How To Open A Can Without A Can Opener

By on November 18, 2013
can opener

Have you ever been truly hungry?

Have you ever been truly thirsty?

Do you know to what limits you are willing to go in order to satisfy those basic needs?

The recent typhoon that hit the Philippines show just how quickly things can go from bad to worse…

I have family and friends in the Philippines and, while they were spared from the brunt of the Typhoon, they were able to relay messages that were not exactly spread on the open media.

Below is an excerpt from an article originally posted on Reuters that lays out how bad things had gotten (if this is what’s being told, imagine how things really are over there):

Desperation gripped Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as looting turned deadly on Wednesday and survivors panicked over shortages of food, water and medicine, some digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open.

Five days after one of the strongest storms ever recorded slammed into cities and towns in the central Philippines, anger and frustration boiled over on Wednesday as essential supplies dwindled. Some survivors scrawled signs reading “Help us”.

Controversy also emerged over the death toll. President Benigno Aquino said local officials had overstated the loss of life, saying it was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated. His comments, however, drew skepticism from some aid workers.

Some areas appeared to teeter near anarchy amid widespread looting of shops and warehouses for food, water and supplies.

There were reports of gunfire between security forces and armed men near a mass grave in worst-hit Tacloban in Leyte province, but city administrator Tecson John Lim denied the clash based on information he had received from the army.

Eight people were crushed to death when looters raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse in the town of Alangalang, causing a wall to collapse, local authorities said.

Other looters still managed to cart away 33,000 bags of rice weighing 50 kg (110 lb) each, said Orlan Calayag, administrator of the state-run grain agency National Food Authority.

Warehouses owned by food and drinks company Universal Robina Corp and drug company United Laboratories were ransacked in the storm-hit town of Palo in Leyte, along with a rice mill in Jaro, said Alfred Li, head of the Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim said 90 percent of the coastal city of 220,000 people had been destroyed, with only 20 percent of residents receiving aid. Houses were now being looted because warehouses were empty, he said.

“The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation,” Lim told Reuters.

Some survivors in Tacloban dug up water pipes in their desperate need for water.

“We don’t know if it’s safe. We need to boil it. But at least we have something,” said Christopher Dorano, 38.

“There have been a lot of people who have died here.”

Resident Rachel Garduce said the aid – 3 kg (6 lb) of rice and 1 liter (34 ounces) of water per household a day – was not enough in her ravaged Tacloban neighborhood.

Her aunt in Manila, 580 km (360 miles) to the north, was traveling by road and ferry to bring supplies. “We are hoping she won’t get hijacked,” she said.

Rice and Water may get them by for a while, but from what I was told, many of them do have canned goods.

Canned goods will provide them with  much needed protein, vitamins and additional water.

There is just one problem.

Many of them don’t have traditional can openers.

So that begs the question…

How do you open a can without a can opener?

Actually it’s pretty simple.

Modern cans are sealed using a roller that bends the top of the can over the wall and the bends it again to form a leak proof crimp in the can. This leaves only a small amount of metal around the top lip of the can that actually seals the contents.

If you ever find yourself without a can opener simply find a large flat rock or piece of concrete, the rougher the better.  Simply place the can upside down on the rock and press down slightly.

Begin sliding the can back and forth across the rock until you begin to see moisture from the contents being left behind.

Once you see the juice, it means that the seal on the can has been broken and you should be able to use a knife or other sturdy utensil to pry the top of the can off.

If you are not concerned with saving water and only want the food, you can keep sliding the can across the rock to further erode the seal and make opening the can easier.

Sure, you could poke holes in the can and try to cut it open.

But that leaves a huge risk of injury to your hands.

And in a survival situation, risking a debilitating injury to your hands is just foolish…

Not only would it severely cripple your ability  to functionally use tools, but in a survival situation sanitation and hygiene are major issues and infection can spread rapidly.

It is tips and tricks like these that will hopefully spread and be used to save lives.

Do you have any that you want to share?

Please leave a comment and let me know below.



