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Non-electric Can Openers

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A can opener.

Non-electric can openers1 are those things that television broadcasts always say you need to have on hand, just in case of an emergency. But would you even know one if you saw one?


The non-electric can opener, as the name suggests, was invented to open cans without the use of electricity. For many years they were simply called 'can openers'. Non-electric can openers were eventually replaced with the disposable electric can opener2 we know today. They have since gone the way of the dodo.

An even more primitive type of can opener is the type that operates on the principle of 'Radical Redistribution of Matter Based on Misplaced Trust'. This works by resting a non-cutting loop of steel against the top of a can, then suddenly stabbing the can with the attached steel claw, and wrenching the device back and forth in an insane frenzy of can opening violence. Extreme care must be used to ensure that the amount of Misplaced Trust in the can is not exceeded by the Misplaced Trust of the operator. This type of can opener is to be avoided.

Instructions for Use

Just in case a hurricane, tornado, or nuclear war does ever leave you in need of some serious manual can-opening, it wouldn't hurt to know how to use one.

  • Familiarise yourself with the parts of the tool. Most can openers consist of a blade, three gears, two handles and a crank, with some interlocking metal bits and probably some bolts holding it all together. The handles are hinged together at one end, which is the can opener end (the other end is the handle end, which is good to know because it doesn't work if you hold it the other way round). Attached to one of the handles there is a large gear with a round blade right on top of it, like a pizza cutter. On the other handle there's a large gear with a smaller gear right on top of it, and also, next to those, there's a hook and a flat place in the edge of the handle. When the handles are squeezed together, the gears will meet and interlock in a very pleasing and satisfying sort of way. On the reverse of the handles, there's a crank which operates the gears. You must be intimately acquainted with the principal components of the machine in order for it to work properly. Become one with the can opener.
  • When you feel you're ready, you'll probably want to apply the can opener to an actual can. You do this by first separating the handles. Then position the gears on either side of the vertical lip around the top of the can. Bring the handles together so that this lip is tightly between the gears, and then hold both handles in your left hand. With your right hand, turn the crank3. The can should then rotate, and the blade should penetrate the metal just inside the lip, so that as you continue to turn, the lid is sliced off. Don't worry if you don't get it right on the first try... it takes a lot of practice.
  • After the can is open, use whatever means available to remove the lid, which will have fallen inside the can so that you have to stick your fingers into the contents of the can in order to get it out 4. Beware: the edges are very sharp! Whatever is in the can will be somewhat less useful to you once your blood has mixed with it, so be careful. The most popular technique for safe lid-removal is to press one side of the lid into the can, so that the other side is forced to pop up, allowing you to grab it with your free hand. This method, however, is not recommended for cans of soup, because it doesn't work. In fact, if it does work, discard the soup immediately.
1Otherwise known as 'tin openers'.2Supposedly, electric can openers aren't meant to be disposable, but we know better.3Yet another instance of discrimination against left-handed people.4This is a problem many are unprepared for, as of course modern can openers are equipped with magnets for holding the lid above the can.

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