steam powered corkscrew story

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  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    The Steam Engine Powered Corkscrew Story (and Techie Details)by Wayne Meadows

    Probably around 2000 a thought crossed my mind: Vancouver had the first steam engine powered clockin the world (built byCanadianhorologistRaymond Saunders in 1977 for display in Vancouvers historicGastown) so why should we not have the first steam powered corkscrew in the world?

    However, soon after that time, the Corkscrew Inn construction project consumed all of our thinkingpower for about three years.

    Later, I started doing research into whatcompany made the most likely machinetools - such as lathes and milling machines -that one would need to make a steampowered corkscrew. I settled on Sherlineequipment and had endless searches in oneBay for Sherline products. After two orthree years I had a very decent miniaturemachine shop. Having educated myself byreading a book and watching a video Iproceeded to become a machinist. Idiscovered that practicing to be a machinistsimply means that initially one takesperfectly good pieces of metal and toolingand turns them both into scrap. To keepeverything running smoothly, both the

    machines and the machinist require a bit oflubrication occasionally.

    While all this was going on, I was still thinking about the corkscrew design that I would eventually build.The criterion I settled on for the corkscrew was a mechanism that had never been patented as far as I

    knew. Assuming that I have a copy of all bar corkscrew patents,from all the countries in the world, I met this requirement. (Weare talking only about the corkscrew mechanism, as steampowered engines were patented long ago.) Around 2006 I started

    buying the necessary bits and pieces to build a steam engine,

    boiler, etc. from an American company, PM Research. Workingon the project only in the winter, I put in a few years of labour.

    This was my mock up in 2009 as to how I imagined it might allcome together from a layout point of view. I decided that thecorkscrew would not need more space than a bottle capper, thusthe bottle capper shown in the mock up. The black item under theengine is a butane burner mechanism from a little stove.
  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    In 2012, construction on the PM Research boiler, steamengine, my corkscrew and the base and tower to hold it allwas completed and tested. Engine number one did not haveenough power to run the corkscrew, resulting in enginenumber two. Engine number two used up far more steam

    than boiler number one could produce. Three differentburners and fuel combinations did not resolve the problemwith boiler number one, resulting in boiler number two. Now, my original wonderfully clever automatic gearshifting drive shaft, made from Meccano gears, turned outto be not very reliable, resulting in engine number three.Not to put too fine a point on it, version number one was acomplete bust. I felt much better however, after I re-namedit an Engineering Prototype and reflected on what avast amount of new knowledge I had


    This is an old German steam boiler kit manufactured by Regner. In the 1980s a man in Kansas bought itnew from a hobby store located on Vancouver Island! In 2013 I found it on eBay and restored/modifiedit. The boiler has been tested to 120 pounds per square inch (psi). It is 35cm in length and 10cm indiameter; one would expect a cylinder of these dimensions to hold roughly 2.7 litres of water. Howeverit only holds .9 L of water as the two flame tubes and fourteen fire tubes take up two thirds of the totalinternal volume. This amount of very hot brass tubing in the water results in the boiler being up to 25 psipressure in about four minutes. More importantly the boiler can continuously produce the volume of 25

  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    psi steam required to run the engine. At 2,000 rpm the engine sucks up about 40 litres of this steam everyminute.

    Water is pumped into the boiler through stop valve A. The steam leaves the steam dome Bwith a branchoff to the gas regulator C. It travels through the steam tube Dwhich runs through the left flame tube and

    exits at Eas super heated steam on its way to the engine. There is a direct correlation between steampressure and steam temperature; at 25 psi super heated steam is 115.59 C (240.07 F). The amount ofenergy used to change boiling water into this super heated steam is roughly the same amount as will bereleased when the steam is converted back to water in the steam engine. Fis the steam connection to thesteam whistles and Gis the water gauge; the gauge is crucial piece of equipment, as one must keep thewater in the boiler above the top of the flame tubes. His the drain valve and pipe. I is the pressure gaugeandJ is the emergency pressure release valve set to go off at 60 psi. The oak lagging has three functions:looks good, provides boiler insulation and, mostimportantly, prevents blisters when one accidentallytouches the 115 C boiler.

