Common Corkscrews II
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.

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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 head.


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). Fig11.jpg (10749 bytes)
2. Similar to #1 except with a heavier straight brass wedge sheath and a turned brass finial. Fig12.jpg (10427 bytes)
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. Fig13.jpg (12767 bytes)
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.

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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. Fig15.jpg (10184 bytes)
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 mechanism. Fig16.jpg (13272 bytes)
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 & Sons Limited. Fig17.jpg (10388 bytes)
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.

Fig18.jpg (11750 bytes)
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, 1939. Fig21.jpg (9206 bytes)
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 COMPLIMENTS". Fig22.jpg (10284 bytes)
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".

Fig23.jpg (9709 bytes)
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". Fig24.jpg (8408 bytes)
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. Fig25.jpg (10246 bytes)
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. Fig26.jpg (10725 bytes)


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". Fig31.jpg (13361 bytes)
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.". Fig32.jpg (11201 bytes)
3. The final cartridge example is not marked and is fitted with a brass head and a web helix worm. Fig33.jpg (11652 bytes)
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. Fig34.jpg (10575 bytes)
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. Fig35.jpg (12171 bytes)


1. A nickel-plated wire helix worm with the head cast from a lead base metal alloy. The thin nickel-plated brass sheath is complete with a positioning ridge. A similar example is illustrated (page 21) on a display card in an Edward Haff corkscrew advertisement from a 1900 catalogue of the Drake Hardware Company. Fig36.jpg (12408 bytes)
2. An example of the U.S. Patent No.2,164,191 of June 27, 1939 by Knud Knudsen of Danbury, Connecticut. This example, unmarked, has a nickel-plated wire helix worm and cast steel crown cap lifter with a steel ribbed and tapered sheath. This three piece tapered sheath has a black painted steel ring band around the open end and a black steel cup on the other giving the ribbed tubular sheath the appearance of being one piece. The patent drawing is shown on page 22.

A similar model with a mechanical pencil in the case end was also registered by Knud Knudsen as U.S. Design Patent 109,879. ICCA members may see it illustrated in the Best Six of Joe Balaban for 1982 and CCCC members in the Best Six of William Ennis for 1987.

Fig37.jpg (13051 bytes)
3. A nickel-plated stamped steel center point web helix worm and crown cap lifter with a wedge key slotted and tapered steel case. The sheath hole is positioned below the cap lifter lip. Unmarked, origin and country unknown, possibly American. Fig38.jpg (9670 bytes)

Exhibit "A"

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Exhibit "B"

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Exhibit "C"

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Exhibit "D"

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Exhibit "E"

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