The photo shows the device I made. It is a needle like those used to inflate basketballs, but much longer.
- Thin brass hobby tubing (1/16 x 0.016)
- Brass Presta to Shrader bicycle tire stem adapter (available at any bicycle shop)
- Stranded copper wire
- Soldering gun and solder
- Straight pin
- Air pump
Step 1: The Problem
Guests were coming for dinner. When we tried to open a bottle of red wine the cork crumbled and what you see here remained in the neck of the bottle outside the reach of this wine bottle opener and other similar corkscrew openers. Even if the openers we had could have reached the cork, crumbles of cork would have fallen down into the wine and we would have needed to strain the contents of the bottle. We considered pushing this piece of cork down into the bottle, but were concerned that it would tumble into the neck of the bottle and block the flow of the wine. Total removal was the goal.
Step 2: The Impromptu Fix
I connected an air gun to an air compressor and attached a longer inflation needle to the air gun. This compressor does not have an attached tank. I set the air pressure for 100 psi. The cork came out quickly, but so did some wine, as you can see from the stains on the floor. Nearly the same amount of wine found the front of my shirt. You can see what was left of the cork on the floor. (Because my air compressor is tankless, far less than 100 psi. accumulated before the remainder of the cork was expelled.)
Step 3: Why a Special Needle Is Required
Shown is the neck of an unopened wine bottle. The cork is one of the longer corks we have removed from a wine bottle. The longer needle is what I used to remove the remainder of the rotted and crumbling cork from the wine bottle we needed to open. Its threaded fitting is larger than a standard tire valve. The shorter needle is a standard needle for inflating a basketball using a bicycle hand pump or a small air compressor. Its screw fitting is the same as any Shrader tire valve, but it is too short to reach through a wine bottle cork. Also shown is a Presta to Shrader tire stem adapter.
Step 4: Making a Longer Inflation Needle
The photo shows an old Presta to Shrader tire stem adapter I have for my bicycle. This adapter contains an "O" ring for a seal. I removed it with a pick. The tire stem adapter will be the right size for a bicycle pump when finished.
Step 5: A Clean Surface
My tire stem adapter is corroded, but I need a bright surface for soldering parts together. I used a drill to clean the inside of the adapter.
Step 6: Build Up to Fill Space
I used some thin stranded copper wire to wrap around a piece of thin brass hobby tubing. The wire wrap will fill the space between the hobby tubing and the inside of the tire adapter.
Step 7: Solder
I used a small screwdriver to push the wire wrap into the cleaned opening in the tire stem adapter. I held the tire stem adapter in wooden vise jaws. I used a soldering gun at its higher heat to make the tire stem adapter hot enough for the solder to flow well and make a good seal. When cooled, the thin piece of hobby tubing is firmly sealed in the tire stem adapter.
See the second photo. I used 100 grit sandpaper on a countertop to sand an oblique point onto the end of the needle so it pierces the cork more easily. Then I used a straight pin to make certain the hole in the tubing is fully open.
Step 8: Insert the Needle Into the Cork
The thin brass tubing bends easily. Handle with care. I inserted it into the cork in a wine bottle. (This bottle has already been opened with an electric opener that made another hole all of the way through the cork. Air pressure did not remove this cork from this wine bottle because air escaped through the hole from the electric opener.)
Step 9: Attach the Air Hose and Pump
Attach the air hose from the pump or compressor. Hold the hose fitting so the brass tube does not bend or break. Secure the wine bottle so it does not tip over while opening it. Pump air into the bottle. My pump has a pressure gauge and it went to about 80 psi. before the cork began to move. When the cork moved, it moved quickly and came out of the bottle immediately. (Plastic 2 liter soda bottles have been tested and burst at about 120 psi. A glass wine bottle is stronger than a plastic soft drink bottle. People have been using commercial versions of air pressure wine bottle openers safely for years.)
A long inflation needle like this makes it easy to reach down into the neck of a wine bottle in which the cork has begun to crumble. You may or may not want to open your bottles this way regularly, but it sure helps remove a cork that broke apart before it was fully removed.