Saturday, 30 August 2014

Cork stopper making & Sizing.

Cork bottle stoppers in the 18th century were all made by hand.
1712 Bottle Corks.

1880 Bottle Corks.

Quercus suber (Cork Oak) bark, Portugal.

Cork Cutters.
Cork Cutter.
Cork Cutter.
A Cooper's Cork Bung Punch.

Fig. one. & 2 Workers busy making jams.
3 Merchant that matches the caps.
4 The way to round off the cap.
5 Manner of cutting the tip of the cap.
Established 6. A, A, A, A, the edges of the bench on which the support for the plug cut by the ends, as seen Fig. 5.
7 Bannette to receive indiscriminately all kinds of plugs coming out of the hand of the worker.
8 Bannette to match.
9 Pierre sharpen knives.
10 Knives.

Cork Presses for the sizing of corks.

However, we need to fast-forward to around 1660, when a French Benedictine monk by the name of Dom PĂ©rignon first used cork for the purpose for which its name has become indelibly linked – as a stopper for wine bottles. According to legend, this monk was responsible for making sparkling wine at the Abbey of Sainte-Vannes in the Champagne region of northern France, and was having trouble keeping in the wooden plugs soaked in olive oil that were the stopper of choice at the time. He noticed that compressed cork returns to its original shape when pressure is released, making it ideal for wine bottles.

The practice boomed among the winemakers of Europe, and there’s evidence of cork stoppers being widely used in Portugal during the mid-18th century, when cylindrical bottles with
a uniform neck were first used for port wine in Oporto. Strict laws governing cork production have been in place in Portugal for more than 200 years. Cultivation is banned uphill from water courses, for instance. But more importantly, bark must only be harvested from mature, healthy trees and a gap of at least nine years must separate harvests from an individual tree.  http://www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Staying_power_-_Apr_13.html
 The first references to cork date back to 3000 BC in China, where it was used in fishing tackle. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians and Persians were also familiar with the properties of cork, but it was not until man started to produce wine that it appeared as the most suitable material for closing the containers used to preserve it.
“You should put it into round bottles with narrow mouths, and then stopping them close with corks, set them in a cold cellar up to the waist in sand, and be sure that the corks be fast tied in with strong pack thread, for fear of rising out and taking vent, which is the utter spoil of the ale.”
The main products were stoppers for jars and bottles. There seems to have been a high level of diversity in the size and quality available. The household accounts of Petworth House (a stately home in Sussex) over a period of fifty years from 1755 show payment for quart, pint, best long, best long pint, best white, short long and fruit corks. These were all acquired from a firm of London corkcutters. They were supplied in canvas bags and paid for by the gross (or the dozen in the case of fruit corks.) A writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1736 complained that on trying to buy a gross of best corks, he was offered some that were “indifferent such as I would not have bottled up water gruel with.” On being challenged, the corkcutter returned “you didst not ask for good corks before” and brought out some fit for use. “Beyond these he had his very good corks, his fine corks, his superfine… seven degrees in all.”

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