If he were alive today, Ezra J. Warner, the Connecticut Yankee from Waterbury who received the first U.S. patent in 1858 for his can-opening device, would be shocked to see the vast array of modern can openers now available. The later models are definitely a hundred times safer than his dangerous-looking design, which looked like a combination bayonet and sickle.
The birth of electric can openers in the mid-'50s paved the way for even safer devices, closing the doors on the first can opener, which of course was the knife, as well as other deadly looking, weapon-like tools that followed.
Opening cans with gear-driven cutting wheels, electric can openers outnumber manual ones in variety of design and function. In choosing between the two gadgets, it's a question of energy; the decision lies in whether to use manual or motor power. However, many people seem to be choosing the quick-turn way.
In an effort to revive the use of the manual can opener, Imperial Knife from New York has just launched the Ultimate Can Opener ($12). Although it will never compete with the speed of an electric or battery-operated can opener, the white European-style opener is easier to handle than any other manual can opener.
Cuts Around Corners
It deals with more than ordinary round tops of soup or cat food tins. Remember how other openers got bogged down with odd-shaped cans? The Ultimate Can Opener promises to cut completely through the hairpin turns of sardine, ham and pate tins and hurdle dented rims.
A pliers-type opener made of durable acrylic and Swiss-made steel alloy, the Ultimate Can Opener is designed to open under the rim instead of above. The removed lid is kept locked in the opener's grasp until released into the wastebasket. This safe, hygienic feature eliminates touching any dirty, dripping lids and keeps dust, metal filings and the lid itself from falling into the can.
Imperial has also listened to left-handed users, arthritics and youngsters in producing this tool. The manufacturer points out that through the unique positioning of the opener atop the can instead of beside it, the lightweight gadget is "user friendly" to everyone. Rustproof, the Ultimate Can Opener is dishwasher-safe.
The next step up from a manual can opener is a rechargeable can opener. It has the advantage of being taken to the can, instead of the can to it as in standard electric can openers. Although consumers favor the concept of cordless appliances, some worry about the cost of electricity needed to charge the appliance.
Most manufacturers claim that the cost is nil. Sunbeam, for instance, estimates that the electricity needed to charge its Freedom cordless appliances amounts to a cost of less than a dime a month.
For those with no room under the kitchen cabinet or on the countertop to house the units, the cordless can openers can be recharged elsewhere and stored in the drawer.
This type of can opener is becoming popular for taking to patios, campsites or picnics. Many of these devices have popped up in the last year or so, joining the already crowded rechargeable or cordless field. Most of them have similar features and are powerful enough to compete with the fixed electric units.
One such contributor is Black & Decker, presenting its compact HandyOpener Cordless Can Opener ($29). Sleek in style, this gadget can be wall-mounted in its own charging base or it can rest on the countertop. On a single charge, it is powerful enough to open 20 cans. The slim white opener will open small, square and irregular-shaped cans. Initial piercing of the can is easily done, and the opener shuts off automatically when the lid has been completely severed. The removable cutting assembly is dishwasher safe.
The Oster Count-r-Clear rechargeable can opener Model 563-16 ($25) mounts under cabinets or on the wall. One overnight charge will open 20 cans. Unlike the Black & Decker can opener, the Oster unit can be used while plugged in, too, because the cutting gear is accessible at the front of the unit. Like most units in this product category, the Count-r-Clear has a power-piece blade, a magnetic lid lifter and removable cutting assembly.
In the category of countertop free-standing electric can openers, the problem of tall cans has been solved by Farberware, which is introducing an extendable can opener. Model D2400 ($20), in white with gray accents, features a free-standing countertop adjustable unit with a hidden cord storage in the rear compartment. It also includes an automatic shut-off feature, magnet and removable cutting assembly.
The Ultimate Can Opener from Imperial Knife is available at the Broadway, Crate & Barrel (Costa Mesa) and through mail order: Send $11.95 to Just For Openers, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 4066, New York, NY 10036.
The Black & Decker HandyOpener is available at Best Products, Fedco, J.C. Penney and Sears.
The Oster Count-r-Clear rechargeable can opener is available at J.C. Penney and major department stores.
The Farberware extendable can opener will be available in mid-March at the Broadway.