Why Does a Stapler Have Two Different Indentations On the Plate?

April 16, 2022

An office stapler.

We’ve probably all used a stapler to fasten papers together, but did you ever stop and wonder why there are usually two sets of indentations on the metal plate where the staple is bent? Well, each of those indentations has a specific purpose.

That small metal plate where you place the paper is known as either a “strike plate,” “crimp area,” or “anvil.” Underneath the plate, and seen under the base of the stapler, is a pin attached to the plate, surrounded by a spring. If you push on the pin, you can push the plate up and rotate it to change the position of the indentations or grooves on the top of the plate. But why would you want to do this?

The close together indentations are the most commonly used. This setting causes the legs of the staple to bend inward and secures the paper. It is known as the reflexive or staple setting. If the plate is rotated, and the two farther away indentations are placed at the front of the stapler, the legs of the staple will be pushed outward away from each other. This is called the pinning setting.

You might not have known that your simple stapler gives you two settings, and each one depends on how you want to bind your papers together. The reflexive or staple setting holds papers firmly together, and this setting is used when you want a more permanent hold on your papers. You’ve probably had to use a staple remover at one time and noticed that removing a staple can cause the paper to tear or even leave a bigger hole. 

To avoid that result, the pinning setting can be used, where the grooves are farther apart, and the legs of the staple will splay out when they go through the paper. This setting can be used to fasten papers together temporarily. When it comes time to remove the staple, it is easier, and the paper won’t be damaged.

The pinning setting originated when papers were held together with a seamstress’s pin. This is also how cloth was held in place before being sewed together. This setting on a modern stapler is a holdover from that time.

So the bottom line becomes, if you plan on not taking those papers apart and want to bind them firmly together, you would use the reflexive or staple setting because if you try to remove the staple, it can damage the paper. But if you know you’re going to need those papers to be taken apart from each other in the future and are only holding them together temporarily, you would use the pinning setting, so you don’t tear or mess up the papers.

Sources: Staple Headquarters, San Diego Reader, Webstaurant Store

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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