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'Above Average' Joe

About 'Above Average' Joe

I am just an average guy with a passion for learning. I am excited to share the things I learn with you but I am most interested in learning from you. Survival Life is more than just one man. It is a growing and living community of individuals; all with the desire to be prepared to survive and thrive no matter what this world throws at us. I look forward to growing with you! Feel free to follow me on google+

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20 Comments

  1. Ronald (Ronnie) Loga

    I was wondering if I can post these on FaceBook. Ronnie

    • 'Above Average' Joe

      'Above Average' Joe

      absolutely Ronnie, there are share buttons to the side of the website so that you can post them to facebook, twitter, reddit,etc. Feel free to spread the word!

  2. Chuck

    It rains frequently in the Philippines. I watched people, on television, letting rain water run off collecting surfaces onto the ground. They could have caught the rain water to drink. Fifty years ago all those villagers used rooftop cisterns to collect rain water for use as drinking water and for washing. In fifty years they have forgotten how to get along with nature. Rather than digging up pipes that further damages the infrastructure, they would be a lot better off collecting rain water. Just a day or two after the typhoon the news was reporting a heavy rainstorm. That rainstorm alone, properly collected would have provided water for at least several days.

    The town that was destroyed sits right next to the ocean. While there are huge amounts of trash in the salt water, that can be cleared away, the water filtered through cloth and then distilled. In the long run distilled water can cause vitamin deficiency, in the short term it will keep you alive. I noticed fires in the TV scenes of the town, so some people have been able to start fires. That will provide the heat source for distillation of sea water.

    The biggest problem that I see with the Philippines is that they have become too accustomed to the government providing for them and they don’t know how to provide for themselves other than stealing. We will be afflicted with the same syndrome should some large scale disaster strike the U.S. This helpless, dependence I think was most epitomized by the TV shot that was played over and over of the boy saying plaintively, “When is somebody going to do something for us?”

    My thought was, “When are you going to get going and do something for yourself?” Unless so badly injured that I can’t move, I am determined that I am not going to sit on my ass waiting for some government wonk to get his act together. I am going to get busy getting my life back on track doing whatever it takes.

    I think that is the biggest advantage in preparation for disaster. You have made the decision to get started on the road back and are not waiting for some handout. It is mindset as much as anything else that you might have done.

    • Steve Vise

      Kind of hard to collect rainwater off your roof’s run-off when you no longer have a roof, or even a bucket to collect it in.

      My girlfriend lives in Ormoc City and was destroyed in this storm ( I thought she was dead for a week, until she got a message to me via the Red Cross). Her family was smart enough to have stockpiled some food and water before the storm. They lost their home and are now living in a tent, but had enough food and water to survive until supplies started coming in a few days later.

      The moral to this story is, BE PREPARED. I live in Louisiana, and my family has always keep at least a month’s supply of canned food and bottled water on hand in case of a hurricane, along with plenty of propane.

      • Steve Vise

        Her HOME was destroyed, my GIRLFRIEND wasn’t destroyed LOL

    • Steve Vise

      Most roofs were completely gone off buidlings.

      • Chuck

        True, Steve, but a blue tarp or any water resistant material can be used to collect rain water. The larger the item used to collect the rain water, the more water one has but even a quart of water is absolutely better than no water. A sheet hung in the rain will collect rain water. Some of it can be run off into a container and then the sheet can be rung out to get the water retained by the fibers. While there probably aren’t too many wool blankets in the P.I., a wool blanket will absorb an astonishing amount of rain water. I saw lots of tin sheeting in the pictures I saw of the damage. A sheet of tin bent with a V in the middle will collect water and drain it into a container. All it takes is some imagination and initiative. I used roofs and cisterns as the example of the way water was collected as recently as 50 years ago, maybe even more recently. It has been fifty years since I was in that part of the world.

    • Sue G.

      Thank you Chuck for your honesty and guts in saying what you posted.
      I was thinking the very same thing. How sad when someone feels that looting = self-preservation vs. criminality.

  3. Adam

    Great and helpful info! I was just recently wondering about this. Would this technique also work on a larger can, like a can of peaches or something? Thanks

    -Adam

    • 'Above Average' Joe

      'Above Average' Joe

      Hey Adam, all modern cans are sealed using the same technology, so yes this should work on any size can.

