The ability to open a can is one of the most useful functions of a Swiss Army Knife. A can opener was included on the original soldier knife and most medium or large-size models that have been produced since.
Opening a can with a Swiss Army Knife is safe and very easy. It can also be done fairly quickly with a little bit of practice.
The first part of this article will explain how to open a can using the standard can opener included on most Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. The second part will show how to open a can using the less-common combo tool. I’ll also include a Youtube video that demonstrates both.
How to Open Cans Using the Standard Swiss Army Knife Can Opener
The can opener is one of the tools found in Victorinox’s “standard opener layer”. This layer consists of the can opener with a screwdriver tip as well as the flathead screwdriver/bottle opener/wire stripper tool.
The can opener tool is the one with a small rectangular tip and curved blade at the end. It is hooked at the back so it can hold onto the rim of the can.
To open a can with a Swiss Army Knife, open the can opener tool all the way. It should click into place. Keep in mind that it doesn’t lock. Placing too much pressure on it the wrong way could cause it to close accidentally.
Position the can opener so that the hook on the back of the tool is catching on the outside of the can’s rim. The can opener’s blade should be inside the rim.
Place your thumb on top of the can opener tool. Make small cuts into the top of the can by pushing down on the tool with your thumb and rocking your wrist forward. The blade will cut in a forward direction as you go around the can. The hook on the back should act as a fulcrum that pivots against the can’s rim.
I have found that making several small cuts works better than trying to make larger ones. Smaller cuts are easier to control and cause the metal to flex less. This is important the further around you go since there is less metal to support the lid as you cut.
Stop making cuts when you are about half an inch or so from cutting all the way around. Take the can opener tool and use it to pry the lid out of the can and up. Be very careful of sharp edges.
I like to use a damp paper towel to wipe the inside of the rim. This will help remove any metal shavings before you pour the contents of the can.
Wipe any residual food off of the can opener tool with a rag or paper towel. Then carefully rinse it off and dry it. I like to shake it a few times in case any water has seeped into the Swiss Army Knife’s moving parts.
How to Open Cans Using the Victorinox Combo Tool
The other tool that Swiss Army Knives use for opening cans is called the combo tool. It is named this because it combines the following functions into one tool: Can opener, bottle opener, flathead screwdriver, and wire stripper.
The combo tool isn’t nearly as common as the standard Swiss Army Knife can opener. It is found on thinner models such as the Bantam, which you can find by clicking here.
Unlike the standard can opener, the combo tool cuts in a backward direction. This is similar to how can openers on Leatherman multitools work.
To use the combo tool to open a can, start by placing the hook on the back of the tool underneath the outside of the can’s rim. The front end should be on the inside of the rim.
Push the tip of the combo tool down into the top of the can. It should penetrate the top and make a small cut. Rotate the can and continue to make cuts.
As with the standard can opener, small cuts are the best way to use a Swiss Army Knife’s combo tool. Stop making cuts when you are around half an inch from going all the way around.
Use the combo tool to lift the lid up. Wipe the inside of the rim before pouring the contents of the can.
Clean the combo tool by wiping off any residual food and rinsing it off. Shake the knife with the tool facing down and then dry it off.
Why Should You Know How to Open a Can with a Swiss Army Knife
Being able to open a can with a Swiss Army Knife is a very valuable skill. Here are some reasons why you should know how to do it:
Probably the most important reason why you may need to use a Swiss Army Knife to open a can is the possibility of not having electricity. Many people depend on canned goods for emergency food but don’t have a manual can opener.
National Geographic’s American Blackout does a good job illustrating the importance of having a manual can opener. One character injures himself trying to open a can of peaches with a large kitchen knife. He stabbed his hand instead of the can. You can find American Blackout by clicking here.
Can openers on Swiss Army Knives are very durable. They have fewer moving parts than crank-style manual can openers. Crank-style can openers are prone to breakage or having their gears strip out. This isn’t a problem with those found on (real) Swiss Army Knives.
They are Easy to Clean
One of my favorite things about the can openers on Swiss Army Knives is that they are very easy to clean. They are a simple flat piece of metal which is easy to wipe down. Also, the way that they cut makes it difficult for food to get inside the knife’s moving parts.
You Can Have it Almost Anywhere
Another good thing about can openers on Swiss Army Knives is that they allow you to have a can opener with you almost anywhere. I made a friend at one of my previous jobs by being her chili-opening guy. They are also convenient if you forget or misplace your primary can opener.
I have been using Swiss Army Knives for most of my life and have lost track of how many times I have used one to open a can. I have used them at home, at work, and while camping.