- Firstly, What Is A Roll Pin?
- What Is A Roll Pin Punch?
- Where's Best To Look For Them?
- What Should I Be Looking For?
- Important to Note
- Top Picks
- Best Quality – Grace Tools 12 pc Professional Steel Roll Pin Punch Set with Vinyl Pouch
- Best Value – Walmart Roll Drive Pin Punch Set
- Best For Gunsmithing – Tekton 18-Piece Punch Set
Firstly, What Is A Roll Pin?
Roll pins are versatile components that have a wide range of industrial, electrical, and mechanical purposes. They are self-fastening rods, designed to be hammered into a hole to pin together two separate parts, using tension to keep a secure join. Instead of a standard pin that's solid all the way through, a roll pin has an opening down the side or a spiral formation that allows the diameter of the pin to be compressed. The aim is to hammer the pin into a hole of smaller diameter than the pin, so the ends are beveled to start the pin into the opening. Once you hammer it in, the pin exerts a force on the inside of the hole, keeping it tightly secured. Some people call it a spring pin for this exact reason.
This is useful for a couple of different reasons. First, roll pins are widely used in areas where there is likely to be vibration, such as car engines or firearms. Repeated vibration can cause solid pins to loosen, and since they have no way to exert force on their cavity, they can fall out. Because of the flexibility of a roll pin, it's far less vulnerable to loosening.
Another reason is the forgiving nature of the design. If you're drilling a cavity for a solid pin, you need to get the diameter of the hole exact to fractions of a millimeter, or it'll simply fall out. With a roll pin you have some leeway, as it can compress and therefore fit into a small range of diameters.
What Is A Roll Pin Punch?
Since a roll pin is hollow, hammering straight onto the pin can splay out the end and damage it. A roll pin punch allows for a clean and direct transfer of energy.
Roll pin punches have a “ballpoint” end which slots into the roll pin and a thicker tip on the other end that you can hammer onto, much like a chisel. The ballpoint supports the shape of the roll pin by filling the hole and stops the pin collapsing when inserting or extracting it. They're most often made of steel for durability, and they come in a range of sizes.
Where's Best To Look For Them?
Home Depot, Amazon, and Walmart all sell best roll pin punch sets. Most online general retailers will also stock them, so it's really just a case of shopping around and seeing where the best deals are. Instead of buying them brand new, you might want to look on eBay to save some money. Chances are there are some good deals on higher quality sets, and because they're relatively simple and robust items, buying them secondhand isn't going to be a problem. Just make sure to check that they're fully functional.
If you're using these for gunsmithing, gunsmith, purveyors of firearms may also stock roll pin punch sets specific for firearm maintenance. Equally, if you plan to use them for car repairs or similar projects, there will be industry-specific sites that stock these tools as extras.
What Should I Be Looking For?
Firstly you need to figure out what size cavities you're going to be working with.
If you're not too sure, the most common range of sizes out there is 1/16 to 5/16 of an inch, which covers all the typical uses like gunsmithing or machinery and vehicle repairs. You're unlikely to need anything smaller.
Because it's something that's designed to be hammered repeatedly, it needs to be made of tough material too. Carbon steel is extremely durable so it makes a good material for roll pin punches, especially if it's heat-treated for added toughness. Sets made from carbon steel will stand up to repeated use over a long period of time, but a high carbon content means they may corrode more easily when exposed to moisture, so a corrosion-resistant coating is a bonus.
Important to Note
An important thing to look out for is the shape of the tip. Many pin punches are incorrectly marketed as “roll pin punches”, without having the convex end. If the pin punch has a flat end it's less suitable for roll pins, as it can slip off and warp the pin. If you have a standard pin punch set, you may be able to use it for roll pins for one -off work, but over time it will damage both the pins and the punches and render them unusable.
Best Quality – Grace Tools 12 pc Professional Steel Roll Pin Punch Set with Vinyl Pouch
Made from the highest quality hardened steel, it's built to be the last roll pin starter punch set you ever need to buy. It's definitely pricey, but if you're looking to invest in super-long-lasting quality, this is the set for you, even for brass drift punch job.
Best Value – Walmart Roll Drive Pin Punch Set
With this set you can keep the cost down while still getting that all-important ballpoint end and even some knurling on the sides for extra grip. A solid starter's choice if you're looking cut back on costs.
Best For Gunsmithing – Tekton 18-Piece Punch Set
This is a comprehensive set that includes absolutely everything you'll need for firearm maintenance. It has punches for both roll pins and standard pins, and even has a great-looking wooden stand to keep it all nicely organized.
- Always wear protective eyewear whenever you're dealing with high-velocity work such as hammering or using power tools.
- Always try your best to hammer vertically. The ballpoint ends will go a certain way towards keeping the pin in place, but if you're hammering at an angle consistently it could still warp and slip off, potentially causing injury. It's best to use a rubber mallet to further prevent any nasty accidents.
- Don't use your roll pin punch set to hammer onto flat surfaces. This will quickly warp the ballpoint end and make it impossible to use it for its required size.