  4. Chuck

    We used to open C-ration cans all the time with our bayonets. You cut an X in the top of the can with the bayonet or any large heavy bladed knife, bend the remnants of the lid out for a handle, bend them totally in to get at the contents of the can. It’s easy. Put the point of the bayonet at the rim with the sharp edge of the blade pointing in and push on the handle of the bayonet into the can while holding the can. Turn the can 90 degrees and repeat. You will have cut an X into the can. Use the blade to bend the top in or out as you desire.

    Surplus bayonets make great survival knives. Don’t bother trying to buy U.S. surplus bayonets. They are too expensive. I bought half a dozen assorted bayonets from countries like Yugoslavia, Rumania and other countries for $30 at a gun show. You want WWII or WWI bayonets, not later bayonets as those are mainly for decoration rather than function. Up until the Viet Nam war bayonets were manufactured for utility rather than decoration. The steel was good grade and durable. They can be sharpened to take a good edge and will withstand a considerable amount of abuse. If someone lost his keys to a lock we used to use two bayonets to break the lock. That’s how durable they were.

    It really doesn’t matter what shape the bayonets are in when you buy them, unless it is such significant damage that it is permanent and can’t be ground away or polished away. In fact, if the bayonets are rusty, you can use that fact to bargain down the price. Once the rust and other surface blemishes are cleaned up, you can use cold bluing to restore the finish. It works really well on the bayonet steel. Until I can acquire an actual scabbard that fits, I make a temporary scabbard out of bicycle tubes. I put one piece inside another to make a double walled scabbard. I leave extra material at the bottom and staple it shut with heavy duty staples so that the point of the bayonet which now is needle sharp won’t penetrate the bottom of the scabbard. Again, gun shows have all kinds of cheap nylon sheaths that you can buy to make it easy to carry your bayonet. These were real instruments made for really killing people. From WWI through the Korean War, bayonet fighting was a significant part of ground combat. They were heavy duty instruments made for hard usage, not some fanciful dilettante’s toy as so many modern knives are. There are bayonets from earlier wars too, but steel making wasn’t quite as good and I don’t know their durability. Some late 19th century bayonets might be okay. You want knife bayonets as opposed to needle bayonets. You want bayonets that have a handle as opposed to bayonets that just have a locking lug. Although I did make a very useful spear out of an SKS bayonet, and a stiletto out of another SKS bayonet, using a pipe for the handle. They are only weapons and don’t have the utility of a knife bayonet. I use the spear to kill gophers and moles in their tunnels.

    • Gordon Gaines

      Have you tried to make a sheath out of a piece of PVC. They work great if you mould them correctly.

      • Chuck

        What kind of PVC material do you use, pipe? How do you form it, use heat? If heat, a heat gun or some other form of heat.

  5. Bill

    Anyone who has any interest in being prepared probably has a can opener. Think about your multi-tool, Swiss Army knife or manual can opener. Anyone, who isn’t preparing at all, won’t benefit from being able to open a can. The need for good water is much more important.

  6. dirty Bert

    one of the best confort thing to me is toilet paper.of course the is lkots of moss here in wa andthimbal berry brush.

  7. Charlie

    Once upon a time there was a little device used by millions of servicemen called a “P38″ can opener. Folded, you could carry it in your wallet since it was no thicker than a couple of credit cards. Opened up,you could open almost any can with it. Check your outdoors store for one of them….

  8. Douglas Dobson

    ok, so you have a knife, and you’re banging the can against a rock or concrete? Here try this: 1)stick the knife in the top of the can 2)carefully pry it open, or even better, go on Ebay or your favorite army surplus site, and by some P-38 can openers for every keychain, every bugout bag, food storage area, in every vehicle, they’re super cheap small and they get the job done.

  9. Mom

    This information is very valuable. Think of how one could empower their neighbors without providing every unprepared one with a can opener. You would also be able to give away some canned goods without sacrificing opsec.

  10. frank

    why not just use the pull tab?
    LOL
    just kidding.
    good tip.

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