What is a Three Hole Punch?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A three hole punch is a spring-loaded device that mechanically punches out holes in paper documents. These holes align perfectly with the corresponding loops of a three-hole binder. It's all about organization and neatness, my friends.

A three hole punch is designed to provide three equally spaced holes in a document margin without infringing on written text.
A three hole punch is designed to provide three equally spaced holes in a document margin without infringing on written text.

Although it performs only one vital office function, this function would be ten times more difficult without it. Standard ring binders for permanent storage of documents or organized presentation have three loops that are pulled open to receive pages. A three hole punch can hold several sheets of paper at a time, and each receives the same precisely located holes. Trying to accomplish this same task with a handheld hole punch would likely be time consuming and frustrating.

There's a practical reason for the standard 1-inch (2.54 cm) margin on most office documents. A three hole punch is calibrated to provide three holes within that margin space, allowing the text to be read without damage. Some models can adjust hole placement vertically, but rarely horizontally. This prevents vital text from being accidentally punched out. If a document has no margins, a clear plastic sleeve with three holes may be used instead.

Documents that have been processed by a three hole punch may have to be reinforced with adhesive paper rings before insertion into the binder. The holes in the paper can create small tears over time, causing unprotected pages to eventually rip and fall out of the binder. Office supply stores sell sheets of paper reinforcement rings. After processing the individual pages with a punch, office workers often spend additional time affixing these adhesive rings around the holes for extra reinforcement.

Some three hole punch models can be converted to accommodate a two hole binder system. The punch itself may contain a total of five punching elements: three set permanently for three hole binders and two set for two hole binders. A mechanical switch is used to select the desired configuration. Other models have sliding punchers and a built-in ruler so that holes can be punched anywhere along the vertical track.

If nothing else, the bits of paper collected in the bottom of a hole punch make excellent confetti for office parties.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My boss asked me to put together an instruction manual for the upcoming project, which meant using a three hole punch and a binder to collate 50 pages of notes and instructions. Fortunately, the company had a heavy duty three hole punch, since I have discovered that regular duty 3 hole punches can get dull after a while.


I'm an accompanist for a small church, and I use a special version of the hymnal that lies flat. It's essentially a three hole binder with all of the pages from the regular hymnal in larger print. Whenever pages fall out, I make a photocopy and use a three hole punch to replace them in the binder. I have to make sure I don't punch out vital information like notes or page numbers. I agree that using reinforcement rings around the circle punches is essential.

Post your comments
Forgot password?