The stapler’s secret

And now for what may be the most prosaic post in Eternal Recurrence history: examining your stapler! Yes, your stapler. A simple object you’ve used thousands of times and probably feel like you’ve mastered. Well, think again. Your stapler may possess a mysterious feature…

Here’s what the base, or anvil, of a stapler looks like prepared for normal operation:

Normal stapler anvil

But push up on that metal plate and it rotates:

Stapler morph

Turn it 180 degrees and it displays an anthropomorphic smiley face:

Oh hai i stapled ur paperz

But that’s not the point! Now the staple bends outward instead of inward, like this (top normal, bottom reversed):

Crazy, man

Wow! My friend Caleb showed me this yesterday, though even he was unsure of why staplers do this. Wikipedia has the answer:


This method is by far the least known and utilized stapling method. It is used to temporarily bind documents or other items, often cloth or clothing, for sewing. In order to pin, the anvil must be shifted so that the staple bends outwards instead of inwards. The staple binds the item with relative security, but can be easily removed by pulling the staple along the plane of the paper. This method varies between staplers, as some anvils need to be simply pushed forward to allow pinning, while others must be rotated. Some staplers implement pinning by bending one leg of the staple inwards, while bending the other outwards. Some modern staplers do not even include support for pinning.

Since learning of this feature I’ve shown it to lots of people and only one of them was aware of it. So informal poll time, blog readers. You’re an intelligent mob and have been around your share of staplers. How many of you knew they could do this?

Bonus link: I’m sure you’re dying to go play with a stapler now, but you may not have one nearby. No worries, the internet offers a handy virtual stapler for all of your virtual stapling needs.


57 thoughts on “The stapler’s secret”

  1. I had noticed the different markings on the other side of the stapler thingy, and I had mindlessly assumed that they would have some different effect on staples. But it never occurred to me to test what they’d do, or that whatever it was might be useful. I guess I never picked up a stapler and found it lacking some necessary feature, so it never occurred to me to look for another feature. Thanks!

  2. It always amazes me when I find out that people don’t know staplers do this. I guess I’ve had too much idle time around staplers in my life. The idea of pinning fabric for sewing was new to me though.

  3. I got here through “STUMBLE !” and give me a break this some I learned about it in Grade School. And to your readers think you are a hero. Don’t forget to keep them in the know they need all the help you can give them.

  4. Yes, Perry, they do think I’m a hero. Please don’t disillusion them. They need me. I’m all they’ve got left in this postmodern world, the poor little fellas.

  5. Wow…

    So simple, I’ve seen it on my stapler for years and wondered what it was for…

    Thank you for pointing that out… really useful and I’ve used it at least a dozen times already today!

  6. i totally knew about it and used it too, but for a different effect. when you have a stack of stapled documents, if you use the “pinning” feature the documents stack flatter than if they’re “stapled”.

  7. i don’t know how i missed this blog entry before you posted the new one about it, but i also knew about this and never thought about the reasoning- i remember discovering this about 6 or 7 years ago but not thinking much of it other than “neat”… but you have solved the mystery!

  8. I have never been to this site before today (Jacob trackbacked to my post about Zap Reader).

    And yet … I had heard about this stapler trick somewhere on the internet late last week.

    Ain’t the internet great?

  9. I just discovered this today when my daughter told me! Who knew?

    I found your site using Google images. I hope you don’t mind my borrowing your pictures for my post. I’ll take them down immediately if it’s a problem. (I linked up to your post here in mine)

    Here’s to us who have discovered the secret of the stapler! *cheers*

  10. How cool! I had noticed the alternative “markings” on the stapler, but never stopped to wonder what they were there for. (And I am a tad embarrassed to admit that if you hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out HOW to rotate the plate. I thought it looked like it needed to be unscrewed with some special tool.)

  11. My stapler actually has a little bubble on the underside that I can push to lift up the anvil, then rotate the plate. Thanks for the tip!

  12. Weird… I thought it was a function of the type of stapler. I only saw the pin system in australia and figured it was because everything is backwards down there. I had no idea my regular stapler could do it.

  13. I knew about it due to my natural need to touch practically EVERYTHING I see. I never could’ve told you why anybody would want to use that function of the stapler, but I’ve just always assumed it was used for more temporary stapling. Thanks for the article!!

  14. It’s also a painful feature when someone else switches it on you without your knowing as a joke. I stapled a receipt to a piece of paper with the expense justification and then proceeded to fold the paper into a business tri-fold. When you’re not expecting two sharp pointy ends of a staple to be pointing outwards and you run your thumb across the paper quickly and with a lot of force to make a nice crease, it’s not pleasant when the open point rips your thumb open.

    Try explaining the large blood smear to accounting.

  15. How amazing… ! That’s a very good lesson on the working criteria of the stapler. I came to know from the text, how stapler’s staple in inner side and the outer side. Thanks mate for the wonderful allocation. ๐Ÿ˜†

  16. I’m a high school teacher. I’ve known this for as long as I’ve been in the classroom (almost 15 years)…because my students used to switch it on me all the time just to be funny. My guess is MANY fellow teachers are in the same boat! LOL

  17. Regardless of how many people already knew about this wonderful feature, I think we can all agree that staplers are awesome.

Comments are closed.