Hand Held Single Lever Corkscrew Machines

by Joseph C. Paradi


There is an old saying: "the more things change, the more they stay the same".  This is certainly true when it comes to corkscrews.  If you just look at what is available in the stores today, you will find, with very few exceptions, either a complete replica of an old design or patent, or a modern update of the same.  I have been fascinated by this phenomena and investigated a number of instances in the past.  As I am most interested in complex mechanical corkscrews, I chose to write this article on a type that appears to have been first invented by a German.

The mechanical process is the focus of this piece and I would dearly love to hear of other corkscrews that use this mechanism.  If you have one or know of one, please send me a picture of the corkscrew, its box if you have it, and a description via contact me through FEEDBACK- I will add it to this piece.

The German Machine from Solingen

This is really a corkscrew that was fashioned after the two cycle barscrews of which there are several models.   It is marked: D.R. PATENT, ANGEMELDET, and the piece is also marked on the fulcrum arm: MARKE BRILE (reading glasses in an oval in between - probably a Trade Mark) and SOLINGEN.  The first cycle inserts the speedworm into the cork with one downward motion of the long handle.  Then on the reverse stroke of the handle it lifts the cork.  Then down again and the reverse stroke ejects the cork.  Simply beautiful to watch this machine work!  Thanks to Milt Becker and Fred Kincaid who let me have the pictures.

The Closed position

The Open position

The New Generation

This design is quite complex as compared to the familiar "T" or even a Thomason, arguably one of the most mechanical corkscrews.  Modern manufacturers have come up with very similar designs to the German one and these have been well accepted by the market.  Below are several such machines (and there are many more) plus an illustration of how one works, the rest are very similar in design and operation.  On the left is the corkscrew and the right, the boxes they come in.  Just click on the picture if you want to see more details.

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The most often seen machine patented by Herb Allen.  His patent is dated March 3, 1981, US Patent # 4,253,351 and is the first of at least 9 corkscrew patents he filed.  After Allen's death, the company he owned was sold to the French company Le Creuset and they make a number of different models of this excellent corkscrew.  This is the "Perfecto" but it is not a well known corkscrew, made and apparently sold mostly in Spain.  Works quite well and is inexpensive.  The mechanism is hidden inside the barrel and the handle is obviously levered for ease of use.  The black side handles are used to hold the bottle in the corkscrew while operating it.

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This corkscrew, called the "Rabbit" bears a lot of resemblance to the Screwpull above.  The Metrokane people made this corkscrew more friendly for people's hands as the handles are all larger and easier to hold - even for folks with severe arthritis.   This is a solid piece of equipment, well made and is available for less than half the price of the Screwpull.  Retailers say that it outsells the others. A modern machine (when compared to the Solingen above) and perhaps 20-30 years old, but that makes it one of the older ones of this group.  Italian made but not seen in the corkscrew world.  This specimen is the only one ever seen by the writer - pictures were provided by Milt Becker.  Not much is known about it, except that it is called the "Gusta Vino".  If you have one available, I would like to purchase it, just e-mail me.

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The "Vignetto" is manufactured exclusively for the William Sonoma company.  As the others shown here, this is also a well made machine, easy to use and does both jobs: remove the cork and then remove the cork from the screw.  The latter action saves getting one's hands dirty with a red wine cork which may have some wine or sediment on it. The "SwiftPull" is an exclusive offering from Franmara Inc., U.S.A.  The corkscrew is manufactured for them by a third party and looks very similar to the "Screwpull", so it may be that the French company Le Creuset makes it for them.  This design, like the Screwpull and the Rabbit uses a pair of plier like handles to hold the bottle neck during extraction.
The "Trudeau" is manufactured in Canada and it is quite like the Vignetto in that it has a squeeze action hold on the bottle that is front to back, rather than side to side as in the Screwpull.   It also has a number of accessories: a stand and a foil cutter.  It comes in a tin bok and is very well packaged. The iLever is another of the look alikes to the original Leverpull by Screwpull.  Operates the same way and appears to come in several coloured plastic versions.  A foil cutter is also supplied.
The "PULLIT" is also a Leverpull look alike.  Made in China but has a nice "soft" finish and comes with a foil cutter and a spare screw.  High tech construction made of solid polycarbonate, zinc alloy and a teflon coated thin steel helix.  This is also called the "PULL IT" but while the piece works like the other Leverpull imitations, this is made of red plastic.  The construction claims are the same as the one on the left and is made in China, so most likely by the same people.

Now let us see how these machine do their jobs.  We will use the Vignetto to illustrate this process.

This is the closed position for the Vignetto corkscrew, once you open it, it is ready to go to work.  This how you find it in the display box.

To start the process, the corkscrew is opened by pivoting the top handle 180 degrees.  It is then brought down on the bottle neck so the bottle mouth can meet the corkscrew flush on.

Next, lower the corkscrew onto the bottle neck and when in place, firmly grip the two handles pointing downward, thus gripping the bottle, ready for the work.

Move the lever towards the closed position, this will insert the wire helix into the cork and...

...when fully inserted, the handle should be almost parallel to the ground.

Now, the lever is pulled back towards the open position and the cork rises from the bottle.

When fully out of the bottle, the grips are relaxed and the bottle is released.

To remove the cork, the corkscrew is now moved to the closed position once again.

The cork is finally ejected when the lever is moved to the open position, thus withdrawing the wire helix.

The others work the same way.  I have received these as gifts from people who know that I collect corkscrews.  Most of them also ended up buying one for themselves.  You won't get a Solingen, but you can acquire its modern cousins.

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Copyright 1999 -  2003 by J. C. Paradi.  All rights reserved.