How to pick the best metal hole punching tool for jewelry

From left to right: EuroPunch pliers, BeadSmith hole punch pliers, and a screw-action hole punch

A new hole punching plier just crossed my desk, and honestly, I was a bit taken aback. We already carry several hole punch pliers, as well as a screw-action metal punch, so why did we need another one? Hopefully this blog will answer that question and help you decide which tool is right for you.

Sometimes holes can be more about form than function!

It wasn’t that long ago (maybe 2-3 years?) that it was really hard to find a simple hand tool to punch clean holes in metal.  Luckily we now have several options. Here are the main factors to consider when choosing the best punch for your needs:

  1. Hole size/shape – what size wire and/or jump rings need to fit? The smallest (1.25mm) fits regular jump rings just fine, but there have been times where I’ve needed a slightly bigger hole.
  2. Gauge – how thick of a piece of metal can you punch?  All of the tools are designed for soft metal (such as sterling silver, copper, brass and aluminum). They can also be used on steel bottle caps and iron Vintaj Arte Metal pieces, but doing so will wear out the punches more quickly. Remember, the bigger the gauge number, the thinner the metal (ex. 24 gauge is thinner than 20 gauge).
  3. Reach – how far from the edge of the piece you can punch a hole? It’s not really an issue if you are punching holes near the edge (most common), but if you plan to say, wire-wrap a stone onto the middle of a large metal sheet for a pendant, you might need to punch holes far from the edge.

Just look at those clean holes - and no power tools required!

EuroPunch pliers are available in 1.25mm and 1.8mm round, plus 1.5mm square and 1×1.7mm oval. Each pair of EuroPunch pliers reach about 0.5″ from the edge of your piece, and can punch through soft metal up to 18 gauge.

The BeadSmith punching pliers make 1.5mm round holes up to 3/4″ from the edge in soft metals up to 20 gauge.

Turn it to the right to punch the hole....turn it back to the left to release it. Easy!

The screw-action tool punches both 1.6mm (1/16″) and 2.3mm (3/32″) round holes, so it is really two tools in one. It is rated for soft metals up to 24 gauge. (We’ve successfully punched through pennies, which are close to 14 gauge, with this tool, but doing so will wear out the punch more quickly (just replace the punch, not the whole tool!).  The screw-action tool reaches just a bit further than half an inch.

Speaking of replacing the punch…here is how you know it is time: the punch won’t quite punch all the way, leaving a little sharp piece  you need to file off. You can buy replacement punches for anyof the hole punch tools for just a few bucks.

Ragged holes like these means it is time to change the punch on your tool.

It honestly doesn’t take much pressure to punch a hole with any of these tools, but if you have difficulty squeezing firmly, the screw-action tool might be the best choice. I think the pliers are a little quicker to use, though. The BeadSmith punch pliers also feature a “gauge guard” – a screw that you can adjust to keep the pliers from punching too deeply and marring the surface around the hole. It is a nifty feature, but one you have to remember to use! If you forget to adjust the gauge guard, you will probably mar your metal a bit from time to time.

A thin piece of plastic prevents the pliers from leaving a mark around the hole.

BUT – here is a tip to keep your metal pristine no matter which hole punch you use: cut a little piece of plastic from the package the tool comes in and punch through it. Then leave that little scrap on the punch. It effectively cushions your metal from the punch and removes all worry of marring your metal. If you forget, just buff the mark with some steel wool and it should disappear quite easily.

Happy punching! ~ Cindy

 

 

 

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24 Responses to “How to pick the best metal hole punching tool for jewelry”

  1. maneki says:

    What a clever idea to use a bit scrap plastic like that!

    Hole punchers have been on my wishlist for ages, it feels like, but I just don’t seem to be able to decide which one (or which ones) to buy. One thing I like about the pliers is that you can get square and oval holes too. Seems a bit wasteful, though to buy one set of pliers for each type or size of hole. I’d like a tool where you have one set of pliers and then you just change bits for different size holes, like those hole-punch pliers for leather with a rotating wheel. But for metal and including oval and square holes.

  2. Mary says:

    Hi Cindy, Thanks for the great info. can you recommend which tool would be best to punch holes thru sterling silver, silver plated and silver flat wear to make bracelets from silverware(spoons, forks, etc). I bought a 2 hole punch from a hobby lobby but it doesn’t work at all.
    Thanks, Mary

    • Polly says:

      Hi Mary,

      This two-hole metal punch (from Euro Tool) is the most durable punch I’ve found, that isn’t a power tool. It will punch through thick sterling silver with ease. It says it is only designed for up to 24 gauge metal … but it cuts through nickels and pennies like butter. Just don’t try cutting steel washers =) Or if you do, have replacement parts on hand.
      This little punch may look like the one you got, but if yours didn’t say “EURO TOOL” then it’s just a cheap imitation, and we’ve heard that most of the imitations don’t work.
      For the silver plated and silver flat wear … that’s tougher to answer. It depends on what is underneath the plating. If it is steel under the plating, then a hand-powered jewelry tool will not do the trick. You’ll need a drill press, and special drill bits designed for cutting through metal. A quick survey of google results tells me these “just happen” to be the most-expensive drill bits available, because standard steel drill bits can’t cut through steel — they may need to be titanium oxide coated or cobalt steel.
      I believe that our drill press would work, but you should first find out what size drill bits are available for the materials you’re trying to cut. (The Jacobs chuck on the drill press accepts bits up to 6.5mm.)

