Many people who regularly use common office staplers don’t give them much thought. As long as a stapler is functioning correctly, fastening papers together or attaching flyers to bulletin boards, it doesn’t get a lot of attention. But if you look closely at the part of the stapler called the “anvil” or the “strike plate,” where you rest the paper when you press down on the top of the stapler to push a staple through, you’ll notice two different types of grooves. These are there because that base plate is reversible; you can rotate it to change which groove the staple wire hits when it comes through the stack of paper you are fastening together. Here we’ll explain why staplers have two settings.
The setting most people use is the one that causes the legs of the staple to bend inward to hold a stack of papers firmly together. This is the “staple” or “reflexive” setting. If the user reverses the strike plate, the staple’s legs will splay outwards when they come through the paper. This is the “pinning” setting.
The “pinning” setting is for temporarily fastening papers. Staples that go through paper with the legs bending outward, rather than curling inward, are easier to remove and do less damage to the paper when pulled back out again. The “pinning” setting actually came from an earlier way of holding papers together with a seamstress’s pin, the same way fabric is held in place temporarily until sewn together.
Some higher-powered or industrial-type staplers, for example, an upholstery nail gun, offer different versions that fire staples automatically or manually. Others, such as fence staplers, use “divergent point” staples to hold fencing wire to wooden fenceposts firmly, as the legs of the staple splay outward into the wood. The common office stapler has two settings to provide the user a choice of whether to firmly bind papers together using the “reflexive” or staple setting, where the legs of the staple curve under for a firm hold, or to temporarily bind them with the milder “pinning” setting, which makes it easier to remove the staple wire without further tearing or shredding the paper.