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Apr 9, 2008 03:20 PM

What manual can opener do you like?

I'm looking for a good quality manual can opener. I'm not thrilled with those "side-opening" ones. Do you use one you like? If so, tell me about it.

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  1. For decades we had a swing-a-way wall mount can opener that I loved. I stupidly left it in storage when I moved abroad. I found this one:

    I'll bet you could find a cool old one on Ebay.

    1. At home I use a non-name side cutting one. On most cans it does a quick and clean job. It did have problems with a Nestles can of sweetened condensed milk; must have been something unusual about the can.

      I use more canned goods while camping. For that I prefer a forward opening Swiss Army Knife (Victorinox style v. Wagner). A P38 opener works well - this is a little folding C-rations opener.


      4 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        I've carried my P38 around for many years...never used it, but carried it all over the world....

        1. re: paulj

          I recently bought a cheap side cutting can opener, and I find myself reaching for it instead of my Swing-A-Way (which I agree is a great can opener). It takes a couple of tries to get used to how it fits on the can, but after it becomes more natural it's much easier to use -- since it's cutting through the thin can wall instead of the reinforced top, it needs a lot less pressure to keep the cutting wheels engaged and turning.

          1. re: paulj

            My father has always carried a folding pocket knife, but I never knew he also carried one of those P38s until just this past year when they forgot to charge the electric can-opener. I noticed my dad making a little up-and-down motion and asked him what it was. He said "You used them to open ration packs in the military and I've always kept one in my pocket ever since. You never know when you'll need it!" It worked surprisingly well, too.

            My Gizmo can opener was beginning to wear out so I decided to get a manual one and spotted a Swing-A-Way and have been really happy with it. The large crank makes it easy to operate.

            1. re: jzerocsk

              Keep my P-38 on my key chain w/ a bottle opener; won't go hungry or sober either.

          2. I grew up with the traditional kind and I've tried electrics but these days my fave is the smooth edge one from Pampered Chef: It's neater, cleaner and works for both righties and lefties. :)

            1. We bought a KUHN RIKON at WS about 10 years ago. it has never failed to open any can I've thrown at it. It is a side cut opener. I like it because the wheel and blade never hit the contents.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Eric in NJ

                Agree completely that the Kuhn Rikon side cutter is the way to go. Takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it's foolproof. Major advantage over Swing-a-Way type is safety...there are no sharp edges. Also, since the opener never touches the can contents, it remains clean and gunk-free. From the safety perspective alone, the KR (or other side cutter) is definitely the way to go!

                1. re: josephnl

                  Count me in on the Kuhn Rikon side. I really do like it and it is so much cleaner to use. I keep my old Swing Away for some odd shapes and difficult cans.

              2. Can't beat the Swing-A-Way. It's the only can opener I'll use, simply because it's the one that works the best, has the best feel in my hand, and has a simple, elegant, foolproof design. And I believe the one I have, which I bought when I was in college, cost me all of $4.99.

                24 Replies
                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  Well, there are some welcome surprises in life. I just bought a Swing-Away for $5.99 in the Detroit area. Got it at a professional supply house Restaurant Outfitters --they are in Southfield and have their main warehouse in Columbus, OH. What a great value!

                  1. re: berkleybabe

                    Swing-Away all the way! I've had mine seen my first apartment. Others have come and gone but the Swing-Away still works perfectly every time. And I have cats so I've opened at least a can a day for over 20 years.

                    1. re: crawfish

                      I am amazed that I seem to be just about the only one who likes side cutting openers like the Kuhn-Rikon. I've cut my hands more than once using the "old-fashioned" Swing-a-Way type openers. Doesn't anyone else see the safety advantage of the side-cutters...especially folks with young children?

                      1. re: josephnl

                        I have used manual can openers my entire life and I have never once cut myself on a can lid, even when I was using a manual as a young child myself. I'm not even certain under what circumstances I *could* cut myself using a manual can opener! So the fear seems overblown to me, and as for changing to a side-cut...ain't broke, don't fix.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          A Swing-a-Way type opener cuts the top of the can off leaving very sharp edges. The newer side-cutters, like the Kuhn-Rikon basically lift the lid off leaving no sharp edges whatsoever...therefore this type of opener is inherently safer. Also, since they never touch the can contents, they remain totally clean. But perhaps I am the only one concerned re this?

                          1. re: josephnl

                            I have to ask what might be a very stupid question, not having used a side cutter: doesn't cut metal always have a sharp edge ( I say this as someone who's worked with metal cutting to some decent degree)? The sharp edge is just on another part of the can.

                            The only time I have found the edge left by my Swing-a-way to be a problem is when greasing reserved clean cans for the cylindrical quickbreads I make at Christmas - youch!. But then I simply rasp those edges smooth. Beyond that baking, I never have my hand inside the can to get cut.

                            Wait, one more stupid question: do the side cutters actually never touch the food inside the can? How does that work, since they're cutting in, and at roughly the same level or lower than the top cutters? I'm not being flippant or snotty - I truly want to know.


                            1. re: cayjohan

                              What the side cutter does is cut a groove into the bead around the top of the can. So the cut part is indented into the half left on the lid and half left on the can. It is almost impossible to come in contact with it. Being kinds of frugal I like the fact I can add a little water or wine to an emptied can hold the lid back on it and shake to get the last bit of sauce/soup/whatever out.

                              1. re: cayjohan

                                The side cutters open the seam that holds the top of the can to the sides. I'm not sure if they actually cut any metal, or just pry open the curl where the two pieces are joined. Regardless, they only penetrate the joint; no part of the opener enters the interior of the can.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  I think I need to branch out from my old opener. This sounds like a gadget that lives up to hype. Thanks for the explanation!


