December 29, 2014

A chronology of corks

During the final product-development stages of Waterworks we encountered some troubles with the cork stoppers we use.
We started out thinking that every cork would be both water- and air-tight.
That's what corks are made for, right?

Sadly, we found out the hard way that the 2000 agglomorated corks our supplier delivered with the first batch of Waterworks-sets back in the early days of summer, were actually not air-tight.
Minor detail you'd think?
Well, the fact that the corks weren't closing the reservoir air-tight, meant that no vacuum would be created in the glass bulb, and all sets would drain too fast.
This set-back cost us a major head-ache and then some...

Oh well.... no use to dwell on it.

Luckily we found a supplier in Portugal who could send us a new batch of natural corks within a week.
Just as well, since we never asked for agglomorated corks to start with, and preferred the look of natural cork anyway.

The only problem with these corks is that they're a natural product, which means no two corks are alike and some have bigger holes or cracks that make it difficult to close the reservoir air-tight.
Fine, we just had to personally test every cork stopper before adding it to a Waterworks-set.
Which we did.
And it cost us a lot of time.
And sadly some inconsistensies were hard to detect, which meant some Waterworks-sets were still draining too fast for no apparent reason.

After receiving a few questions about the speed in which the reservoir should drain, we decided we should come up with a better solution for the stopper and started exploring different possibilities.

First thing we did was order the silicon stoppers that are used in the scientific world.
Obviously they were up for the job: closing the holes with an ice-cold air-tight precision. However, the look and feel of the corks was exactly like that: ice-cold and scientific.
Not at all fresh and green.

We decided to try and produce silicone corks ourselves, and attempt to recreate the natural feeling we love so much.

We made a mold and test-'corks', adding grit and cork-gratings to the mix. All in our endeavour to create natural-looking but 100% air-tight corks.
We ended up with a lovely material made of the grated corks that looked pretty similar to the agglomorated corks we started with, while retaining a complete air-tightness.

But.... although the mixture we cooked up was so alike the agglomorated corks, our preference was to find something that would better resemble our natural corks.

We thought of another possible solution: what if we could 'dress' the corks we have with a little air-tight shell, only around the bottom part, keeping most of the natural look-and-feel in-tact?

We dipped corks in liquid rubber and used the necks of (happily colored) balloons to test our theory, which turned out to be spot-on.
We thought shrink-fit tubing would be perfect for the job. It took us a while to find the right type, size and color, but eventually we succeeded.
After some testing we even found a comparatively quick and easy way to add the layer to our corks.

From now on, expect your Waterworks-corks to be dressed!
Make sure to contact us if you think the cork you have might not be completely air-tight, we'll happily send you a new and improved cork stopper.

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