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A single and a 3-hole paper punch in front of a tape measure (in inches) to show approximate size
Commons hole sizes
Two-hole (filebinder) hole punch

A hole punch (known also as a hole puncher, paper puncher, holing pincer, or rarely perforator) is a common office tool that is used to create holes in sheets of paper, often for the purpose of collecting the sheets in a binder or folder.

The origins of the hole punch date back to Germany, where two early patents for a device designed to "punch holes in paper" have since been discovered. [1] Friedrich Soennecken made his patent on November 14, 1886 for his Papierlocher für Sammelmappen. [2]



An illustration of how a hole punch works

A typical hole punch, whether a single or multiple hole punch, has a long lever which is used to push a bladed cylinder straight through a number of sheets of paper. As the vertical travel distance of the cylinder is only a few millimeters, it can be positioned within a centimeter of the lever fulcrum. For low volume hole punches, the resulting lever need not be more than 8 cm for sufficient force.

Two paper guides are needed to line up the paper: one opposite where the paper is inserted, to set the margin distance, and one on an adjacent side.

Hole punches for industrial volumes — hundreds of sheets — feature very long lever arms, but function identically.

Another mechanism uses hollowed drills which are lowered by a screwing action into the paper. The paper is cut and forced up into the shaft of the drill to be later discarded as tightly packed columns. This method allows a small machine to cut industrial volumes of paper with little effort.




ISO 838

An illustration of filing holes
Three different sizes of hole punches with two hole variety.

The most common standard for the dimensions and location of filing holes punched in paper is International Standard ISO 838. Two holes with a diameter of 6±0.5 mm are punched into the paper. The centers of these holes are 80±0.5 mm apart and have a distance of 12±1 mm to the nearest edge of the paper. The holes are located symmetrically in relation to the axis of the sheet or document.

Any paper format that is at least 100 mm high (e.g., ISO A7 and larger) can be filed using this system. A printed document with a margin of 20–25 mm will accommodate ISO 838 filing holes.

1 Hole Punch

According to Shaugho Punchers Inc., the ideal 1 Hole Punch places the centre of the hole punched at 1.0cm in from the left of a page and 4.0cm down from the top of a page. According to Killeen Co., the punched hole should between 0.9cm and 1.1cm from the left hand side of a page and between 3.9cm and 4.1cm from the top of a page.

4-hole extension ("888")

A four-hole extension of is also commonly used. The two middle holes are fille, and so paper punched with the four holes can be filed in binders that are consistent with ISO 838. The two additional holes are located 80 mm above and below these. The use of two additional holes provides more stability. This extension is sometimes referred to as the "888" system, because of the three 8-cm gaps between the holes. Some 2-hole punches have an "888" marking on their paper guide, to assist punching with them all four holes into A4 paper.

North America

3-hole system

In regions that use the U.S. "Letter" paper format (216×279 mm; United States, Canada, and in part Mexico and the Philippines), a three-hole standard is widely used. The holes are positioned symmetrically, with the centres 108 mm (4-1/4 in) apart. The diameter of the holes varies between manufacturers, with typical values being 6–8 mm (1/4 to 5/16 inch). (The 5/16 value is most commonly used, as it allows for variation in both ring binder and paper punching.) The distance of the hole center to the paper edge also varies, with 12 mm (1/2 inch) being a typical value. Unlike ISO 838, this 3-hole system appears to have no well-established exact specification. It can only be applied to paper formats that are at least 240 mm high.

2-hole filebinder

Another standard also occasionally used in the United States is a filebinder system. Its two holes are positioned symmetrically, with the centres 70 mm (2-3/4 inch) apart.


Hole punch and holes, triohålning system

In Sweden, a four-hole national standard is almost exclusively used. The centres of the holes are 21mm, 70mm and 21 mm apart. The guides help keep the paper in a straight line.

The official name of this four-hole system is triohålning since it was adapted to the "Trio binder" which was awarded Swedish patent in 1890. The binder's inventor Andreas Tengwall supposedly named it after a consortium consisting of himself and two companions, i.e., a trio.

Uses of hole punches

Single hole punches

Single hole punch with chad reservoir taped shut
Single hole punch for paper
Single hole punch for leather

Single hole punches are often used to punch tickets, which indicates its credit has been used, and to make confetti when creating scrapbooks and other paper crafts. For applications needing a variety of hole shapes, a ticket punch may be used. A single hole punch differs from a ticket punch in having a shorter reach and no choice of hole shape.

In the United States, single hole punches are often used to punch holes through playing cards, redering them "used." This helps cut down on cheating by eliminating any cards that may have been tainted by players. Paper drilling is also popular for this purpose. [3]

Eyelet punch

A related office tool is the eyelet punch. This is a single-hole punch which also presses a metal fastening loop around the hole. It is used to permanently secure a few sheets of paper together which must not be separated or modified.

A similar tool, generally known as a holing pincer, is used in animal husbandry. A common application is to attach an ear tag to a livestock animal.

Multiple hole punches

There are hole punchers that make one, two, three, four, five, six, seven or eight holes at one time, the placement of which matches the spacing of the rings in a binder. For example the popular filofax system that uses 6 holes in 2 groups of 3.

To prepare documents for comb binding there are 19-hole punches for letter paper and 23-hole punches for A4 paper.

With a few exceptions, two-hole and four-hole punches consistent with ISO 838 are the norm.

In the United States the three-hole punch is most common. Less frequently seen is the two-hole filebinder punch.

There are office models available for the perforation of 1 to 150 sheets of paper, and industrial models for up to 470 sheets. Most multiple-hole and many single-hole punches accumulate the waste paper circles (chads) in a chamber, which must be periodically emptied in order to facilitate the continued operation of the punch.

See also


  1. ^ br-online (German)
  2. ^ Poppelsdorf:Soennecken
  3. ^ "Paper Punch & Cutter Resources". Retrieved 2009-08-12. 

External links


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