Sabering a bottle of champagne is like driving a car. There’s an inherent element of risk associated with both activities. But like driving, if you prepare and approach the task with knowledge, due care, and the proper safety precautions in place, you’ll significantly mitigate your risk, and you will likely be part of that overwhelming majority of people who saber and drive without ever getting seriously hurt. But, because it is possible to get injured while sabering, we have prepared this writing in an effort to share our knowledge on how to avoid injuries. People have been assuming the risk of sabering champagne bottles since about 1795. And we’ve learned a few things since then that have helped us stay safe along the way.
If you buy, receive, and/or subsequently use a champagne saber, caveat emptor, (buyer beware and user beware), you assume 100% of the risk associated with its use. Accordingly, educate yourself and learn how to saber safely.
The risk is understood by appreciating that glass, (even in solid form) is inherently unstable, and thus, unpredictable. By way of example, a bottle of champagne will explode in unpredictable directions if dropped on a hard surface; like a stone floor. The same can occur when a bottle of champagne, or sparkling wine is struck with a champagne saber – But there are reasons for this occurrence. We do not believe that explosions are random or subject to the roll of the dice. Explosions are predictable.
The danger, (should a bottle explode while sabering) results from the potential insult received by the human body if hit by sharp shards of glass flying through the air, at high speed, in random directions. Glass cuts can lead to serious injury and permanent disfigurement.
And yet, there are restaurants in Seattle, New York, and other places around the world where bottles of champagne or sparkling wine are opened with a saber every night without incident.
That is because accidents occur as a result of operator error, negligent use of a champagne saber, negligent preparation of the bottle to be sabered, or a combination of all of the above. There is nothing inherently dangerous about a champagne saber itself – the blade is intentionally dull, and in all other respects it is merely a beautiful object.
Here are some safety tips that you must always follow when sabering a bottle of bubbles:
- Always saber a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine – never saber a bottle of still wine.
- Always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.
- Always wear a long sleeved coat that will shield your arms.
- Always wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Always wear long pants to protect your lower extremities.
- Always wear closed toed shoes to protect your feet.
- Always wear a scarf to protect your neck and face.
- Never saber under the influence of alcohol or any drug.
- Saber a bottle that has been kept quiet and still for at least 24 hours or longer prior to sabering.
- Saber a bottle that has been chilled for at least 24 hours or longer.
- Completely submerge a bottle to be sabered in ice for at least an hour before sabering.
- Never shake the bottle before sabering – always keep it quiet and as still as possible.
- Hold the saber with your dominant hand. Hold the bottle with your other hand.
- Keep all onlookers well behind you when sabering – the severed neck can easily travel 16’.
- Although highly experienced people do saber indoors, always saber outdoors.
- Remove the foil from the bottle before sabering – expose the seam of the bottle so that there are no impediments to smoothly sliding the blade to the strike point on the bottle. The strike point, where the seam meets the lip of the bottle, is the weakest point on the bottle.
- Remove the cage of the bottle before sabering.
- Once the cage is removed be careful not to point the bottle at anyone as the cork is free to pop out on its own without the containment provided by the cage.
- Many people like to tie a ribbon on the cage before they loosen the cage, then loosen and tighten again on the backside of the lip, so that when the top is expelled by the saber strike, the top can easily be found by following the ribbon.
- Always cover a bottle to be sabered with a towel (to contain the glass should it explode)
- Keep downward pressure on the bottle with the blade like you do when peeling a carrot – this keeps you from skipping the blade over the lip which results in a missed strike.
- Keep the bottle slightly elevated prior to sabering off the top – this will help keep you from skipping the blade over the lip and it will help keep the wine in the bottle after the top is severed from the bottle.
- Keep the blade’s leading edge at about 30-45 degrees relative to the bottle.
- Keep your eye on the target –> i.e., the point where the seam of the bottle meets the lip of the bottle. (This is probably the most important tip to successfully sever the top of a bottle on your first try.)
- Never strike the bottle with the saber like a hammer strikes a nail – always start with the saber blade resting on the bottle; then run the saber up one of the seams of the bottle, striking the lip of the bottle with a good follow through – never let the blade loose contact with the bottle.
- Don’t be tentative – drive the blade up the ramp (seam of the bottle) and drive through the lip of the bottle with confidence – the impact should not be hard but should not be tentative either. Strike with confidence and follow through like you do in golf, tennis, baseball bating, etc.
- The sweet spot or ideal strike zone on a Tool Couture saber is 2-3 inches forward of the guard.
- Do not sweep the saber into the strike point. Push it forward in a straight line along the seam of the bottle.
- Always check for glass shards from the severed bottle that may flow into your wine goblet when you pour from a sabered bottle – this is highly unlikely because the pressure of the CO2 expels any shards when the neck is severed, but always check just in case. (This is why you never saber still bottles of wine).
- Never drink from the bottle after it has been sabered – the lip of the bottle will be razor sharp.
- Never touch the edge of the severed piece of the bottle or the lip of the bottle – these edges will be razor sharp.
- If you want to save the bottle or the top that has been sheared off, dull the edges with a file or sand paper – once dulled the edges can safely be touched – do this after the bottle has been consumed / emptied.
- Each strike on the bottle decreases the chance of a predictable, controlled break at the lip. As such, you must be prepared to stand down. If after two or three strikes you have not been able to open the bottle, retire it. Place it back in the ice bucket and let it rest. Open it after an hour in the traditional method by removing the cork by hand. Use another bottle if you have one, and attempt to saber the second bottle. If you find that you are skipping over the top of the bottle with your saber, apply more downward force and increase your angle of attack. The key is to strike that point where the seam meets the lip of the neck of the bottle with the leading edge of the saber. Keep your eye on the strike point.
- Take a sabering lesson if you have never sabered.
- Take a sabering lesson if you have sabered.
- Some bottles are better to saber than others – We prefer to use Veuve Clicquot bottles.
- If you want to practice your technique, buy a case or two of small glass Coca-Cola bottles. Lop the top off of the Coke bottles using all the indicated safety tips and sabering techniques mentioned above. You will quickly get good at it.
Sabering a bottle of bubbles is easy; especially if you follow the advice above.
We created the Tool Couture saber after 18 months of testing. We’ve sabered over 250 bottles and have since lost count. During this time, and in an effort to create the best champagne saber in the world, we modified materials, refined leading edge blade geometry, tempered the blade, selected appropriate blade hardening grades, and adjusted balance. Its balance is perfect for the task at hand. Balance resides right behind the guard which is ideal for both experts and beginners. Even its weight, at 2.75lbs. of steel is intentional. Its weight allows for enough inertia to be developed so even a timid novice can have success by just moving the blade into and through the strike point.
People have been sabering champagne for centuries. It’s a wine culture tradition that’s loved by all, especially when you take the time to ensure your safety, and the safety of others around you.
Saber often, and drink responsibly.