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What is a Hole Punch?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

A hole punch is a hand-held device that resembles pliers, with an interior bite featuring a rounded steel die or tooth on one head. This die passes through a hole in a steel tongue before making contact with the opposite head. By placing paper between the die and tongue, then squeezing the handles together, a perfectly formed hole is punched through the paper.

The single hole punch is commonly used at events to punch tickets so that they cannot be redeemed twice. Other uses include tracking customer loyalty by issuing a card, then punching a hole each time a successive purchase is made. When the card is full, the customer might earn a free item or a one-time discount.

Multiple-hole paper punches are used to make sure that papers that will be bound together have evenly spaced holes.
Multiple-hole paper punches are used to make sure that papers that will be bound together have evenly spaced holes.

Though the typical punch delivers a 0.25 inch (0.635 cm) round hole, there are other types of punches. A specialty punch can punch the shape of a fish, heart, crescent moon, maple leaf, or one of countless other designs. Some can even punch out a small word, like "yes." Using a specialty hole punch for customer loyalty programs discourages fraud, as a standard round one is commonly available.

A one-hole punch.
A one-hole punch.

A two-hole punch is available for two ringed binders, such as those used for repair tickets or manually written receipts. The most ubiquitous version is the three-hole model, however, which makes it easy to use standard printer paper in three-ringed notebook binders.

Some hole punches are made for materials other than paper. Businesses and clubs frequently use a slot hole-punch to make clip-slots in the tops of plastic ID or membership cards. There are also punches for fabrics and leather. At the extreme end of the scale, a hydraulic hole punch will punch screw holes in different types of steel.

People who are looking for a simple hand-held punch should be sure to get one that is designed for the specific application. Paper hole punches are rated by how many sheets of paper they can punch through at once. Someone who needs to punch through plastic will want a hole punch made for that purpose. The device a shopper chooses should be rated above the maximum thickness that he or she requires. Electronic models are also available online and at office supply stores.

Discussion Comments


@anon582-- All of the two hole punches I've seen until now were made of metal. And of course the cover for it (if it has one) is made of plastic.


@wavy58-- I use a hole punch a lot too and a couple of times, I accidentally pulled off that rubber cover when I was working. It was horrible, I got hundreds of little round paper pieces everywhere and it was so hard to pick them all up.

I think the hardest part of using a hole punch is emptying it often so that the paper doesn't build up too much. And sometimes the metal hole will get clogged with paper and won't work until you clean it.


I needed a three-hole punch to punch holes into my class worksheets. But when I went to the store, the three-hole ones were too expensive for my budget but the one-hole punches were affordable.

So I got a one-hole punch and I'm using it now. It is a little annoying because I have to measure where to put the hole in the paper so that it fits my folder. But I still think it's something I can manage for this price.


@seag47 – I keep a three-hole punch on my desk at work. I am responsible for filing receipts, and I have to print them out and then punch them with holes so that I can stick them inside a huge binder.

During my first week at work, I used the hole punch so much that it stopped working. I thought I had just worn it out, but my coworker asked me if I had thought to empty it.

When I removed the rubber cover on the bottom, piles of little circles of paper fell out. I hadn't even stopped to wonder where all the bits of paper I had punched through had gone! So, I empty it every now and then to keep it from getting blocked.


If you want to make scallop edges, hole punches can help you. My friend and I were designing tickets to our band's event, and we used a single-hole punch along the edges of the paper to make them look more authentic.

Lots of tickets have edges lined with semi-circular holes. It can be a bit difficult to get them all even, but if you are a little off, it won't be the end of the world.


I love using unique hole punches for scrapbooking. The possibilities are seemingly endless, because there are hole punches out there for just about every occasion.

I have one page of my scrapbook dedicated to autumn, and I used different leaf-shaped hole punches on it, as well as some pumpkin hole punches. I have photos of my friends catching leaves and visiting the pumpkin patch, and it is so cool to have hole punches that commemorate these events.

I put a sheet of reddish-brown paper behind the orange sheet that holds the photos. Since the hole punch lets the brown paper show through, I get two fall colors in one.


I had no idea that there were so many different types of hole punches! I've only ever used the three-hole punch.

I typed up my friend's novel for him, because he is a great writer but a terrible typist. Since I printed it out on computer paper, I had to punch holes in every sheet so that I could put the book in a binder for him.

The three-hole punch made this so easy. I could punch through five sheets at a time. It was easy to line up the pages so that they all would have holes in the same spot and they would all fit into the binder in the same way.


does anyone know what a two hole punch is made from? materials and so forth?

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    • Multiple-hole paper punches are used to make sure that papers that will be bound together have evenly spaced holes.
      By: schubphoto
      Multiple-hole paper punches are used to make sure that papers that will be bound together have evenly spaced holes.
    • A one-hole punch.
      By: Virynja
      A one-hole punch.