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Woodworking Tips and Tricks…How to open a can.


This seems so small a thing but I think it’s worth passing on.

When I was an apprentice (a very long time ago),  I was going to open a putty can with the corner tip of the putty knife.  Seems like an appropriate thing to do, since you are going to use putty and you have a putty knife in your hand.  A journeyman gently corrected me that if I continued with my present action, I would promptly break off the tip of the knife.  To properly open the can, you use the side of the putty knife up towards the handle where it’s thicker and won’t break.

I have gone through gallons of putty (in pint cans) over the years and have never broken a putty knife  opening a can, thanks to that kind journeyman.  Now if you can’t find your putty knife or are opening a can of stain or paint, a chisel is the tool to use….No?  I thought chisels were the go-to tool of choice for opening cans, substitute screwdriver, and general all around pry bar….maybe the journeyman should have clued me in on those too.  But then maybe he did and I wasn’t listening.  Apprentices have a habit of doing that.  Especially young, last-born apprentices.

Of course if you do break it, they make a great scraper that can be ground to whatever shape is needed; it’s really hard steel and works great.

A note on putty knives:  by two.  Buy a real flexible one for putty and a stiff one for taking things apart.  I just used a stiff one taking off glue blocks on a table I am working on.  It is so thin, it slides between the two pieces of wood and gently pries them apart.  It shears the glue line and most of the time makes a clean break, unlike using a chisel, screwdriver (another great use for a tool…) or just banging on it with a hammer….


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