They’re Building Better Can Openers--Efficient and Way Out of Sight

Times Staff Writer

If you’ve ever browsed at thrift shops or garage sales, you may have noticed quite a number of small electric appliances being sold. Some seem barely used and others look as if they’ve been worked to death. There are electric hamburger cookers galore . . . portable mixers, warming trays, deep-fryers, can openers. Although most of them work efficiently, but often noisily, table-type electric can openers seem to be appearing in larger numbers at garage sales lately, now that under-the-cabinet can openers are taking over many people’s kitchens.

Electric openers installed under cabinets are convenient time-saving devices as well as a neat way to free kitchen counters of clutter. It’s the answer to opening those large, tall cans that always seem to “overthrow” the old electric free-standing can opener.

Installed or wall-type can openers are not new. The first wall-mounted can opener, a hand-cranked type, was introduced by the Dazey Corp. around 1930. A simple operation--"So simple a child can use it,” said its logo--the Dazey product used the same basic principle, developed in 1925, of opening a can using a toothed feed wheel that rotates the can against the cutting wheel.

However, it wasn’t until 1956 that the first electric can opener finally arrived. It was well received. Introduced by Udico Corp., the device included a knife sharpener at the back of the unit.


Within a year at least eight other manufacturers produced electric can openers. Likewise, after General Electric Housewares (now Black & Decker) first came out with its under-the-cabinet model, it didn’t take long for other companies to enter the field.

The Newest Contender

Recently introduced and soon to be in the stores is the Count.R.Clear under-the-cabinet can opener from Oster in Wisconsin. The almond-colored gadget has four functions: It opens cans, bags, jars and bottles. Its Touch-A-Matic control pierces the can’s lid, opens it and then automatically shuts itself off, a feature not possible in some brands, which continuously rotate the can even after it has been opened. It works with any size cans, even odd-shaped and dented ones. The magnetic lid lifter easily snaps off for cleaning.

The bag opener, a small notch on the right side, is handy for heavy-duty plastic bags such as boilable bags that normally require the use of shears. At the unit’s bottom are specially designed wells that will open jars of all sizes. And nothing new, but always useful of course, is the bottle opener located on the left side of the unit. Oster’s new Count.R.Clear also has a convenient cord storage.


Another trend that’s garnering success in the world of kitchen electronics is the cordless rechargeable gadget. New from Keystone Manufacturing Co. in New York is the Deni Can-Do cordless electric can opener, a sleek European-designed portable unit.

Lightweight and slim, the compact unit has a handle, and when pressed with the thumb a magnet catches the can and rotates it to open. This practical model offers the performance of corded versions but can be taken around the kitchen, on a boat, in a recreational vehicle or when camping or picnicking outdoors.

The Deni Can-Do is powered by two batteries and can be plugged into a wall-mounted recharger during storage. It may be used on any size can and automatically turns off when the top is removed.

A Useful Aid

Another useful kitchen gadget coming soon in the Los Angeles market is a unique jar opener called Capscrew, which is being marketed by Stewart-Hicks Imports in Dallas.

Manufactured by Kee Devices Ltd. in Belfast, Ireland, the bell-shaped screw-top opener was developed by 71-year-old Tom Kee, an Irish engineer, for his arthritic wife. Originally presented in a medical aids catalogue in Europe, the Capscrew successfully took off as a useful all-purpose gadget and practical gift.

The conical or bell-shaped outer case is made of heavy-duty polypropylene plastic, and the inner liner insert is made of thermoplastic rubber of high frictional adherence. The unit, which comes with a self-aligning bracket, retaining pin and screws, can be mounted on a wall or shelf or under the cabinet. Or it may be used hand-held. A jar or bottle is simply inserted in the cone and twisted to the left to open. When twisted to the right, the jar reseals firmly.

The Capscrew is available in a white outer case with a choice of red, blue, green or brown inner lining and comes in a gift box.


The Oster Count.R.Clear electric under-the-cabinet can opener has a suggested retail price of $25.95 and will be available soon in Hinshaw’s and other stores carrying other Oster products.

The Deni Can-Do has a suggested retail price of $34.95 and is available at Robinson’s department stores.

The Capscrew has a suggested retail price of $9.95 and will be available by mid- to late August at the following stores: Kitchen A’ware (Diamond Bar, Montclair and West Covina), Lawry’s California Center Gift Shop (Los Angeles), Casual Gourmet (Northridge).