The 10 Best 3 Hole Punches

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This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Whether for use at work, school, or in your home office, one of these three-hole punches will make quick work of all your loose papers in need of filing. Available in both manual and electric options, the models featured here will prepare your documents for insertion into any kind of three-ring folder, and some can even punch through intimidating stacks that are many sheets thick. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Bostitch Xtreme

2. Carl Medium-Duty

3. Swingline Commercial Platinum

Editor's Notes

July 09, 2021:

Because society hasn't yet reached the point of paperless offices, it's worth having a reliable hole punch. The Bostitch Xtreme is still far and away the most robust, although it's quite costly. The Carl Medium-Duty should work for mid-size offices at a much lower price, as will the Officemate Heavy-Duty. The Swingline LightTouch is useful because of both its adjustability and high-leverage handle, and if you'll only use the hole punch infrequently, the Sparco SPR01796 is a perfectly capable yet highly affordable choice. Also note that we haven't altered our rankings for three-hole punches this time around.

February 07, 2020:

Our latest round of updates saw us purge this list of old models that had been usurped by upgraded ones and amend it to reflect changes in the design of certain units as well as new features that manufacturers have added.

For example, the Swingline Commercial Platinum has become more streamlined, going from a rounded white model to a sleek black one with touchscreen technology. Then, there's the Homework Portable, which received a fair few complaints regarding it breaking. This presents a pretty insurmountable issue for students carrying one around in a binder, as they can be especially hard on the school supplies they take on the go. We replaced it with the very similar, but much more durable WorkLion Portable. Another issue the Homework unit has is that it ships in a random color of the company's choosing, usually pink or blue. The WorkLion comes in a nice, gender-neutral black that everyone can enjoy.

The PaperPro InPress is now the Bostitch InPress and the S. P. Richards Company is now the Sparco SPR01796. These models have essentially remained the same, but we tweaked our list to reflect their new manufacturers and any feature changes. And while we liked the Swingline Optima for its ease of use and convenience, the newly-added Veyette Fast provides the same experience at a lower cost.

Finally, we added the Bostitch Xtreme, a model ideal for the harshest and most demanding of work environments thanks to its rugged construction, thoughtful details like antimicrobial treatment, and replaceable punch mechanisms that are hollow to make a quick, clean cut through a whopping 160 sheets at once.

October 20, 2018:

Removed Bostitch Electric EHP3BLK due to availability issues. Added the Swingline Optima because of its high-quality construction and ease of use.

4. Veyette Fast

5. Officemate Heavy-Duty

6. Bostitch InPress

7. Swingline LightTouch

8. Officemate Deluxe

9. Sparco SPR01796

10. WorkLion Portable

Picking Out A Punch

For people with arthritis or weak wrists, the help is a boon.

It may seem as though we’re living in an all-digital world, but really, we haven’t reached our paperless binary future quite yet. Material documents still pop up in plenty of places, including classrooms, banks, law offices, and libraries, and organizing all that paper is no small task. That’s where the 3 hole punch enters the picture. These machines are not all the same, though; in fact, they vary in four significant ways.

First, some are manual and others are electric. The choice between the two usually depends on whether you need portability or extra punching power. Non-electric versions won’t require you to find an outlet everywhere you go or lug around batteries, actions that generally aren’t a problem if you’re working only at your desk or craft table. Electricity, however, means the difference between letting a motor do the work and having to mash down with your hands. For people with arthritis or weak wrists, the help is a boon.

Second, 3 hole punches have widely different capacities. Slim, lightweight, and portable versions might be able to handle only three to five sheets at a time, while beefy Terminator-style punches can make short work of 40 sheets at once, and perhaps even more. If you often come up against hundreds of pieces of paper that need punching, having to do so three sheets at a time will begin to feel downright Sisyphean.

Third, some 3 hole punches have replaceable dies, while many others do not. Realistically, unless you’re punching your way through reams of paper every week, you may not need to overly concern yourself about this. On the other hand, if you want a model that’ll last a lifetime, a replaceable die will make it easier to guard against potential ineffectiveness.

Fourth, and this is really more of a catch-all than one significant difference, there are add-ons that make a punch more functional. Some have built-in rulers, some have nifty little trays to catch the cast-off paper dots, and some even have padding on their handles. You may or may not want these features, depending on how precise your punching needs are and how often you find yourself reaching for one of these items.

Does Your Punch Measure Up?

Okay, you caught us. It’s not 100 percent true that there only four things you need to consider when thinking about a 3 hole punch. One other detail is where the punch actually places the holes, which seems pretty important if you want to put your paper in a particular binder. You don’t much need to worry about this if you’re in the North America, because these hole punches and the 3-ring binders your papers end up in are pretty much standardized. Adding papers from various countries into the mix makes things a bit trickier, however, as paper, binder, and hole spacing sizes are not the same everywhere you go.

The legal profession and a handful of others may also employ a filing system that uses 2 ring binders.

Generally, the sheets that people print and write on in the US and Canada are what’s referred to as US letter, which measures 8.5 by 11 inches. The de facto standard for this paper requires that holes be positioned with their centers 4.25 inches apart. Around the world, the go-to paper is A4, which is 8.27 by 11.69 inches. A4 is typically punched in 2 or 4 hole configurations, meaning that your 3 hole punch may not give you common results with A4. Luckily, a lot of 3 hole punches can also be configured to work as 2 hole punches, which gives you more options for tackling various paper sizes.

As if all that isn’t enough, some professionals use paper that’s punched differently — lawyers, we’re looking at you. Whether on legal paper, which measures 8.5 by 14 inches, or US letter, legal documents are often punched with four holes for extra support. The legal profession and a handful of others may also employ a filing system that uses 2 ring binders. Medical professionals use paper that’s punched with holes at the top for use in medical charts as well as with the aforementioned 2 hole system. But don’t worry. To make navigating these standards easier, manufacturers that offer adjustable 3 hole punches generally indicate the intended use of the item and the binders with which it will work.

A Brief History Of The 3 Hole Punch

Before the 3 hole punch came along, someone had to invent the concept of a mechanical way to put holes in paper, and that someone was, according to many, Friedrich Soennecken. A man with a knack for the stationary business, he created the hole punch and filed a patent for it in Germany; it was granted on November 14, 1886. On November 14, 2017, Soennecken’s invention was lauded in a Google Doodle, which called the day the “131st Anniversary of the Hole Puncher”.

The evidence to support these assertions is thin on the ground, however, so they may just be so much internet detritus washed up on the Wikipedian shore.

Interestingly, there is some dispute over this story. An American patent had been granted a year earlier to a man named Benjamin Smith, who was from Massachusetts. His punch was created for a specific, rather than general, purpose: punching train tickets. This “conductor’s punch” even contained a small receptacle for the cast off bits of paper. According to some, although this punch was certainly useful and arrived a full year earlier than Soennecken’s, it was a specialized item and not a “hole punch” per se — and therefore not the first of this specific type of tool.

The Smith/Soennecken debate isn’t the end of the story, either. Some sources note that a man named Matthias Theel filed a patent in Germany that pre-dated Soennecken’s, while others say that he had the idea but didn’t act on it, and still others claim that he improved on the design. The evidence to support these assertions is thin on the ground, however, so they may just be so much internet detritus washed up on the Wikipedian shore. At any rate, there is no debate that the invention lives on, most likely seeing use for quite some years to come.

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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