Top 5 Facts: Can openers

Knife to see you

The first can openers had the appearance of little more than oddly shaped knives. These worked by piercing and levering the lid of the can off the body.


Food preservation in cans dates from at least the 1770s where the Dutch Navy carried rations around during the voyages. The Netherlands was known for its canned salmon.

Hammer and chisel

The first cans were heavy and hard to open, often weighing a lot more than the produce they contained. Their instructions often read ‘cut round the top with chisel and hammer’.

Feed to feed

The first wheel-type can openers utilised a secondary feed. The cutting wheel would pivot around a central spiked shaft, dug into the centre of the lid, to open the can.

John Wayne

From the Forties, the US Army used the P-38 variant can opener. It was known by troops as the ‘John Wayne’, as the actor used it in its demonstration film.