                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                    Aside from no sharp edges, as hinted at by Eric, the lid will fit tightly back onto the can so you can add some liquid, shake it and get the last bit out. And stated before, the opener never touches the can contents, so it stays clean. They take a few tries to get used to, but once you do, I am sure you will like a side cutter like the Kuhn Rikon.

                            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              I always thought the same. Until a couple of years ago.

                              I was getting ready to take a bag of stuff out to the recycling bin. There was a can with its lid was sticking straight up above the top of the bag, parallel to my line of sight and thus nearly invisible in the darkened utility room.

                              Long story short, the lid neatly filleted the middle finger of my left hand, severing an artery and a bunch of nerves. It was pretty spectacular. The utility room looked like a murder scene, and I still don't have any feeling in the tip of that finger.

                              Not to say that you shouldn't use your Swing-A-Way, but you do want to be careful with the cans.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Okay. I'm sorry to hear that. But number one, you shouldn't leave the lid of a can sticking straight up where it can cut someone and not pushed back down into the can. And number two, you should get better lighting in your utility room. Neither of those things is the fault of the can opener.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Oh, we've got great lighting--it just didn't seem necessary to turn it on when all I was doing was grabbing a bag on the way out the door. And when you live with others they will occasionally do things that you might not--like leaving a lid sticking up from a can.

                                  It was a freak accident that could have been avoided in many ways. You mentioned a couple, but using a side-opening can opener would have prevented it, too. For anybody who finds that using a side-opener is a hassle, the marginal increase in safety probably isn't worth it. But all other things being equal, eliminating a safety hazard--no matter how minor--isn't necessarily a bad thing.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    Maybe I've used it incorrectly because my memory of side cutting openers is they leave a sharp edge on the can which always seemed more dangerous to me. Coincidentally, I just had this same discussion with some people at work (this is actually what I do for a living: analyzing things like can openers) and we were all mystified by the attraction of a side cutting can opener. Judging by the response here, I'll have to re-look at it. Clearly there are two camps and both should be served.

                                    1. re: crawfish

                                      I think you are thinking of the ones that take the whole beaded edge off leaving the top of the can sharp. I've seen them and don't know why anyone would use them.

                                      1. re: crawfish

                                        There are cheap versions that cut just below the "lip"... that will leave the lid "unsharp" ... but leave the top of the can just as sharp as ever.

                                        The better ones cut through the lip and both sides are smoooooooth.

                                2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Same here. Have always used manual can openers and have not once, in 42 years, cut myself on a can. (Hope I didn't just curse myself....) And the can opener I have now is a very cheap one I bought at the market and it works great. My last one was a KA, expensive and it only lasted about 3 years.

                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                    DO NOT waste your money on a side-cutter - if you feel you must try one, just put your manual on top of the can as opposed to the side. It can be done. That being said, the top edge of a side cut can is sharp, but not as jagged as a top cut. Also, a side cut can let liquid out because it has cut a little further down the can. IMO they are rip-off. In answer to the OP, I have had an OXO good grips for years that does a great job.

                                    1. re: jacquelyncoffey


                                      The side-cutter you describe is nothing like the one in my kitchen drawer. Mine opens the can with a completely different mechanism than the top-cutter. It doesn't even have a blade; instead, it has a little non-moving wedge that goes into the seam between the lid and the side. Rather than cutting, it appears to pry apart the lid and the top, which are two separate pieces of metal that have been curled and glued together.

                                      After it's open, the can is just as tall as it was before, since the side has not been cut. The only way liquid is getting out is if you tip the can. In fact, because no metal has been cut you can re-assemble the can by putting the top back on and it's pretty leak-proof, even if you shake the can. You'd have to put more adhesive on the joint and curl it back again to have a true seal, but it works fine for cleaning out a can of tomatoes with a splash of wine, or for storing half a can of pinto beans in the fridge. And the top edge is not sharp at all; once again, no metal has been cut.

                                      There may be side openers that work differently and cause the problems you describe. If there are, I'd tend to agree with you that they're a waste of money. But your description certainly doesn't apply to all side openers.

                                      If you're happy with your current opener, more power to you. But if you ever need to replace it, you might want to consider at least looking at a quality side opener. Maybe even this one from OXO:


                                      (Check out the last photo and you can see how the lid and the can are both left intact.)

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        Yes, there are other side openers.... I have the kind that is just like the top opener, except the blade goes on the side. I can't stand it. I have to relearn how to use it every single time and it leaves the top of the can very sharp.. The kind that you mention sounds a lot better. Though I still pine for my cool 1950s candy red wall-mount (has to be the wall-mount) swing-away can opener. It had a magnet that lifted the can lid off, so there was never any danger of getting cut. Plus it had style and a great, smooth mechanical feel.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          Your OXO link does not seem to work. I agree with you completely and love my Kuhn-Rikon side opener which apparently works exactly like the OXO. OXO is a great company, and I am sure that their side opener works exactly like the K-R and is terrific.

                                          Just discovered that the OXO website is down for maintenance, so that is probably why your link is not working.

                                      2. re: flourgirl

                                        For me it's not just about the sharp edge... it's about the gunk that gets onto the blade from being in a million cans. Even if you scrub them, them seem to get gross over time.

                                        My side edge opener is perfectly clean after 5 years.

                                        1. re: Jennalynn

                                          I can assure you, my can opener is not in any way "gross".

                                          1. re: Jennalynn

                                            And my decades old Swing-away is too. It's washable, you know.