    Here we see an end view with the flames in action.

    Steam pressure gas regulator

    From the propane tank, gas flows in at Band out to the twoburners through outlet C. When the corkscrew is notopening a bottle of wine the motor is in neutral, so the steampressure quickly builds up. When the steam pressure at Aexceeds the pre-set amount as determined by the spring and

    threaded piston rod settings at D,the internal valve shuts off,diverting the gas flow through hand valve E. Valve E isadjusted such that the two propane blow torches (burnernumber four) can be turned down to whatever pre-setamount is desired.

  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    Slobber tank

    This tank is initially filled with water to be pumped into theboiler before firing the boiler up. The spend steam /oil from theengine is piped into this tank. As the oil floats on top of the

    water it also serves as an oil/water separator. The steam-heatedwater in the tank is then used to re-fill the boiler as required.

    Water pump

    To add water to the boiler one must pump water from the slobbertank into the boiler. This hand pump is capable of producing 100 psi,easily allowing one to pump water into an operating boiler underpressure. It can also be motorized and driven by the steam engine inmarine applications.


    This is an English Steward D-10 kit with reversing mechanism and a worm gear power take-off to run awater pump. Rather than a water pump it now runs a corkscrew. (I recently discovered that Saundersalso used a Steward steam engine in his first clock.) The two-cylinder steam engine is double action,meaning that the pistons are driven both up and down by steam pressure, resulting in the equivalent of afour-cylinder engine.

    Steam from the boilerenters at A. The

    displacement lubricatorB injects oil into thesteam line lubricatingthe engine. Spent steamexits to the slobber tankat C. With the engineoperating at 2,000 RPMthe worm gear powertake-off reduces this to200 RPM at CV

    (constant velocity)coupling E. Lever D isused to cause the engineto run forward orreverse as required. Thewhite lagging on theinput steam line acts asinsulation.

  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story



    Early on I realized that due to the rotary drive motion from the steamengine, I really had no option but to base my design around a gear-driven

    stem nut. The only other corkscrew using this mechanism is theROTARY ECLIPSE, which has a frame about 46cm long, way toounsightly and ungainly for this project. Shown here is my 2010 mock upof what I envisioned the end product mightlook like. Luckily, the spring-loaded plywood bottle rest did not make the cut. (I used a lot ofMeccano bits and pieces to create prototypes of everything from geartrains to mechanical structures.) After considerable think time andexperimenting with new versions of the gear-driven stem nutmechanism, I met my design criterion for a patentable corkscrew andreduced the total length of the frame, including gear box, to a tidy 19cm.

    If I publish the details of the corkscrew mechanism, I will be unableto patent it if or when I decide to join the ranks of one hit wonderinventors. So for the time being youll have to trust me that this

    Meadows mechanism is unique.

  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    Music module

    The three steam whistles have been

    tuned such that they play the first four

    notes of O Canada. In case you are not

    looking, this will notify you that the

    cork is now out of the bottle and you

    can pour a glass of wine. Steam for the

    whistles comes in at A. Water from the

    spent steam is drained at B.


    The bell rings to notify you that the cork is about

    to be ejected from the corkscrew.

  • 8/9/2019 Steam Powered Corkscrew Story


    Bottle clamp

    The bottle clamp A is held in a neutral position by two

    spring-loaded ball bearings B. After the bottle is set on the

    bottle holder C, the clamp lever is pulled back until the

    mouth of the bottle is in the throat of the corkscrew. At

    that point a spring- loaded brass wedge Dswings under the

    bottle holder, locking it in position. When the cork is out

    of the bottle the lever is pushed forward, causing the brass

    wedge to swing out from under the bottle holder andallowing the bottle to drop down and be removed from the


    All of this resulted in the worlds first steam-powered corkscrewpulling a cork on March 3, 2014 in Vancouver, B.C.

    For a video of the steam engine powered corkscrew in action and abehind the scenes