Best Three-Hole Punches

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

27 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
198 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best three-hole punches

Last Updated June 2019

A three-hole punch is an office tool that can make it easy to prepare binders of paper documents. Whether you’re looking for a simple model for the occasional report or a heavy-duty punch for drilling through dozens of pages at once, there are many to choose from.

Manual and electric are the two common types of three-hole punch  Manual punches are generally inexpensive, though heavy-duty options capable of punching 100 pages or more can be more expensive than electric punches. Electric models have the advantage of requiring very little work on your part, but in general they’re more expensive than manual models. Some punches have adjustable dies, enabling you to change the spacing, and a few models allow you to punch only one or two holes as well as three. If you need to take your three-hole punch from place to place, you should also consider its size and weight.

A three-hole punch is a basic office tool, but you should still carefully consider your needs before you buy. To learn more about the types available, continue reading our shopping guide. Take a look at our top picks when you’re ready to buy, too.

The paper guides of a three-hole punch allow you to adjust the depth of the punches and accommodate paper of different sizes.

Key considerations

A three-hole punch that botches the job can be a headache, sending you back to your computer to reprint your documents and start over. That’s why it’s important that you find a model that is easy to use and capable of punching enough sheets at once for your needs.

Electric vs. manual

Each of the two types of three-hole punches has its advantages and disadvantages.

Manual: These three-hole punches don’t require batteries or an outlet and are more portable than electric models. They are usually operated with a lever you press to drive the dies through the paper, which requires a bit of effort and technique on your part. They can have low or high paper capacity and range from small, inexpensive models to high-priced heavy-duty tools.

Electric: These three-hole punches are more expensive than most basic manual punches, and their paper capacity typically falls somewhere in the middle. While a heavy-duty manual punch can usually handle more paper at once, the speed and ease of an electric three-hole punch can make it well equipped for larger jobs. Electric models may be powered by batteries, AC cables, or both.

Paper capacity

The most important factor when comparing three-hole punches is the paper capacity. If you only need a basic punch for the occasional job, it may not be worth it to pay the high price of a heavy-duty punch. If you regularly need to punch dozens of sheets at a time, a higher-capacity hole punch can save you time and effort. The capacity of a hole punch depends largely on the weight of the paper. Most companies base the capacity of their three-hole punches on 20-pound copy paper, which is what most people use for printing.

Small: On the lower end of the spectrum are punches capable of handling 12 to 25 sheets at a time.

Medium: These models, which may be electric, can handle 25 to 50 pages.

Large: Heavy-duty punches can punch 50 to 300 sheets at a time.

DID YOU KNOW?

The standard size hole cut by three-hole punches is 9/32 of an inch, which accommodates most binder rings.

Three-hole punch features

Once you’ve determined what type of three-hole punch is right for your home or office, you should consider additional features like the materials, durability, and adjustability of the model.

Components

Materials: You’ll find three-hole punches made primarily of plastic or metal. Of course, all punches have metal dies to drill through the paper, but the materials in the handle and body determine how strong and durable a punch is. Plastic is far lighter than metal, making a plastic three-hole punch easier to transport. However, it will also be more likely to break over time. A metal three-hole punch, typically made of steel, is more durable and also far heavier. The lever isn’t flexible like a plastic one, so less power is lost as you press down on it.

Lever: If you opt for a manual three-hole punch, consider a model with a padded lever, particularly if you plan to use your punch often. This can make it easier to punch through a thick sheaf of paper.

Dies: The dies — the parts of the punch that drill through the paper — may become dull over time, which means you’ll need to either buy a new punch or replace the dies. Some people recommend punching a sheet of aluminum foil a few times to sharpen the dies, but there is disagreement over the effectiveness of this method. Some models have easily replaceable dies, which can save you money over the long term. In addition, removable dies can be swapped out for dies of different diameters. 

Chip tray: Most three-hole punches have a chip collection system of some kind, often in the form of a removable tray that can be easily emptied. While this isn’t a vital feature, it is a convenient one that can be particularly useful when punching large amounts of paper at once.

Convenience

Adjustability: Some three-hole punches have adjustable paper guides to accommodate paper of different sizes. The most versatile models also have adjustable punches so you can change the spacing or number of the holes you punch.

Portability: If you don’t plan to keep your three-hole punch in one place, consider a smaller, lightweight model that can be easily moved. Many inexpensive punches weigh as little as two pounds or less. Bear in mind that electric models tend to be heavier and may require an outlet to operate.

Most three-hole punches have a chip collection tray for easy cleanup.

Three-hole punch prices

Inexpensive: Basic three-hole punches that cost $8 to $20 are mostly manual and may be made of plastic or metal. These models typically have a capacity of 20 sheets or less and don’t usually have padded handles. Adjustable paper guides may be found in this range.

Mid-range: For $20 to $50, you’ll find a variety of manual or electric three-hole punches. Compared to basic models, many of these have more durable construction and are adjustable. The capacity of these punches ranges from around 12 to 40 sheets.

Expensive: The three-hole punches that cost $50 to $150 and more are usually either electric or heavy-duty manual models that can handle anywhere from 30 to 300 sheets at a time. Adjustable punches and paper guides are common in this range. These models are best suited to offices that need to punch large amounts of paper.

EXPERT TIP

The closer you get to the sheet capacity of a three-hole punch, the more effort will be required to punch through the paper.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

While using a three-hole punch may be as simple as lining up your paper and pressing the lever, there are a few things to keep in mind for consistent results.

  • Mind the margins. It’s possible to punch through text or images if the margins on your paper are too narrow. To fix this, you can either adjust the margins of your document or adjust the depth of the hole punch so that it punches closer to the edge of the paper.
  • Consider the capacity. Stay within the maximum number of sheets for your hole punch as you load the paper. If you’re using paper that’s heavier than 20-pound copy paper, adjust the quantity accordingly.
  • Clear the collection tray. Empty the chip tray when it is almost full to prevent the device from jamming and to keep it operating smoothly.

Other products we considered

Though we believe our top choices are the best three-hole punches available, we mostly focused on manual models. There are a few electric and heavy-duty hole punches worth considering as well. One popular option that stands out for its sleek design is the Swingline Electric 3-Hole Punch, which features the option of battery or AC power. The size makes it easy to take anywhere, and it can handle up to 15 sheets at a time. A similar option that features the ability to be used as a two- or three-hole punch is the S. P. Richards Company Sparco Electric Punch[1] . Though it doesn’t look quite as modern, it does have an impressive 30-page capacity. For a heavy-duty punch that can handle an impressive amount of paper, the CARL Heavy-Duty 3-Hole Punch is a reliable option for stacks of up to 150 pages.

Electric hole punches are easy to use. Manual punches require more energy but can often handle more sheets at once.

FAQ

Q. Should I operate a three-hole punch with the handle closer to me or away from me?
A.
This is a matter of personal preference. It depends on the thickness of the stack of papers to be punched and how much leverage you need.

Q. Why is my three-hole punch leaving grease around the holes?
A.
Most three-hole punches have some machine oil on the dies and in the hinges. This helps your punch operate smoothly. If you’re having issues with the amount of oil left on your paper, you can carefully wipe the excess oil from the dies with a tissue or paper towel.

Q. Are three-hole punches safe for children to operate?
A.
Because the dies are fairly close to the base of the punch, it’s unlikely that children could cut themselves on the dies, though they could pinch their fingers under the feet.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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