Everyday Genius: Staples

April 26, 2017

It’s not easy keeping it together under pressure. Yet these little marvels do it every day tens of thousands of times over. 

The staples that we’re familiar with were invented in 1895 by E.H. Hotchkiss Company of Norwalk, Connecticut. Staples went through many variations and transformations until 1939 when Jack Linksy created a top-opening type stapler and created Swingline in 1956 where they have been making staples and staplers ever since.

My personal favorite is the red 747 Swingline that I have in my basement.

The staples we use today have three distinct parts. The teeth penetrate and punch through or into the material being stapled. The leg defines the size of the staple and the crown is where the driving blade of the stapler hits the staple to push it into / through the material.

General office staples begin their life as a large, thick coil of zinc-plated steel wire that’s unrolled, drawn through steel dies to reduce the wire to its proper diameter, and rolled back into heavy 2,500-pound rolls. Then 80 of those rolls of smaller diameter wires are lined up side by side and bound together using a roller press and glue.

Once all the long wires are bound together, this wide strip finds its way through an alignment die and into a 40-ton punch press that cuts the wires into the desired length. These smaller segments are then pushed into another press where the legs are bent over a mandrel to create the legs and the bent pieces are ejected onto a conveyor that carries them off to packaging. You can see the processes of turning them into the neat bundles here. Office staples are typically used in place of paper clips for a more durable and permanent solution to keep those important documents together. These staples have two ways of being used, “staple” where the legs are bent inwards on the anvil and “pinning” where the legs are bent outwards for a more temporary

Staples went through many variations and transformations until 1939 when Jack Linksy created a top-opening type stapler.

and easier to remove option. Another option for stapling is “tacking” where the legs are not bent at all and the staple is pushed straight into the materials.

Staples come in many flavors and sizes for all different applications. Small ones are used for paper while the beefier versions are made for construction and upholstery use. A quarter-inch tall staple can fasten up to 20 sheets of office paper while the 15/16-inch tall staples can fasten from 160-210 sheets.

Then you have surgical staples, made of medical grade stainless steel and titanium, which are often used in place of sutures to close large wounds. However, the use of clips and adhesives have surpassed staples in recent years.

So, while we go about stapling, pinning and tacking our work together, let’s remember it’s the little things that help us keep it all together.