Thread Number: 75794  /  Tag: Small Appliances
Sunbeam Electric Can Opener Troubleshooting tips?
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Post# 996244   6/5/2018 at 05:20 by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        

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I recently bought this awesome gadget and really like the thing. Even the color despite not thinking of it for appliances. I mean, how often do you see a pink can opener?

This is a Sunbeam 'Vista' Electric Can Opener model 64-S2 with the atomic diamond grill design from the early 1960's.

It runs perfectly, doesn't seem to have motor or electrical issues, and is in mostly great shape physically if not a little scratched up. There is just one problem.

It will not grip the cans properly. By that I mean the gear wheel and cut-blade wheel don't connect tightly enough to lock the can lip in place to hold it securely as it opens the can. Large cans (such as 48 oz Tomato Juice cans) will not stay in it at all. Average size cans (such as 15oz soup cans or canned vegetables) aren't much better. Small cans do alright (like a tuna can) but you still don't feel very trusting in the machines grip.

It will work if you hold the can in place and turn it yourself along with the machine.. and to be honest I think we all lightly hold on to the can anyway when we open them even when the machine does grip correctly just from nature of habit... however in this case you really are holding the can in place on the machine not just gently grazing it as it turns. Like you would on a machine that works properly and does the real holding for you.

Does anyone have any tips or ideas I might try to fix the situation and restore the original grip?

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Post# 996251 , Reply# 1   6/5/2018 at 06:13 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

Gear wheel and blade need to be replaced.Hope you can find them.Over time the gear teeth wear and the cutter blade gets dull and will no longer make the start cut.Also crud gets stuck around those parts-give them a good cleaning and maybe the opener will work again-COOL LITTLE MACHINE!!!

Post# 996277 , Reply# 2   6/5/2018 at 11:18 by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        
Thanks Tolivac !

sudsomatic's profile picture
I appreciate the tips. Makes sense and gives me some things to try. It is a cool looking little gadget and considering it's about half a century old and still purrs like a kitten that's pretty cool too. The kitten just needs new 'teeth' I guess

Post# 996280 , Reply# 3   6/5/2018 at 12:47 by petek (Ontari ari ari O )        

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I've a few different electric can openers incl one of these.. I don't think they were ever designed to open a can larger than regular 8-10 oz type soup can . From what I can recall of the 60s I don't even recollect being able to buy soup in cans any larger than that, not like today where everything has been jumbo sized. However I've been known to be wrong occasionally LOL. One other thing I've noticed with my good Swing AWay manual opener.. there are some regular sized cans these days where even it struggles to grip and I think it has to do with the actual can rim design itself ... somethings different.

Post# 996325 , Reply# 4   6/5/2018 at 22:45 by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        
Thank you too Petek !

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Can sizes being different at the time of it's manufacture were something I hadn't thought about.

Most of my growing up was in the 80's and I know they had the larger cans by that time as I remember the 48oz Tomato juice cans being a regular thing when my Mom made chili or nights when she made her "version" of spaghetti, which was really just macaroni noodles and beef in tomato juice. I hadn't really factored in the super sizing effects that must have come into play in the 70's or 80s for canned goods.

Makes sense as it doesn't even pretend to hold that size of can then.. but it has so much trouble with standard soup cans I just assumed it wasn't working properly in general.

The lip of the can changing is an interesting thought too. I've watched YouTube videos of Vintage canned good openings in the past. Where someone will open a decades old can of corn or something just to see how well it stayed preserved. In those videos, now that I remember, often times the cans do look different but most of those videos are from the UK and I only am familiar with US canned goods so I just assumed that was just country differences, but now I wonder.

Post# 996326 , Reply# 5   6/5/2018 at 22:57 by petek (Ontari ari ari O )        

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The big tomato juice and fruit juice HI C type cans were around back then but the lids weren't removed with a can opener normally speaking,, they were opened with those triangular openers on opposite sides so you could pour the contents out . Still in all, give the gears and the cutting blade a good cleaning .

Post# 996429 , Reply# 6   6/7/2018 at 04:08 by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        
Good point !!

sudsomatic's profile picture
And you're right... A punch style opener is definitely the better way for juice cans. I was mainly grabbing what sizes I had around the kitchen to try the gadget out when I first got it and found it didn't quite work right on the average size cans.

Oddly enough putting a big can like that on an opener isn't that weird in my head to me. When I was growing up I remember using a hand held crank opener.. making a one inch or so cut with it on either side of the big juice can rims then sticking a butter knife in the slit to push up and in so as to bend the metal to open up the holes more and then pouring the juice out.

When we got an electric opener later on, it was a bear to do because it was hard to stop the electric one once it started so as to get "only" those short, one inch or so cuts on just two ends. So I usually just let it run and take the whole lid, and I still use an opener that way sometimes just out of habit.

I have no idea why we never had a punch opener, I think it was just one of those cool old timey things my Mom continued to do in her married years from how she grew up in the 40's.. though I'm sure there were punch openers invented by the 40's hah.

Post# 996876 , Reply# 7   6/11/2018 at 18:56 by cuffs054 (MONTICELLO, GA)        

I had the same issue with a new elec. can opener. It would work on some cans but not other. I finally gave up and went back to a manual unit.

Post# 996916 , Reply# 8   6/11/2018 at 23:29 by 114jwh (Vancouver)        

If I look carefully it appears like some of the teeth are missing from the gear wheel? If that's the case I'd guess that might be one of the reasons it isn't working too great.

Although parts would be NLA long long ago, maybe you can find a gear wheel the same size from a manual can opener and you might just be able to swap it out with some creative ingenuity. I think the mechanism for all can openers is about the same, just don't know how the wheels are attached.

Post# 997060 , Reply# 9   6/13/2018 at 14:05 by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        
That's funny...

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I never noticed but you're right 114jwh. It totally looks like teeth are missing in the picture on the gear wheel. The picture was taken right after I bought it and before cleaning it and I'm guessing it must be a combination of dirt in just the right spot or the under shadow playing tricks but the gear wheel is fully "toothed" in reality.

Thanks for pointing that out though! And.. I had the same idea as you after Tolivac's post about replacing the gear wheel. I hate to go on eBay or somewhere and find a similar vintage model to cannibalize for just one piece and that's about the only way to get an OEM part. So I thought the same to buy a modern hand opener and steal the gear wheel and possibly blade... now I just need to borrow a torch or a good bolt cotter to get it off the thing .. haha.

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