Advice on Using a Paper Punch

Paper punches, both Circa and 3-ring, are insanely useful. They allow us to use our preferred paper in our planners. They allow us to make and keep articles of interest to our careers and hobbies. And they allow us to fulfill the spirit of DIY by customizing every aspect of our paper life by ourselves. Like any modern day device, however, using a paper punch requires a little bit of exploration and maintenance to get the most out of it.

The first thing you should do, when you get your punch is to look it over and read any manuals (if any). Get to know how your punch works. This includes removing any thing clamping the punch together, like the small red plastic bits that held my Levenger Circa punch together. Understand how the punch tray works and test this feature out. This is that plastic tray that is loosely held on the bottom of the punch that collects all the left-over holes and smurfs after you perforate your papers. Sometimes this tray sticks and can be a big pain to remove or put back on. You’ll want to make sure you can get yours on and off when the tray fills up with those tiny scraps of paper.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the metallic slide ruler, if your punch came with one. This slide rule allows you to adjust the punch to accept larger and longer paper. Note which number it defaulted on and adjust it to a bigger and smaller number and back to the “zero position” (default) setting. Knowing this little guide has saved me and many papers from the recycle pile.

Once you get used to the weight of your punch and know exactly how it works, the first thing you should do is test it out. Grab some junk mail and punch holes in them. Watch how your punch aligns and how many pieces of paper it can hold. I know the Levenger Circa Punch can hold at least 5 normal inkjet papers. It’ll also allow me to punch a single, thick plastic cover. Sometimes I’ll use a pre-punched piece of paper and try and duplicate the holes exactly. This helps me find the center prong of the punch and makes it so that I get clean, perfectly centered punches every time.

When I’ve gotten the basics of punching standard sheets of paper (in my case 8.5 x 11), I’ll make a few test runs of the smaller (index card) sized sheets I know I’ll be punching in the near future. The best tip I can give you for punching index cards is to align the cards up to the bottom of the puncher. This gives me perfectly accurate punches for my Circa PDA every time. Occasionally I notice that the zero position for index cards tends to be off by a few centimeters. When this happens I move the slide rule out a bit and keep a mental note of where this position is for later use. Just remember that when you go to punch your standard letter sized sheets again, that you move the ruler back to the default position again.

I hope these suggestions for using your punch, whether it’s a Circa or 3-hole, help you get the most out of punching holes in your forms and journals. Feel free to post your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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