Want to feel as badass as Napoleon Bonaparte? Just open a Champagne bottle with a saber.
Sabering, or sabrage, is a champagne-opening art popularized at the time of Napoleon’s military campaigns.
You might think that opening a glass bottle with a sword requires blunt force. But writer and video game designer Neal Stephenson demonstrates that elegance and precision is all it takes. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial.
Some familiarity with physics won’t hurt, either:
A bottle of champagne is under 90 pounds of pressure per square inch, while the diameter of the opening is less than 3/4 of inch wide: this means that, at all times, a force of 35 pounds is pushing on the cork. A lip at the opening of the bottle creates a stress concentration, while on the vertical seam of the bottle there is a prepared and barely visible seam, which creates a second stress concentration. Where the seam and the lip intersect, both stress concentrations combine. This means that the strength of the glass is drastically reduced.
Another important thing to understand: Glass is a brittle material, so it will break instead of bending when pressure is applied. Even the lightest score at a 90-degree angle underneath the lip creates a crack where the bottle is weakest. So, a well-aimed and smooth swing of the saber will cause the pressure to crack the bottle open. If executed properly, the crack will be smooth with no splinters; that’s because the saber does not actually break the neck of a bottle, but it simply helps propagate a fracture. Pressure and vibrations will take care of the rest.
Practice makes perfect—so go buy yourself a case of Veuve and try it out this weekend.