Paper punches are wonderful tools when they are new, but less expensive models can have problems you can reduce or eliminate with a bit of maintenance. Here are a few tips to keep your paper punches cutting cleanly for your miniature purposes. If your paper punch becomes stuck and you can't easily free it, try the information on Fixing a Stuck Paper Punch which includes information on taking common decorative paper punches apart.
Basic Maintenance of Decorative Paper Punches
What Will They Cut?
Most paper punches are designed to cut a single layer of standard letter paper. The way they work means they often are not successful at cutting very soft or tissue papers. If you want to cut a fine tissue or a softer paper, cut through two pieces of paper at once, with a piece of standard paper on top of your tissue to help the punch work correctly.
Paper punches are also not very good at cutting very fibrous papers. They will often leave ragged edges which can be trimmed with scissors or smoothed away with your fingers.
Paper punches can also be used to cut thin layers of firm polymer clay. You will need to coat both sides of the clay with a bit of talcum (baby) powder or cornstarch before you punch out a shape, and the clay sheet needs to be thin, and as firm as possible (just out of the freezer).
How to Sharpen a Paper Punch
If a paper punch is just a bit dull, the cutting edge can be sharpened by cutting through extra fine sandpaper (200 – 400 grit is good) or by cutting through aluminum foil. Sandpaper is the preferred method, make sure it is very fine sandpaper or you will dull your punch instead of sharpen it.
What if the Paper Punch Sticks?
If your punch sticks, and you know the paper type is not the cause, check that the punch is clean, with no residue or paper fibers in the punch. Clean it with a soft camera brush (with an air puffer) if necessary. You can coat the punch surfaces with a thin layer of wax by punching it through wax paper or silicone coated baking parchment to help keep it from sticking. There are also commercial coatings which can be applied to punch surfaces to keep the punch running smoothly. If your punch is subject to a lot of use, use a product like E-Z Tool Cleaner and then Cutter Glide, available from scrapbook suppliers, which are designed to clean cutting surfaces (scissors and punches), and then coat them with a silicone type surface.
Correct How You Use the Punch
Inexpensive hand held paper punches usually have the most problems, make sure you are squeezing the handle with an even pressure and not pulling the top handle slightly to the left or right as you punch. For table type punches, make sure you press down squarely on the punch, not just on one side of the mechanism. Constantly pulling the punch slightly in a particular direction will cause it to bind.
Use Commercial Grade Punches If Possible
Die cast Ticket Punches are available for many commonly used craft shapes. These punches are designed for commercial use and are much sturdier with better cutting surfaces than craft punches. Commercial ticket punches are a good purchase if you will be needing lots of a particular shape. Their cost (usually $30 - $50 per punch) makes them a good group or club purchase. A commercial punch is much easier to use for large numbers of shapes than common craft punches.
Make Sure Your Paper is the Correct Humidity
Paper fibres swell in higher humidities. This can cause the paper to stick in the punch or come out with frayed edges. Make sure your paper is kept cool and dry.