The Show Stopper
by Dick Rank
For some time now, a number of talented woodworkers have been “turning out” a variety of beautiful bottle stoppers. They are usually tall, colorful and very practical. They keep a partially consumed bottle of wine in fresher condition until it can be finished. I did notice that a stopper which was given to me was so tall it would not fit well under a refrigerator shelf, necessitating storing the bottle on its side. Also, the stopper was small in diameter and difficult to pull out of the bottle with my arthritic hands.
Lacking sufficient humility to dampen my zeal, I decided that I would improve on the stopper design, produce a number of them, and then give these brilliantly designed stoppers to all my friends and family as Christmas gifts. The stoppers would be short enough to fit in the refrigerator and wide enough to allow stiff and painful hands to easily twist them out. Alas, none of that would come to pass.
Opting for a very simple design, I turned several stoppers on the lathe from a two inch cylinder, drilled out a hole in each to receive the ready-made plastic ringed stopper parts, and brushed on a glossy finish that really brought out the beautiful wood grain. It was a simple matter to glue the plastic part into the wood, and presto, I had a very functional wine bottle stopper.
Having already agreed to show and sell some of my other small wooden items at a small community craft show up in western North Carolina, the stoppers would certainly be a hit. I made a bunch.
The show day came, and I set up my bottle stoppers, wooden candle sticks, birch yule logs and hat racks, ready for action. Sadly, selling was very slow. Half way through the morning, a big, mature local man in bib overalls studied my display, and after a thorough examination of my wine stoppers, he said, "They aint gonna sell". I was eager to find out more, so I asked him to tell me his thoughts. Once again, after considerable thought, he replied, "You always empty the bottle". Well, he had a good point. And he was right. They didn’t sell. And to make things worse, the stopper I gave my daughter came apart the first time she tried to pull it out of a wine bottle, requiring lots of prying to remove the plastic remains.
It is a good thing I didn’t have to make a living with my woodworking and design skills.
Dick can be reached by email at
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