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Over the years we’ve written about a number of different devices designed to crack the combination on clamshell packaging, but every year about this time we like to round up the best of the articles and comments on the subject to give you a better alternative to destroying your good scissors or stabbing yourself in the leg.

Way back in 2006 we wrote about the OpenX — arguably the most heavily-promoted of the packaging-specific knives. It’s essentially a utility knife in a captured end. One commenter received the OpenX as a first gift for Christmas that year, all with the plan of him using it to open the rest of his presents. That’s a great idea in our book, and the OpenX worked well for him. But commenters on our piece about the later, more complicated Zibra Open It tool in 2007 differed. One commenter related that he bought a couple of OpenXs for friends, but received tools with dull blades that couldn’t handle average packaging. Most commenters seemed to like the Open It’s cutter-style design, but virtually all of them admitted that they use more classic tools for the job of de-packaging loot. Some of their solutions:

Aviation cutters topped the list of most. Stanley makes a nice, inexpensive pair available singly and in sets of three (left, right, and straight) at your local big box. And Milwaukee released a set as well last year. We’re guessing that pretty much any of these would eat up clamshell packaging, so you might choose one that you might actually use for sheet metal as well.

One reader suggested a good set of “paramedic-type scissors” — you know, the kind that have a bend in the middle of the blade, perfect for jamming under something (like a patient’s clothing) while keeping the handles at a comfortable angle.

What’s your clamshell-defeater of choice — besides, of course, ordering from Amazon with their “worry-free” packaging offerings?

Open It! Via Amazon [What’s This?]
OpenX Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Aviation Snips Via Amazon [What’s This?]


33 Responses to TM Wisdom: Opening Clamshell Packaging

  1. Ray says:

    Dollar store snap-blade knives. You can usually get 3-4 per package, and did I mention the price? Just lightly score the plastic and pull it apart.

  2. Bare hands, and gnashing of teeth. But in all seriousness, the Skil Powercutter is pretty awesome for this type of stuff.

  3. brett says:

    Fixed blade drywall knife and a pair of telco snips. Knife for the plastic and the snips are used for cutting the tie downs like a lotta kids toys have.

  4. Erich says:

    It’s a bit odd, but I often use my can opener. Just clamp it inside the seal then wind around the package. The cutting disc cuts right through the plastic and the clamshell opens right up.

  5. Simon says:

    Olfa Heavy Duty Scissors (Home Depot used to carry these)

  6. Steven Bone says:

    I solved the problem by not purchasing items packaged in this manner. The Microsoft Wireless Mouse 6000 packaging is a perfect example of the correct way to do a clamshell packaging – simple pre-perforated cuts, no tools required.

    • Sean says:

      This is the only way to handle it. Vote with your dollars and they will have to follow or die. I’ve bought several items that incorporate several methods of opening the clamshell that maintain integrity till you want to open it.

      No more blood sacrifice!

  7. Dale Chayes says:

    While I always (except when flying commercial air these days) carry a folder capable of doing the deed, I suspect that many of the injuries associated with opening these environmental insults come from blades.

    Aviation “tin snips” are overkill and have limited reach. I have been very happy using various models of EZ Utilitiy Snips from Wiss (Cooper Tools.)


    The handles allow plenty of leverage, the shears are longer than tin snips and they are great for other light duty shop cutting. Perhaps one of the least expensive tools in my various boxes and tool belts and I seem to use them nearly every day.

    They are readily available on the ‘net (try your favorite search engine) but are also commonly found in hardware stores as well as home desperate and slows.

  8. Sawdust says:

    My “clamshell defeater of choice” is my wife. She’s patient enough to work through the clamshell….

  9. Mikec says:

    I’m similar to Dale. I use Stanley’s version of utility snips. They’re smaller than aviation snips but can handle clamshells (and the wires on childrens’ toys) pretty well.

  10. Eric says:

    I still reach for my pocket knife since it’s always right there.

  11. Bill says:

    The Leatherman™ Wingman has a pull blade that works well.

  12. Coach James says:

    I use a pair of these. Work fine.



  13. Steve C says:

    I use some electric scissors like these:

    Black & Decker SZ360 3.6-Volt Ni-Cad Cordless Power Scissors


  14. sam says:

    I’ll second the snap-off utility blade. We’re not allowed to have them at my retail job (injury liability) but I keep one hidden away in cases of emergency. I can open any clam shell package cleanly and let serious buyers examine what they need. If required I can put it back on the shelf still looking presentable.

  15. Sean says:

    A pair of kitchen deboning shears work pretty well.

  16. old as dirt says:

    I use the Skill electric cutter.Works like a charm.

  17. Davo says:

    I prefer a pair of 99-cent utility scissors, from Ikea…or the Sawzall, whichever is closer at hand…

  18. PutnamEco says:

    I’ve always just used a regular old utility knife. I always have one close at hand, if I’m not actually carrying one. My preferred method is to lay the package on a flat surface and slice three edges.

    • fred says:

      Same for me – but I like the to use a utility knife with a hook blade – used on the pull stroke – like slicing open cable sheathing

  19. Ian Random says:

    I used to use Super Shears by Cutco for that task and they worked quite well. But now they are for kitchen use only since they come apart.


  20. zorac says:

    I’ve always used Fiskars scissors, like these:


    My pair is over 30 years old, and I’ve used them on paper, cardboard, aluminum foil, carpet, fabric, and those clamshells. The rivet has never loosened, and I think I’ve only sharpened them twice in all that time. I don’t know if the model above is quite the same thing though, mine look more like this:


  21. jesse says:

    I like these crash scissors, the type found in ERs: http://www.leevalley.com/us/gifts/page.aspx?p=59398 .
    The serrated blades get a good grip on the material.

  22. JRR says:

    I use large scissor-style tin snips – something like this: http://www.toolstation.com/images/library/stock/webbig/20992.jpg

  23. Frank says:

    E.M.T. shears are the best. To spend $40 on the Skil Power Cutter just to open the occasional package is ridiculous. Using an utility knife, even with a new blade, I find the blade getting stuck in the packaging. There is to much danger to anyone in the vicinity. Tin snips are good, but I will have to try the can opener.

  24. ted says:

    if your swiss army knife or other pocket multi-tool has an open ended can opener (bottom left http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41X2XC3RN7L.jpg) you can sharpen the tip and the little edge .It works great

  25. browndog77 says:

    Utility knife w/ a new hook blade (shingle, not carpet)

  26. Ryan Biggs says:

    Been using a pair of tin snips for this purpose for years. Never heard them called aviation cutters, but OK – I’m not an aviator. I got my pair for a couple of bucks in a wheelbarrow full of bargain tools at my local hardware store. Just like the pair my old man used to have. Maybe not the fastest tool to use, but a true multi-tasker. It cuts through pretty much anything easily.

  27. Mike Lee says:

    I brought two open X and both fell apart. The screw loosen up in due time. Tighten the screw and it will loosen, which in turn won’t cut package. I will not buy this product again.

  28. Mike Lee says:

    P.S. I just brought the Black and Deck hand held lith ion with the cutter wheel that sharpen itself. I will let you guys know how it works within one year.

  29. Brad says:

    Grizzly G0566 21″ band saw works great for me.

  30. Nat says:

    I use – and like – the Open It! Works really well.

  31. I use the electric cutter. It is very good.

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