Holiday Gift Guides / Product Profiles

Tools Under $30 Gift Guide: Automatic Center Punches

An automatic center punch is one of those cheap tools that’s worth its weight in gold when you need it. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

Whether it’s for a holiday or birthday, this Tools Under 30 Dollars Gift Guide Series shows you important, yet somewhat uncommon, tools that any gearhead would want.

Today, let’s talk about Automatic Center Punches.

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Ever try to drill a hole on a flat piece of metal?

It can be a real pain, because even a sharp drill bit may skip around the smooth metal surface as you try to begin the hole—which means the hole you drill probably won’t be anywhere close to where you originally wanted it.

That’s why smart gearheads use a punch to create a tiny indent on the metal first. This helps you locate the drill bit exactly where you want it, and will mitigate the chance of the bit walking around on you. Problem is, grabbing a hammer and punch to make that indent every time can be a real hassle.

Enter our friend, the automatic center punch.

With just a little bit of downward pressure, the spring action will “pop” the punch and create your indentation. Easy-peasey.

And they’re not just handy for drilling holes either. Automatic center punches can be used to quickly make index marks on things like flywheels, stators, and sprockets (basically, anywhere you need to note a location or rotational point.)

Here’s a quick visual walkthrough of how they work:

We’re demo-ing our automatic center punch on this washer. If you just try to start drilling a hole, especially with a hand drill, there’s a good chance the drill bit will dance around and your hole will end up in the wrong place. So, we’ll put our punch exactly where we want it and press down on the punch firmly. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)
After a “pop!” the punch makes a tiny little indent in the washer. It may not look like much, but this will go a long way to keeping your drill bit from moving around as you begin to drill the hole. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

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A lot of gearheads don’t even know these handy gadgets exist, which is a shame, because they’re pretty darn cheap and can save a ton of frustration. But that also makes an Automatic Center Punch a really good gift to give and receive. You’ve got plenty of buying options too, so you’ll easily be able to find a nice one for under 30 bucks. .

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