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Mystery Tools from Another Land

The Mystery Tool

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Kitchen Mysteries is a weekly exploration of oddities surrounding cooking and food. They could be recipes that fail when they shouldn’t, conflicting advice from different sources, or just plain weirdness. If it happens in a kitchen, and you’re not sure why, send a tweet to The Food Geek to find out what’s happening.

StarsInJensEyes asks via Twitter:

Hi, Jen,

Okay, let’s take a look at this mystery tool.

At first glance, it looks like a can opener. But it’s a really strange can opener if it is. Nowadays, the non-electric can openers we know look like:

Of course, those of a certain age, or those who lived in the right place or shopped in the right antique stores, may recall a can opener that looks like:

The tool you have seems to have a strange angle on it. So I dug around some more, until I ran across this Finnish can opener, and it seems to be a pretty popular design in Finland. Ikea is a Swedish company and not a Finnish company, but I would not be surprised to learn that the can opener has extended its reach beyond Finland. 

As you can see, it has the same crazy angle as your tool, so I’m guessing that it’s meant to be a can opener. The problem with these assortment packs of kitchen tools is that you really have little control over what you get. I’m not saying it was definitely put in as a joke, but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if someone was having a little trouble rounding out the kitchen assortment.

Having a little experience with even the straight can opener of that style, I know it’s not an easy thing to open cans with them. Hopefully you got a bunch of significantly more useful tools out of the bunch. Perhaps you can save the can opener for a party, where guests first have to figure out what the tool is and then what it’s used for. I’m guessing you won’t get much day to day use out of it.


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  • TLOsborne | 10/14/2016

    For Tabuk


  • Tabuk | 05/05/2010

    The tool with the black handle is definitely a can opener. I first used one in 1987 when I was teaching in Finland for a year. It was a bit strange to use at first but I was hooked once I mastered it. I bought one home and have used it for the past 23 years. My 15 year old daughter loves it.. as its the only one she's ever used! -Problem is I think it may have got accidentally chucked out this week and I would really like to know where I can buy a replacement.

    If anyone knows, or has one they have no further use for please let me know :-)
    I really dont want one of many that Ive seen around in the stores these days.

  • User avater
    aqn | 09/24/2009

    weswag: the two can openers that look like swimming sharks with their dorsal fin sticking up are indeed similar to Army issue can openers that I came to know growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam war. The G.I. can opener that I am familiar with has a hinge along the junction of the "fin" and the body, and can close flat.

    As for the original black handled tool: if it really is a can opener, it's for a left handed person. I don't see how it can work for a right handed person. A mirror image of it could convince me that it's a can opener, for a right handed person.

  • grandmaAlice | 09/23/2009

    This is indeed a can opener - since I am 77 years old, I have had one = not now but in the past. It can open bottles (like soda, etc.) and cans by punching in the pointed end and moving up and down around the lid - makes a jagged lid and I cut my thumb badly when opening a can of tuna when a youngster.

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