover section is marked
"PAT NO 679301", the September 17, 1952 patent of inventor Frank Wilkins by M.
Myers & Son, Vicarage Street, Oldbury, England. Another similar example, not shown, is
marked "PROV. PAT. NO 15868/50" which was the application on June 26, 1950 of
patent 679301. The sheath on the provisional patent model does not have side slits but has
the open end swaged to hold the sheath in place on the head for storage. The sheath hole
and crown cap lifter pivot on both models is a double flared tubular brass eyelet. The
patent drawing is shown on page 19.
Both of these two
examples are complete with a leather carrying case. The leather case of the provisional
patent model is marked "MADE IN ENGLAND FOR H.A.&E. SMITH LTD. BERMUDA" and
" Coach Hide MADE IN ENGLAND". The case of the patent model is marked "REAL
PIGSKIN MADE IN ENGLAND".
|12. Chrome plated steel with 2
opposing hooks for removing crown caps by either lifting or depressing the sheath. Cap
lifter is marked "MADE IN ENGLAND", wire helix worm and heavy tapered wedge
sheath. Complete with a leather carrying case marked "MADE IN ENGLAND".
|13. Chrome plated steel with a
wire helix worm, and sheath with a positioning ridge and steel hanging ring. Head has a
combination crown cap lifter and can piercer. Not marked, but possibly English as the case
threads are British Whitworth.
|14. Chrome plated cast brass head
and tapered threaded sheath with a wire helix worm. The sheath is also a crown cap lifter
and has a portion painted black for contrast. Complete with a black leather case marked
"MADE IN ENGLAND". Another example not shown has a 7inch (18cm) mixing
spoon/scoop threaded into the sheath hole head.
The first three corkscrews illustrated are made using a
threaded tapered 8mm German Mannlicher cartridge case as the sheath for the screw. As the
cartridge cases are from WW1 military ammunition the first three examples were all
produced after the first war. This is substantiated by models illustrated (page 20) both
on a display card and alone in a 1928 advertisement of Wood, Alexander & James
Limited, Hamilton, Ontario.
This is an excellent early example of the re-cycling of war
surplus items. The tapered brass cartridge case made an ideal sheath and required only the
firing cap to be drilled out and the opening tapped to match the sheath hole head. All
cartridge pattern examples have nickel-plated brass cartridge cases, ferrous steel bullets
and nickel-plated steel worms.
It is worth noting that the cartridge case types were made
with both a right and left-hand wire helix as well as with a center web worm. Models of
this type were produced by a variety of German firms.
|1. The first cartridge example
has a right hand wire helix worm and a brass head marked "HENRY BOKER/GERMANY".
Another similar example not shown is brass, unplated, with a plated steel wire helix worm
and a brass head marked "HENRY BOKER".
|2. The second example has a steel
head and a left hand wire helix worm with the cartridge case marked "COMPLIMENTS OF
COWAN HARDWARE LONDON, CAN.".
|3. The final cartridge example is
not marked and is fitted with a brass head and a web helix worm.
|4. A shorter example similar to
the English Figure 1 No. 4 has a nickel plated cast steel crown cap lifter marked
"GERMANY", a wire helix worm and a nickel plated straight swaged brass sheath
with side slits. As it is not marked 'MADE IN' it was possibly manufactured before the end
of WWI, inferring that this type of corkscrew and crown cap opener could have been first
manufactured in Germany and thus predates the model patented in England by M. Myers in
1925. This example was also produced with a threaded silver sheath.
|5. Nickel-plated brass crown cap
lifter and metric threaded brass sheath with a wire helix worm. The tapered sheath has a
decorative patterned surface. Unmarked.
UNITED STATES (+ ?)