What is a four hole punch?

woman holding a book

A four-hole punch is an office tool used to punch four separate holes in paper so it can be placed in folders. The distance between each hole is governed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 838, so each four-hole punch must have the same distance between the holes. While this hole punch is not as common as two or three hole hole punches, the four hole pattern is generally safer. Depending on the model and how it is fed, this hole punch can handle up to 100 sheets with a single hole punch. Some two-hole punches can be used to make the correct four-hole punch, a capability often indicated by a specific symbol on the device.

ISO 838 is a standardization rule that tells hole manufacturers how far apart each hole should be. With a four-hole punch, the two center holes are drilled in the middle of a sheet, while the top and bottom holes are 3.14 inches (8 centimeters) apart from the nearest center hole. There are two sizes, intended for 8.5 by 11.69 inches (21 by 29.7 centimeters) sheets and 5.8 by 11.69 inches (14.8 by 21 centimeters) sheets; both are common European sizes but not common in America.

Four-hole devices are not as commonly used as other awls, such as two-hole or three-hole tools. Despite this, a four-hole perforated sheet has the advantage of being more secure. It is generally harder for the foil to detach from the paste and it is also harder to tear off because of the extra holes.

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The drillers can have different power sources; the most common is the manual, but there are also electrical and motorized devices. On average, a typical four-hole punch can go through up to 100 sheets at a time. Hand punches have the lowest levels of a punch, handling between 10 and 40 sheets per punch, while electric punches typically handle 20 to 60 sheets per punch and motorized punches deliver up to 100 sheets per punch, if not more.

While a four-hole punch is most commonly used to punch four holes in sheets of paper, some two-hole punches can also be used for this. Known as 888 punches, these two-hole punches will have the numbers 888 printed somewhere on them. They come with guides to show the operator exactly how to place the punch and where to drill holes to comply with ISO 838 standardized hole measurements.

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