  3. Liane says:

    How do you or what would you use to punch out more delicate pieces. I want to cut or punch out puzzle pieces.
    Thank you.

    Liane

    • Polly says:

      Hi Liane,
      You can use these same tools to punch holes in puzzle pieces. Although they are designed for metals, they work great on lighter materials too. I’ve used the Eurotool 2-hole punch on vinyl disk beads (like sequins but not as shiny), and leather bracelets with no problem.

      Or – are you asking how to cut out puzzle-pieced shapes from some other material like card stock? If so, check your local craft store. I’ve seen puzzle-piece shaped punches/dies, but I don’t know what types/thicknesses of paper products (or maybe even thin metal!) they can be used for.

  4. sheila h. says:

    Just want to say thanks for all your generous help.
    I just saw an article in Country Home mag and wanted to try me hand at the craft item. It called for euro punch.
    You answered all the questions I had.
    Now I am on my way to purchase the euro punch, thanks to you.
    Sheila Hershon

  5. Erica says:

    Your blog is SO SO helpful to a newbie like myself. I am dabbling into jewelry design but recently I saw some pieces where I need to make holes for. However, I am so overwhelmed by it all. Are there any machines that allow for varied sizes. If not someone somewhere should design one because to have a machine that has a scale of holes would no doubt put an end to having 20 different size hole punchers.

    Erica

    • Polly says:

      Hi Erica,

      The Eurotool 2-hole punch is my favorite, but it only makes 2 hole sizes (1/16″ and 3/32″). I really like how smoothly and easily it cuts.

      If you need BIGGER holes, then the EuroPowerPunch is awesome. It cuts 7 sizes of circles (I call them circles because I consider them bigger than holes) from 3/32″ to 9/32″ – so the largest hole is a bit over 1/4″.

  6. Carol Fuller says:

    Great information!!! Now I am hoping to find a Canadian supplier. Any ideas?

  7. Elizabeth Salisbury says:

    Hi, what would you suggest I use to make holes in game pieces, such as Monopoly or Clue. I think they both are pewter. I am hoping a hand punch tool will work and I will not need a drill. Thanx for your help, Elizabeth

    • Polly says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I would suggest the EuroTool 2-hole punch (linked above). It works a lot like an unpowered drill. It punches through pennies, quarter, etc no problem, and pewter is very soft, easy to punch through with the EuroTool 2-hole punch. The only potential problem is that you’ll need to find a spot on the piece, that you can get the tool onto.
      I don’t think the plier punches will work well.

      Another option is a similar tool that has a deeper access point: https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/search/search.asp?keywords=rivet+punch+tool . It’s more expensive, because one end punches and the other end rivets. You only need the punching end for what you’re doing, but you can see that this tool is taller than the Eurotool punch.

  8. Bailey says:

    Hi,
    I am currently looking for something to punch out 10-40 mm circles from sheet metal. Do you have any suggestions for what I can use?

    Thanks,
    Bailey

  9. LS says:

    BTW, I found that when using the screw-action type of hole punch, if I put a little piece of parchment paper inbetween the metal disc and the punch, that it also protects it!

    • Polly says:

      Hi LS,

      Yes, that is a great trick! I haven’t tried parchment paper, but I’ve used bits of left-over 3×5 cards, and old business cards — they also work nicely to prevent scratches.

      ~Polly

  10. Sue says:

    Hi,

    I’m wondering if you know of anything that would be easy to use to punch a hole in an ear cuff (1.25mm) without damaging the shape of the ear cuff.

    Thanks, Sue

  11. Kate says:

    Hi Polly-do you have any suggestions on punching holes in small metal tins? I have a hand held hole punch that is very good for making holes in tins with slider tops. The slider top comes off and is thin enough to fit into the hole puncher. But the lids to small metal tins won’t fit. They are maybe 3/4- 1/2″ tall. I am looking for a nice clean punch so I don’t have to file down anything-lazy!! I looked at you punchers but couldn’t tell…

    Thanks!

    • Polly says:

      Hi Kate,
      I’m sorry, I don’t have any inexpensive suggestions. I’ve been trying to figure out an easy way to punch metal tins, too.
      I’m afraid that a drill is my only suggestion. We do have this nifty tabletop drill press:
      https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/pc/EURO-TOOL-Benchtop-Drill-Press-2047p30176.htm
      but admittedly, spending $100 to upcycle cool tins, seems like overkill.
      Also, the benchtop drill press would work great on Altoids and Scho-ka-kola tins, but not so well on skinny tins with slider tops like the Chimes Ginger chews.
      ~Polly

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