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Whether it’s an SHTF situation, a hiking trip, or just a run-of-the-mill power outage, there may be a time when you find yourself without a can opener. With a little bit of knowledge and just a little bit of elbow grease, you can open those aluminum cans without a can opener.
That’s right, there are many other ways to open a can. You can use a knife, a spoon, a hatchet, and even the concrete you walk on to open up your cans. Here’s how to do it.
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1. How to Open a Can with a Spoon
You don’t have to be exceptionally strong to open a can without a can opener. All you need is a spoon. However, it needs to be a very strong spoon. This method works because the spoon is stronger than the aluminum, and combined with friction, it can break through the aluminum can. It’s even better if you have gloves and a wet towel as well.
Sit on the floor or in a very sturdy seat, and use your knees to steady the can against the floor or the chair you are sitting in. You’re going to place the pointy end of the spoon at about a 45-degree angle into the crease on the lid of the can.
The part of the spoon you eat from will be facing down on top of the can, with the rounded bottom of the spoon facing up at you. Hold the handle of the spoon in your hand and place your thumb on the rounded back of the spoon.
Pressing down as hard as you can, scrape the spoon back and forth over a small section of the crease, again and again. The friction of the spoon will begin to wear through the can. It will also create dust and shavings from the aluminum, which could be a little bit sharp and definitely dirty. You’ll need to periodically wipe the aluminum dust off the can and the spoon.
Eventually, the spoon will break through the can and create a small hole. You’ll want to clean the spoon and the can off very well at this point because you don’t want any of that dust to contaminate your food.
After you have wiped off all of the dust, you can start to pry the can open with the spoon enough to remove all of the contents. If needed, you can continue the process around the rest of the can, a little section at a time, until you can pry the can all the way open.
Full Spectrum Survival offers a video demonstration of how to open a can with a spoon. You can view it here:
2. How to Open a Can With a Knife
If you don’t want to use a spoon to open your can, you can also try using a knife. However, this is more dangerous than using a spoon and you risk damaging your knife (not to mention your hands). The sharper and stronger the knife, the better.
You don’t want to saw the lid off of the can, as this is pretty dangerous, risks losing or contaminating the food, and could ruin your knife. (You could also use a chisel if you don’t have a knife handy.)
Set the can on a stable, sturdy surface such as a countertop or workbench. Position your knife straight up and down so that the point is inserted into the outermost crease where the side of the can meets the lid.
Grasp the handle of the blade with your hand and close your fist around it with a firm grip. Make sure your thumb is facing up. Bring the palm of your other hand down and hit the hand holding the knife. Hit hard enough to push into the can, but not so hard that you lose control of the knife.
After a few hits, the sharp knife will begin to poke a hole into the can. Once you’ve broken through, you can pull the knife out, move it over a couple of centimeters, and start again. Keep going around the can until you have small holes all the way around.
Now that the lid has been weakened, you can begin to pry the can open by inserting the tip of the knife into the hole almost horizontally, then pressing down on the handle of the knife. As you work your way around the can, it will pop open. If not, you can use another, smaller knife to saw through the small parts of the can that are still connected.
Be careful not to knock any debris into the food. Also, wear gloves and be careful not to cut yourself as you work. You can see diagrams on how to open a can with a knife here. Tim Anderson demonstrates a similar technique in his video on how to open a can with a knife here:
3. How to Open a Can Using Concrete
If you don’t have a knife or a spoon, you can still open a can quickly and easily with a concrete block or brick, or even a sidewalk. Here’s how.
Turn the can upside down and place the top onto the concrete. Apply a little pressure, and quickly rub the can back and forth over the surface of the concrete. This will loosen the seal where the can has been crimped closed.
After some vigorous scraping, you should be able to squeeze the can hard enough to pop it open. If the can doesn’t open, rub it against the concrete some more and then try again.
Keep in mind, there will be some metal shavings and debris from the can, and you may lose some of the liquid inside from working on the can while it is upside down.
KGB survivalist gives a short demonstration of how to open a can using concrete here:
4. How to Open a Can Using a Metal File
This method of opening a can without a can opener is very similar in theory to using concrete to open a can. All you need is a metal file.
Steady the can on a sturdy surface, such as a countertop. Hold the can with one hand and use the file to shave the top of the can. After some time, the seal will be worn away by the friction from the file and you can pop the can open by squeezing it between your hands.
5. How to Open a Can Using Pliers
Pliers can be used to open a can as well. The best kind of pliers to use are flat-nose pliers.
With your pliers, crimp and twist the rim of the can where the side meets the lid. Do this all the way around the can until it loosens and pops open. You may need to take the pliers and pry the lid the rest of the way open.
6. How to Open a Can Using Tin Snips
Another easy method of opening a can without a can opener is to use tin snips. If you happen to keep tin snips on hand, you can easily snip off the outer edges of the can and carefully lift away the lid.
No matter which method you use, remember that aluminum cans have sharp edges and create particles and dust in the process of opening. Always take safety precautions when opening cans.