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.
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 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.