How Cork Is Made

by Christopher Paul on June 22, 2011

Cork 151

For a long time, I never knew that corks came from the barks of trees. I probably found out about it around the time I turned 21 and, um, started drinking… Yeah… 21.


When I found out where cork comes from, I was pretty amazed at the tree species. Cork Oaks regrow their trunks once harvested. Regrown trunks can be removed every 9 to 12 years. The reason why cork bark is so soft is because of Suberin — a rubbery wax-like substance — that helps prevent moisture from leaving the tree.

Once the cork has been harvested, it gets placed on a pallet where it waits to be boiled. The boiling helps make the bark more malleable and also kills and removes contaminates. Once the bark is done boiling, it is cut and ready for further processing.

Cork that is thick enough will be punched forming the corks we’re all familiar with; these corks are the finest corks and fetch premium prices — about one Euro each. The remaining cork — and the cork that was too think to be punched, will be ground up, mixed with some glue, and extruded into the traditional shape.

There are two parts to the series so after looking at the first one, be sure to click on the second to see the extrusion process.

How cork is made: an illustrated guide – via Maria Popova

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