La dolce vita: Tullio and the cavatappi

True craftsmanship is not limited to a sole area of expertise.
Campagnolo’s corkscrew is only further evidence of Tullio Campagnolo’s genius for design, one that extended to magnesium wheels for F1 cars and components for NASA.
If you can revolutionise a bicycle’s componentry, starting with a quick release mechanism for the wheels, then perfecting the corkscrew should also fall within your remit (one Campagnolo insider speaks also of a “fantastic” – and extremely rare – nutcracker).
The legend runs that while entertaining guests with fine wine, bottle after bottle would leave cork residue inside the glasses of those invited to the gathering. For a man so accustomed to developing precision componentry, this was unacceptable to Campagnolo. He set to work on designing a superior model the moment his guests had left.
There is a more pleasing synergy, however, even than the mechanical. The notion of the bicycle as a way of life is mirrored by the corkscrew. Surely wine is as sympatico with la dolce vita as cycling.
With all this in mind, it’s little surprise that there is no set production line at Campagnolo for the cavatappi; rather, it fits with the production schedules of other components. It is only chains that are made every day.
“Some days you will make more 53 chainrings and 11 tooth cogs for the cassette along with product X in the carbon department,” our man in Vicenza tells us. “The next day could be 34 chainrings, corkscrew handles and something else.”
Manufacturing, of course, is only one part of the process shared by corkscrew and, say, Super Record derailleur. Quality control is another. The cavatappi bear the Campagnolo mark. It must perform to the same standard as Vicenza’s other components.
Campagnolo makes some 2,000 corkscrews each year for a global market. They are produced by the same staff, in the same factories in Vicenza as those used for the bicycle components.
As with all superior designs, there are trade secrets. Just how does the self-centring bell mechanism work, we enquired? And how did Campagnolo judge the length of the screw so perfectly that no cork would ever be penetrated entirely?
The response – in full – from Vicenza: “Italian magic”.
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