What is an Automatic Center Punch?
An automatic center punch is a spring-loaded tool commonly used in machining and woodworking to create a starter hole or dimple that guides a drill bit.
Pressure is applied by pressing and holding down the handle. This compresses the spring inside. While holding down and applying increasing down pressure on the handle, the spring will release. This will release the sharp pointed tip which will pierce the contacting surface and create a small hole in the material.
The design of a center punch has not changed very much and is quite optimized for its intended purpose. That is why all of them look very similar if not identical. A good center punch really comes down its construction and quality. But, that comes with a cost.
Quality control on most of the "cheaper" options are hit and miss (mostly miss). They are either not strong enough to create an adequate marking or they misfire and don't punch. So it's entirely plausible that you might have to go through returning at least one.
We recommend purchasing one at your local hardware store or an online marketplace (paid link).
We've also tested a handful of center punches on Blockplates and curated what we believe to be are the best center punches.