Spring loaded centre punch.


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Honest John

Established Member
13 Dec 2014
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Shaw, Lancashire
My centre punch is giving up the ghost after a number of years living in my overall pocket. I don’t in general use it on metal, it’s main use is popping start holes for drilling and centre poping wooden spindles for the lathe. My failed/failing one is a no mark as far as I can see, and I know I didn’t pay much for it, and I’m wondering if what other people use, and indeed what brands are good ones. I notice Axminster do a useful looking one described as “heavy duty”. My cheap one has not popped a decent indent in some very hard spindle endgrain, so I’m thinking that a better made one may have a sharper, harder point, and give more wellie from the spring. If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions of what works for them I’d like to hear them. It’s not a very exciting tool, or indeed an expensive one, but like all tools, some must be better than others.
One of the first exercises for a new turner is to make a point tool. Using a hardened masonry nail, you could use an ordinary one, cut off the head with a Dremel, angle grinder or corner of the bench grinder wheel. Sharpen the point by placing the nail in a drill & rotating it against a belt sander or disc sander.
Glue the nail into a turned handle. If you add a ferrule you've the basics of the next lesson on making tool handles.
I expect you already know that most centre punches are adjustable by screwing the nose in & out.
I have never seem one of these that will put a decent mark on steel, even a decent eclipse one. They might work better on wood but the only use I see for them is to break a tempered glass windscreen in an emergency!
You do know you can adjust spring tension? Might be all you need do is twist the cap.
I have one (no name I think) and find it great for both metal and wood (inc MDF, ply, etc). As already said by someone above, remember the twist cap (which on mine significantly increases the pop power - screw IN for increase, OUT for decrease) which you should use to suit the hardness of the material you're "popping".

Also, how sharp is your point? On mine it's removable. Chuck the removed "bit" into a drill and GENTLY offer it up to a belt or disc sander (fine grit). Remember that for general use you're aiming for 90 degrees - 2 x 45 degrees.

If it helps I have a very fine centre punch (not a popper) ground as above but this is VERY thin and used ONLY for marking out, using only the very lightest of hammer blows. If in metal that's then followed up with the popper, as above.

I also have a "big thick one" also ground 45/45 degrees, but that's used mainly for rough work in thick metal.

But IMO just about any "automatic" pop type will be fine for both wood and metal, especially if the spring is adjusted to suit the job, as above, and if the point is kept sharp.


Thanks to all. The fault on my existing cheapo one is that it is not latching when the spring is compressed so it fails to hammer. Yes it is adjustable in the normal way, but to be honest it has never made a over big mark. I have used it on steel where it has been beardy effective. Definitely time for a new one. It is a tool that I use on almost every workshop visit. I have made point tools before and also birdcage type awls, and they all have their place. I do however like the single handed opperation of an automatic punch, and I’ve always had in my apron pocket. You get used to these ‘quirks’, like I always have a pen and a pencil in my top pocket, and a slide rule back in the day! Nowerdays with smartphones that has become redundant. Glad to hear the Draper punch has found some favour, as it is on my mental shortlist along with the Eclipse, which I think is still British made. Just trying to fight off an urge to buy the Starrett version because I know from my other Starrett kit it will be made right.. but expensive.
OK Honest John. I also have a Starrett (inherited from my Dad) but I only use it "on Sundays" (if you know what I mean). I think my "daily" one may well be Draper, not sure, but it's years old and works fine if kept sharp.

Sorry about your latching problem, unless you can fix it by gently filing the little notch in the "bit" (if it's like mine) then I guess it's time for a new one (if you get a Starrett and if you're like me, you'll only look at it and never use it! ;-)

I have a Moore and Wright one bought in about 1953, used on steel and other metals and also on wood over the years. It works perfectly still.
Moral is, you get what you pay for !
John you have a PM.
In case you you havent used them yet since the new site updates and are struggling to find them click on your profile top right of the page, click on control panel then private messages.
An eclipse one will be fine for what you want, but if anyone is after a heavier duty one, the Beta tools one is brilliant. We have one in our metal shop and its outlasted any previous one!
Ok. Time to own up. In a moment of weakness in the period between the Wigan game and the Leicester / Chelsea game I bought a Starrett 80A on Fleabay. It was only about twice the price of the Eclipse ones so it’s not the end of the world. Thanks to all for your contributions.