I Heart Tools – Hole Punching

I punch a lot of holes in metal these days and I have been through a few tools that have helped me get this arduous task over more quickly and efficiently. I would like to share each one here and let you know of the individual problems I had for each one and how I could have prolonged the life of my hole punchers if I would have invested some time into properly caring for my tools.

 I’ve learned and utilized the old school way of drill pressing for both polymer clay and metal but the set up takes awhile and it is tedious work. Plus you go through titanium bits at a pretty costly rate. So I started to experiment with hole punching pliers to make this job easier and quicker. 

Clamping your metal down against wood and lining up the drill press for your hand held drill will work if you have the equipment and maybe a helper who is more experienced with power tools (or just reckless as the helper in my case).

 First up is the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads steel hole punch for $15.62. The thinnest hole drill (1.5mm) broke almost immediately and I feel it is only good for punching 24 gauge metal and thinner. Which is a bit too thin to get a really good chunky metal piece out of so I just used the larger hole drill (2mm) for a lot of the thicker pendants I punch and hammer, which is usually 20 to 18 gauge.  It became dull within a couple of months since I was using it on too thick of metal at 18 gauge and I started looking for something else to use. (But I still pull it out here and there when I have doubled over 2 sheets of 24 gauge and it seems to be holding up well under this mishandling.)

Which brought me to these hole punch pliers by EuroTool available through romazone.etsy.com for $12.00.
Which I loved and used quite a bit in 2010 until I broke them on 18 gauge sheet metal. I only had to replace the hole punch of 1.8mm once and this little pair of pliers helped me prepare hundreds of pieces of 22 gauge metal.

But I use a lot of 18 gauge metal and I even punch holes in hammered down 12 gauge copper sheet so I needed to invest in a new pair of hole punch pliers that states it can specifically handle this gauge. That was really hard to find until I located this pair through monsterslayer.com for $19.99.

While the manufacture claims it can work 18 gauge, and they do seem awfully durable, it is too large for my hands to work comfortably and quickly! So I am back to shopping for a new pair of hole punch pliers, anyone have any suggestions?
I’ve learned a bit since I started and I know now that I need to lubricate the metal before punching and keep the pliers and punches oiled so they twist through metal more easily. I also need to make sure I do not push it and stay within the manufacture recommended gauge. Keeping my tools out of the heat and humidity as that environment causes rust inside the makings of the steel pliers will also prolong the life of my hole punching pliers. All good money saving tips to know!
Much Love & Respect,

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8 Comment

  1. SummersStudio
    September 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Shannon, I would like to have the same answers as you. Each and every problem you've encountered are the very same ones I've gone through over time. Not many of these pliers or punches seem to stand up to production work. I have a drill press set up as well and it works but like you said it is costly in terms of bits. If you ever find something that really truly works for heavier gauge metal, I would love to know. Good luck in your quest!

  2. Gardanne
    September 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    The Euro Power Punch is my favorite punching tool. It is rated up to 16G for soft metals, for my needs the thickest I have used it on is 20G. It leaves nice clean edges around the hole that don't require any filing. It has padded handles, but I always use the table I am punching on as leverage, especially for thicker metals. I would also recommend using a lamp where some light comes in at the side, because the shadow that is created when using the tool makes it hard to see my mark. Or maybe my eyes are not what they used to be.
    Ornamentea has this tool in stock, here is the link

  3. The Clay Chick
    September 21, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I have this: http://www.amazon.com/Neiko-Power-Punch-Sheet-Metal/dp/B0002T87CW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1316566104&sr=8-2

    It's fairly large, but you can use it with one hand…VERY sturdy and goes through copper like buttah (the thickest I tried it on was a penny, and it was as easy as cutting paper with scissors) If it is too big to hold, it will balance when you set it on a table, so you can insert your piece and push down, like you would a stapler.


  4. Kat BM
    September 21, 2011 at 1:40 am
  5. Kristen
    September 21, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I use a mini drill press because I got so frustrated using my rotary tool. The press drills great but now I need to find some kind of vise to hold small flat pieces of metal. I get very nervous when that drill gets too close to my fingers! Anyone have a good hand held vise out there?

  6. Shay Stone
    September 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    What a great post for us newbies. I'm primarily a wire worker, but definitely want to punch holes sometimes and thus far have only (lamely) used my dremel. I have another question if anyone has input. Which method in your post is easiest/less painful on sore wrists to use?

    Thanks much!

  7. Shel
    September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I use the first two you mentioned and of course my drill press when I have to.

    This is a great post and I'm going to check out the links that others have suggested.

    Let us know what you come up with when you find something that works well for you!

  8. missficklemedia.com
    September 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    This is awesome! Thank you for the suggestions, it looks like I have some reading to do!

    Right before this post was published, the last pair of hole punch pliers bit it on an order of 12 double holed, 18 gauge crosses! I am back to striking a dent and drilling with titanium bits.

    The search continues…

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