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The first practical tin openers were developed 50 years after the birth of the sealed metal can, believe it or not. The food in the tin concept was invented for the British Navy in 1813. But the food cans made of solid iron back then, the cans usually weighing more than the food they held. The inventor, Peter Durand, was guilty of this slight oversight and Navy ships having to take fewer men due to the extra weight. He had brilliantly figured out how to seal food into cans but gave little thought on how to get it out again! The navy lads actually had to use a hammer and chisel to get at their grub. Bit like Nandos. It was only when only when thinner steel cans came into use in the 1860s that the useable can opener could be invented. The first patented one was a bayonet style device attached to the counter in shops to keep it rigid that speared into the cans edge and the clerk had to open each can before it was taken away! The modern can opener, of course, uses a cutting wheel that rolls around the rim, invented by William Lyman of the United States in 1870. Most of the best designed can openers use this method. When they are designed correctly often impressive soft engineering When they ate not then you can buy them in Poundland.
Today the only worry we have with these devices is chopping our finger off from the serrated edge, why I always use a decent can opener that keeps the digits away from the steel. I definitely use a can opener on one on those dreadful ring pull cans that have fish in them and never quite peel the lid off and so you are in real peril in losing your grip and off down to casualty to finish the job. They are so dangerous and amazing they are on sale. We can thank Ermal Fraze of Ohio back in 1966 for this ring pull craziness although used more admirably in the fizzy drink business.
So, it is the modern day and everything is electric. Capitalism demands we buy stuff that we don't really need and so makes us feel indulgent and in control. A donation of just twenty pounds, of course, will secure clean water for an African family for the year yet most people buy electronic toothbrushes instead. Come on guys! An electronic can opener as equally decadent but it was free with my new credit card so who cares.
It's a basic plug and play device that's a manly black and silver, rare for the kitchen. I'm sure there are pink versions to encourage women to buy them. You simply slot the can under the cutter, push the handle thing down and a small electro magnet pulse places the can straight. It must sit straight or it won't do the job and makes a growling noise. Make sure its set right. A quick whir and rotation and off comes the lid, in theory. You don't need to hold the can at that point although if you have one of those Royal Navy cans there the tractor beam won't hold it in place. It's quite a big thing and well over a foot high so you could even open the old Watneys Party7!
There are add-on tools that you can use to cur into different type of food containers and you can also cut 'other things'. Best not muck around too much with it though, and certainly don't rely on the instructions to help you. Guys, the misses will be calling you in to set it up (after you have recorded Eastenders for her) as they are not clear. There is an Abul Hamza hook attachment to cut off ring pulls that have malfunctioned but that wasn't that great. But, like I said, anything that keeps your fingers away from those oblong ring pull cans and tins gets my vote. Keep that standard issue Royal Navy hammer and a chisel handy. As well all know women can't open jars and so there is an item provided here to loosen things up although no self-respecting man would conceded to a machine to open jars. I was not convinced by the third device, what appears to be a bottle and screw cap opener. Have yet to try that.
I think this is more a female device to protect their nails and hubby's embarrassment when he can't remove the child proof tops from the bleach than the sort of gadget a guy would buy. I can not imagine an Aussie man buying it, everything done with teeth and the wife's bum crack Down Under.
Cheap at 20 bucks and looks good in the modern kitchen. 12 month guarantee and easy to clean!
We bought the Morphy Richards electronic can opener for my mother-in-law for Christmas. She suffers from Parkinsons disease, which means that she gets uncontrollable shaking in her arm and so tends to struggle with things like opening cans and jars and the like. The machine is available from about £20 online and this is about what we paid for it in Argos.
The machine comes pre-set up, you just have to slide various bonus gadgets into their stowages, plug it in and then it is ready to go. There is a little instruction pamphlet that comes with it to show you how to use it. It is one of those instruction manuals that I find very irritating because it has pictures with arrows and numbers all over it and not much in the way of words. The pictures aren't the best to be honest but we managed to work them out. There is no way my mother-in-law would have worked it out though so we had to explain.
Basically the machine has a little contraption at the top that features a magnet and a sharp blade as well as a handle that snaps the can into place and a guiding edge to show you where to put the can. It is important that you line it up correctly or the blade won't pierce the can, but you can have a couple of goes at it if you don't get it right the first time. The inside of the upright of the machine is curved which helps a bit more because you can lean the can against it and it is pretty much in position like that. The magnet is supposed to hold the can in place so that you don't have to touch it once you have pierced it and set it going, but we have found that it isn't strong enough for some cans. It works for things like tinned fish and smaller cans but when it is used on big cans of heavy fruit, you are better holding it in place to be sure.
Once you have lined the can up and pushed the handle of the blade down to pierce it, it begins to work automatically and does so until it is open all the way round. The good thing about the magnet here is that when you lift the handle back up to release the blade and the can the lid of the can stays attached so you don't have to do what I usually do, which is stick a knife in to flick the lid out when it's got stuck inside!
The machine is really easy to clean - they just recommend wiping with a damp cloth after every use. Being that it works so well, there is little to wipe up anyway. Also, the blade is well tucked into the machine, so you won't be accidently slicing your finger open.
Aesthetically it is not too bad. It is chrome silver and black so blends in well with most kitchens. I'd say it's about 15inches tall and 10 inches wide and it has a cord storage at the back so it doesn't look too untidy. To be honest it just looks like any other kitchen appliance. This is particularly good because I think it needs to be left out on the counter all the time. It is one of those gadgets, that if you store it away somewhere, you'll never get it out because it won't be worth the effort.
As I mentioned before, there are some other, quite handy, gadgets that come with it. There is a little removable tool with a hook on it that is designed to open cans with ring pulls on the top. This is a great little gadget that gets used a lot because it stops you from bending your nails on them! The other gadget is a jar opener. It is adjustable and a pretty good version. I have bought one of these in the past similar to the one that you get with this and paid £6 for it so that fact that it comes included is great. The third gadget is a little bottle opener that serves two purposes. Firstly it works in the traditional way and opens bottles with a metal lid like beer bottles. Secondly you can place it over plastic screw caps like squash bottles and open hem - it works a bit like a spanner. There are grips inside the hole that steady the lid in place making it easy to untighten even the sturdiest of lids.
Overall I would thoroughly recommend the electronic can opener. At first I thought it was going to be a gimmick that wouldn't be worth the money and so did mum-in-law, but it has turned out to be invaluable. She has had to practice a bit to get the hang of it, but now that she has, she thinks it's a life saver. No longer does she have to welcome us into her home with a list of things she needs opening, rather than a friendly hello!
Morphy Richards / TYpe: Kitchen Tools - Can Opener