The corkscrew is amongst the most common, distinctive and iconic features of a Swiss Army knife.
It was one of the two new tools introduced, in 1897, with Karl Elsener's second pocket knife, the legendary Officer's Knife. This model, with its corkscrew, has been credited with saving the fledgling company, and of course, was the start of what everyone now knows as the Swiss Army Knife.
The original versions of the corkscrew have a significantly tighter spiral of smaller diameter that gives the corkscrew five turns. The corkscrew was redesigned in about 1973 to have four turns in roughly the same length. The groove in the corkscrew was dropped in 1991 (date in question), although information from Victorinox (dated 2010.02.08) indicates that the 91mm grooved corkscrew was in production until 1994. - It has been suggested that this change was a cost cutting measure, as the groove is more decorative than functional.
The ubiquitous corkscrew is not made in Switzerland! According to a Victorinox customer service representative in correspondence (2012.09), the corkscrew has been purchased from a French supplier (understood to be from the knife capital of France, Thiers), as a semi-finished part for decades.
Since its introduction many bottles of wine have been uncorked, and inventive uses for the tool have been discovered. Whilst many users appreciate the corkscrew, as corks become less common in wine bottles, there is a large group who do not, especially non-wine-drinkers. These users prefer the back-spring Phillips driver, and the 'corkscrew vs Phillips' discussion is one of the most hotly debated topics amongst Swiss Army Knife users.
And even though not everybody drinks wine, Swiss Army Knife users have found a number of additional uses for the corkscrew tool. Some of these include the following:
- Extracting a fuel filter when repairing an engine
- Extracting the stub of a spent candle from a candle holder
- Extracting plug holders from IKEA furniture!
- Affixing the knife to an overhead beam to hold a mosquito net
- Loosening knots - This is also included as a tip in Victorinox documentation
- Removing cotton wads from pill bottles
An ingenious innovation, introduced around 1983, was to use the corkscrew tool to store a flat-head mini-screwdriver. This feature was introduced in some of the premium models, such as the SwissChamp.
In 2021 additional mini-tools were added to the line up including a fire-starter set - known as the FireAnt.- See the Mini-screwdriver Page for details.
The top image shows the current four-turn, non-grooved, and earlier grooved, corkscrews. The groove on this 91mm corkscrew is much less pronounced than that on the 84mm five-turn narrow corkscrew in the image below. Early 91mm corkscrews also had five-turns and the deep groove, the change to the shallow groove and the thicker four turns was likely intended to increase the strength of the tool.
The lower image shows the 84mm narrow five-turn corkscrew with a very deep groove.
The Victorinox Wine Master model's corkscrew is longer and wider than the corkscrew found on the regular 130mm Rangers and pivots from the end, rather than the middle, of the knife. It is accompanied by a corkscrew lever that has two hinge points and rims (in common with similar 'professional’ corkscrew tools) to enable the cork to be extracted in two steps and with complete ease.
The corkscrew is equally common on Wenger models.
Note: It is a little tight, but the Victorinox mini-screwdriver can be inserted into, at least some of, the recent Wenger corkscrews.