John Worlidge, on Cutting-Edge Pressing Technology

I don’t know what the heck this thing is, but I definitely want one:

Worlidge’s Wonderful Whatchamacallit

Actually, I tell a lie. I do know what it is. John Worlidge tells us all about it in Vinetum Britannicum, or a Treatise of Cider and Other Wines and Drinks, first published in 1676.

The contraption is, in fact, a rather ingenious, semi-automated apple or pear press, which – providing you have all the necessary materials, the space to install it, and quite possibly the degree in mechanical engineering required to understand the construction process – promises to save you plenty of time and labour.

In the lead-up to the detailed description of the diagram, Worlidge mentions two current juice-extraction technologies of his day: the flail press “made after the manner of a cheese-press, with heavy weights or stones” and the skrew (sic) press, which requires “constant attendance“, as you can see from this diagram provided in the book’s frontispiece:

Vinetum Britannicum frontispiece showing state-of-the-art C17th apple grinding and pressing technology

Worlidge’s alternative machine makes use of and ingenious system of weighted levers to gradually press the fruit without someone having to provide constant pressure. As to exactly how the machine is set up, how’s about we let J. W. tell us, in his own words, from the second edition of Vinetum Britannicum (1678):

Let there be two posts fixed in the Ground, as a a, about three foot apart. Let there be two Transomes well Tenanted in-to them, as at b b, which may be about two Foot or more apart ; Through the middle or which may be made two Mortoises to let down the tooth’d Iron Bar, or Rod, c c. The Bark or smooth side whereof must bear against Brass, or against two Trundles or Rolls of Iron or Brass, to make it slide up and down easily; between the Transomes, let there be an Axis of Iron, of about an Inch and half Diameter; or more, having two round places filed against the two ports ; Let there be a Nut or toothed Wheel in the middle of it, of about four Inches Diameter, and an Inch in Thickness, or near thereupon: there may be twelve Teeth on it, or about that number, according to which size and distance, let the Teeth in the upright Bar or Rod be cut, so that the advantage in distance may be on the Nut, because that is the Mover, and the upright Bar the Moved, then let the Axis, with its Nut on it, be so placed into the two upright ports with Staples and Brasses at each end, that it may move at a fit distance, that by the Teeth or the Nut, the upright Bar may be elevated or depressed at pleasure. This inside work may be plainly discerned at d. The nearer the Nut is placed against either of the Rolls that are placed in the Transomes, the less will the upright Bar be apt to bend.

Let each end of the Axis it self beyond the upright pods, to be fixed into the Center of Wood, resembling, the Nave of a Wheel, into which the Leavers c e e, must be fastned.

Let there be eight Leavers, or more, on each Center so placed, that the Leaver on the one side may be against the Space in the other. There may be a Ring of Wood, as at f f, made to preserve them at their true distance, and that all may bear their proportionate burden, though the weight be but on one or two. This Ring may be placed at about two Foot from the Center.

For a farther strengthning of the Leavers, in case they be made slender, or the weight too heavy for them, you may add Stays of Wood, or small Iron, as at g g, and so may continue them to every Leaver.

You may have in a readiness by you several weights of Stone, Iron, or Lead, with Rings, Cords, or other Fastnesses to them, to the quantity of three or four hundred weight, or more, some of half an hundred, others less.

The lower end of the Toothed Bar must be fixed into a Follower of Wood, under which, when it is railed to its heighth, at about two Foot distance must be placed a large Bench, made of a thick planck, of five or fix Inches thick, and fixed at both ends to the upright posts, as h, h. On which you may place your matter to be pressed.

Then with your hand move your Leavers, until it presseth hard or tough ; then hang on a weight on the end of one of the Leavers, having a hook of Iron to that purpose fixed at the end, and so on another of the other side. And as the Liquor flows from the Pulp, so will that shrink and the weights move downwards ; then may you add more on the next upper Leaver, and as they sink you may take them off from the under, and apply them to the upper. And whilst these weights are doing your work, may you otherwise employ your self, until they need removing.

So there you go. Shouldn’t take you much longer than a weekend to knock one up1As long as you are, or happen to know a blacksmith and / or carpenter and / or weelwright…. Vinetum Britannicum is available to download in various formats from if you want to double-check any of the details. Do let me know how you get on.


  • 1
    As long as you are, or happen to know a blacksmith and / or carpenter and / or weelwright…

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