A new hole punching plier just crossed my desk, and honestly, I was a bit taken aback. We already carry several hole punch pliers, as well as a screw-action metal punch, so why did we need another one? Hopefully this blog will answer that question and help you decide which tool is right for you.
It wasn’t that long ago (maybe 2-3 years?) that it was really hard to find a simple hand tool to punch clean holes in metal. Luckily we now have several options. Here are the main factors to consider when choosing the best punch for your needs:
- Hole size/shape – what size wire and/or jump rings need to fit? The smallest (1.25mm) fits regular jump rings just fine, but there have been times where I’ve needed a slightly bigger hole.
- Gauge – how thick of a piece of metal can you punch? All of the tools are designed for soft metal (such as sterling silver, copper, brass and aluminum). They can also be used on steel bottle caps, but doing so will wear out the punches more quickly. Remember, the bigger the gauge number, the thinner the metal (ex. 24 gauge is thinner than 20 gauge).
- Reach – how far from the edge of the piece you can punch a hole? It’s not really an issue if you are punching holes near the edge (most common), but if you plan to say, wire-wrap a stone onto the middle of a large metal sheet for a pendant, you might need to punch holes far from the edge.
EuroPunch pliers are available in 1.25mm and 1.8mm round, plus 1.5mm square and 1×1.7mm oval. Each pair of EuroPunch pliers reach about 0.5″ from the edge of your piece, and can punch through soft metal up to 18 gauge.
The BeadSmith punching pliers make 1.5mm round holes up to 3/4″ from the edge in soft metals up to 20 gauge.
The screw-action tool punches both 1.6mm (1/16″) and 2.3mm (3/32″) round holes, so it is really two tools in one. It is rated for soft metals up to 24 gauge. (We’ve successfully punched through pennies, which are close to 14 gauge, with this tool, but doing so will wear out the punch more quickly (just replace the punch, not the whole tool!). The screw-action tool reaches just a bit further than half an inch.
Speaking of replacing the punch…here is how you know it is time: the punch won’t quite punch all the way, leaving a little sharp piece you need to file off. You can buy replacement punches for any of the hole punch tools for just a few bucks.
It honestly doesn’t take much pressure to punch a hole with any of these tools, but if you have difficulty squeezing firmly, the screw-action tool might be the best choice. I think the pliers are a little quicker to use, though. The BeadSmith punch pliers also feature a “gauge guard” – a screw that you can adjust to keep the pliers from punching too deeply and marring the surface around the hole. It is a nifty feature, but one you have to remember to use! If you forget to adjust the gauge guard, you will probably mar your metal a bit from time to time.
BUT – here is a tip to keep your metal pristine no matter which hole punch you use:
Cut a little piece of plastic from the package the tool comes in, and punch through it. Then leave that little scrap on the punch (See image above). It effectively cushions your metal from the punch and removes all worry of marring your metal. If you forget, just buff the mark with some steel wool and it should disappear quite easily.
Happy punching! ~ Cindy
2018 Editor’s note: Links in the comments below have all been updated! (some of them broke when we upgraded our website)