Church Keys

How long has it been since you used a church key to open a beer or some other canned beverage? Ever?

Using my memory, and without searching for other people’s version(s) of history, I seem to recall that drinks in cans left it to your own devices to get at the product. I’m sure can openers for getting at more solid contents came around when the can began being used for food storage and packaging.

But drinks required poking a hole or two (the second for easing the pressure inside the can) in the top of the can so you could drink from it. The “church key” made a triangular hole and was the sort of device that was at least as common as a pocket knife.

Somewhere slong the way church keys gave way to pop tops and tabs. At first these were tear-off and throw-away thingies. Then the lift, open, push back in sort. There are still canned beverages using either of these types of openers.

Do you have any interesting yarns involving either church keys or those pop tops? Ever made a chain out of pop tops? Ever know anybody to swallow one they had stuck back into the can after opening it?

This thread is for all things church key. Enjoy.

Actually, I used a church key last week to open a can of evaporated milk for a recipe. There are still a few items that don’t have pull-tabs on them.

Of course, they are still essential for the shotgunning of beer. :smiley:

It’s really inconvenient to do so, though. Condensed milk cans don’t have the characteristic rim that the church key can “grab onto” and give it leverage to poke that triangular hole.

I think the last time I used one was in the 1970s. That’s when various alternatives to the disoposable pull-tabs that left the part poked out attached to the can started coming out. It was an era of interestin experimentation, although there’s basically only the one model in use now. We’ve still got old “church keys” around, but we only use the side for removing the occasional non-twist bottle cap anymore.

Back when it was just the tear-off-throw-away pop tops, what percentage of the time would the little flap thing break before you got the can opened? In my case, I’d say maybe 10% or less. If I got in a hurry or had the thing at a bad angle, the percentage would go up. Once that happened, if you didn’t have a church key, getting that little do-lolly out of the hole could call for some serious ingenuity. Screwdriver, nail, stick, key, belt buckle, no telling what all would be invoked to finish the task. Ah, the good old days!

Do church keys for motor oil cans go by some other name? Surely something less prosaic than can opener, right?

You use them to open extra holes in a beer can to make beer can chicken.

I used one just a few months ago, on Thanksgiving to be exact. Once I open the cranberry jelly can, I use the church key to poke an air hole in the bottom to allow that beautiful purple cylinder of jelly out onto the serving dish.

I’m gathering that you don’t mean church key as in, the key one would use to unlock the door of a church.

I think I know what device you’re talking about, but I must admit I was rather confused when I first opened this thread.

Heck, if you buy cans of juice you still need a church key. I use one for V8, or apple juice. I open the can and pour it into a pitcher. Also, they do make condensed milk cans that have the ridges, and a church key opens them just fine. I’ve also used the church key to get broth out of the can in a rush when the can opener was misplaced. It’s still a handy thing to have.

Is “church key” some weird sort of term for those old-fashioned bar-shaped can openers with a pointy on one end and a blunt bottle-opener on the other end? I use that thing fairly often, if only because I use evaporated milk several times a year. Mine has a magnet and lives on the fridge.

Well, not to be exclusionary, if you have some nice tales about opening church doors, be my guest.

Is there an alternate name for the triangle-hole-making tool used to pierce can tops? Is “church key” a regionalism?

With the wide variety of regular can openers available, and with some of them having a blade or a protruberance that does what a church key does, I would hope that the nomenclature for these tools is quite specific. Again, I’m refraining from web searches to find out what others have to say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least one website devoted to nothing but church keys!

It’s that sort of dooey, but I refrain from labeling it “weird.” What do you call it?

I never really thought about a name for it to be honest. We had several in the house growing up that I used all the time and I have one or two in my kitchen drawer now. I had just never heard that term for it.

Church Key

(Although, my experience always identified bottle openers, not can openers, as church keys. Back before twist-off caps, they were a bit more important to have.)
This site tends to support my memory although, with the introduction of double-ended tools with a bottle opener at one end and a can opener at the other, I can see where the term got extended.

I have one, but I almost never use it. (That can of apple juice in my fridge is an exception.)

I’ve never heard the term ‘church key’ for it before, though.

I guess I’d call it a can opener. Just not the kind of can opener I normally use, which has two handles and a twirly thing.

I’ve always known the device as a “church key”. I use one several times a week to open a bottle of beer, but not the pointy end- the bottle opener end. I keep one stuck to each of my refrigerators.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say. It’s not much, but there is an image of one kind of church key. Others are more ornamental, or have a slightly different design. (I think The Pyramid Collection had a Dragon one for example, but I don’t think it had a punch tip.) ETA: They don’t have the dragon version anymore, they have a skeleton “church key” design bottle top remover (no punch) though.

I last used one about 2 weeks ago to open a can of tomato sauce to make marinara.

When we aren’t using it to open cans like tomato sauce/paste, juice, condensed or evaporated milk, we use it to open bottles of beer.

Why’d I think a church key was that key-shaped device used to open cans of sardines and spam? What’s that doohickey called?

Anyhow, yes, I still occasionally use my “can opener” (not to be confused with the dual-disk Swing-Away can opener) for things already mentioned: evaporated milk, tomato juice (which I only use in cooking), pineapple juice, etc. But for my jellied cranberry sauce, I use the Swing-Away to just pierce a hole, since it’s already in my hand from opening the other end. Hate hate hate the smooth bottom cranberry sauce cans they started making a few years ago! You can’t get a grip to puncture the bottom and it makes it so tiresome to shake out the jelly. And don’t get me started on the pull-top cranberry jelly cans, with the interior rim that scrapes at the nice smooth jelly sides. Horrid! Now get off my lawn!