"Caveat Emptor" Singleton? Corkscrew
Reported by Ron MacLean
I recently acquired a mechanical corkscrew on line thinking, from published information and photographs available, it could be an early circa 1780 example. The only reference known on this design is found in Corkscrews of the Eighteenth Century ©1995 by Bert Giulian.
Upon arrival my initial excitement rapidly turned to suspicion as I studied its design and construction. The following report is a detailed analysis and opinion based on my engineering and collecting perspective:
Length 7 1/2" ready to use, 8 1/2" closed, with an open barrel (with lathe turned decorative rings) that appears to be a contemporary piece of seamless steel tubing/pipe, 3 11/16" long, 1 5/16" diameter, 1/16" thick. It has no brazed or forge welded seams, flow lines or slag inclusion nor any signs of forge working of any kind.
The 7/16" thick cast dome (not forged as expected) is inset into the top of the barrel and provides sufficient support to keep the worm more or less centered without a spring.
The heavy cast sheath hole fitting for the handle (again not forged) is not "threaded" but has a smooth tapered oval opening.
The tapered sheath is a modern steel casting with a distinctive reinforcement collar to accommodate thread turned into the cavity. It was definitely not made from forged iron and does not have the usual longitudinal brazed seam, end cap and threaded insert of an early picnic corkscrew sheath.
The cast sheath (3 3/8" long - about 3/8" longer than required for the helix) is a real waste of precious material for the late 18th century. It has 16 concentric tight flat rings (not threads) that allow the sheath to be twisted and wedged into the handle hole.
The perfect long pitch 7/16" diameter wire helix is effective. It appears to be brazed into a commercial tubing collar (flat sides filed round) on the end of an English Thomason 5 start iron shaft, which has been filed circular to tidy up the joint. This shaft provides an unbelievable 2 13/16" extraction far in excess of that required for cork removal in the late 18th century. The shaft length is another excessive waste of material.
The fine threads on the sheath and shaft collar are metric (1 mm per thread) indicating possible European manufacture.
The barrel openings seem spatially and dimensionally just too well executed to be indicative of period whitesmithing.
Aall parts, except the multistart thread and the inside surfaces of the barrel, have been given an overall artificially acid aged patina.
Unfortunately it appears this example, by a modern master, is a well-made but cleverly deceptive period possibility, fortunately not a "fake" as it is not marked, works quite well, and has an interesting story to impart.
I caution you, both the neophyte and seasoned collector, things are not always as they seem!
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