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How can I hole punch thin plastic page protectors in bulk? Regular punches don't work...? Answered

Update: I found my answer, see comment below.  In short: I used a Carl Heavy Duty hollow-head Hole Puncher, and it works great!

I've been using plastic page protectors (these, specifically) in bulk, say about 1000 a month.  However, I need them to be 8.5 x 8.5 and I also need to punch holes that are slightly off from the factory holes.  I'm basically using these as a cheaper alternative to 8x8 scrapbook page protectors (which are prohibitively expensive - say $1 a sheet or so).

I've figured out how to quickly cut the pages (using a rotary cutter), and that works great.  However, I am still struggling to find a way to quickly & cleanly punch holes in these things.  The problem is that the plastic binds, stretches, and does not cut cleanly.  I need a very sharp & precise puncher to do this quickly, and I haven't found one yet.

I've tried normal 3-hole punchers.  I can punch them one at a time, if I hit the punch hard, and occasionally it binds & sticks (since the plastic stretches instead of breaking and gets caught in the mechanism).  I've tried hand-held punches as well, same result.  Also, aligning each individual page is time consuming as well.

The problem with paper hold punchers is that they're made for paper.  They're inaccurate, not sharp, but strong.  The cheap & heavy duty ones alike only differ in how much paper they can punch, but neither are sharp/accurate enough for thin plastic sheets.  Is there a high-quality razor-sharp & ultra-precise hold puncher out there?  I haven't seen any that look even close.

I've tried holding them down & drilling them.  The plastic wraps around the drill bit and they rip to shreds.

I also tried a leather punch, but the ones I got were much too dull - they just dented the plastic.

The only thing that has had some success is a dremel 115 cutter bit.  That actually cuts into the plastic, and if I go carefully (eating a bit at a time) it'll go through a lot of sheets at once.  However, it's messy, takes a lot of setup, and leaves a very messy hole (all chewed up).

Ideally, I'd love to line up 10 sheets or so, have a way to align them (a jig?), and then punch them all at once w/o any binding or sticking.

Does anyone have any other ideas?  I've thought of melting a hole, but then the pages would all stick together.  I'm completely boggled - how can I do this?  What tool can I buy for this?  What method haven't I tried?

Thanks guys!  Any suggestions are appreciated.


First off - thank you everyone for the answers! This has been puzzling me for a while now (a year?), and all these suggestions helped me brainstorm.

Second - I've found the answer to my specific problem. I ended up buying this:

It's a Carl 62100 Model xhc-2100 extra heavy-duty 100-sheet 2-hole punch. The key difference? The blades are hollow & extra sharp. Basically take a razor blade, wrap it into a cylinder, and then mount it on a very sturdy hole punch body.

You can see a closeup of the replacement blade here:

The key is that it does not rely on shear pressure of a blunt solid cylinder loosely matched to a hole in the base, like a normal hole puncher. Instead, the blade itself cuts on its way down. The last sheet actually doesn't get cut, since there's not enough pressure to cut all the way through. But all the sheets on top get cut perfectly, no binding, no stretching. This is perfect.

So thanks again, while my answer didn't come from these comments, they all did help me brainstorm until I found what I was looking for.

Co-punch with a bit of card.
By that I mean put the plastic in the punch with a piece of e.g. cereal box (or a piece either side)


I tried stacking with cardboard, but still had the same issues. The big problem is that plastic sheets are *very* flexible / stretchable, and are much more likely to stretch than actually cut. The stretching causes everything to get bound up & stuck, and not actually cut at all.

Hmm, a sharper cutter occurs to me, but isn't probably that easy to do.


I've looked at that one in my local craft store. However, IIRC it has a normal hole-punch bottom (ie. solid punch, hole in the base). I don't think this will work, since the mechanism itself is flawed for plastic like this. I may be wrong, but from what I've experienced it doesn't seem like the Cropadile will be a good fix.

Hey I saw you found a solution I'm glad it works! Sounds similar to the punching mechanism of the cropadile, but that has two sharpened points that angle down to form the circle punch...it really works well for punching! I was really shocked the first time I tried it!

Actually it will work as the punch part has sharpened pointy edges, you can even punch through hard plastic, think credit card with no effort at all. I've punched a hole in a leather belt, so many layers of plastic page protector would be no problem for the cropadile.

Trap a bunch between 2 pieces of wood - clamp tight - drill through the wood and page protector at the same time.

If you make the wood the size you need you can cut the excess off at the edge and so not need to measure again.

+1 yep and use a slower speed on the drill so as not to melt the plastic and a good quality brad point drill bit and you'll get a nice clean edges

I've tried slower speeds. The problem is not melting, although that can occur at higher speeds. The problem is that plastic stretches so much, so it gets caught on the drill bit and the sheets just rip apart.

If the sheets are stabilized (firmly secured), then the drill will end up wrapped in a bunch of twisted plastic sheets until 1) the sheets tear apart, 2) the sheets come loose and become a twirling ball of twisted plastic, or 3) the drill breaks.

Basically, there is no "clean cut" possible with a drill, even brad points (which I have), slow speeds, etc.

The traditional tool for hole-punching a large stack of paper in one swell foop is a paper drill -- which is basically a long, narrow "hole saw". Think of a hollow metal tube with one end's edges sharpened, chucked in a drill press so it rotates at an appropriate speed. Now modify that by putting a hole in the side some distance up the tube and arranging a "ramp" so that as pieces of paper get cut into the tube they push earlier paper out the upper hole (which avoids having to dismount the bit to clean out that accumulation).

Of course this counts on the paper being clamped firmly so it doesn't move, and there are some details of the clamping, the cutting speed, and how the bit is sharpened which ensure that the paper cuts rather than tears.

Seems to me that something similar -- possibly with a different cutting edge, almost certainly with a different cutting speed -- would work for a large stack of plastic too. The trick would be keeping the cut slow enough that the plastic doesn't melt and adhere to the adjacent sheets.

Caveat: Haven't tried it with plastic; caveat hackitor.

Oh and if your still getting problems then look for a wad cutter these are used to cut card and cloth. Easily found and give a clean cut through several layers.


7 years ago

How about getting them really cold first. Using dry ice you could get the temp down to the point that the plastic will get stiff and be easier to cut or perhaps drill. If you do them in a stack then they will stay cold long enough for you to work on them.