Step 6: Misc stuff about rivets

a few random notes and whatnot about rivets.
-since you only need the first 3/8 or less of a nail usually, buy them in the shortest size you can. you'll get more per pound that way.
-the large head on a roofing nail acts like a built in washer. that makes them good for riveting metal onto fabric, leather or plastic.
-duplex nails can be used for pins & posts.
-for most uses a 6d nail will work fine. but carriage bolts are handy if you ever need a rivet bigger than 1/4 inch.
-for articulating rivets use a holes a little larger than the rivet, use a washer under the end you are peening, and peen it over a rivet spacer. A rivet spacer is just a piece of pallet banding or something similar with a slot cut into the end. it makes sure that your rivet is loose enough to allow the pieces to articulate.
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kabira3 years ago
I have a question. in this instructable, the objects to be riveted together were small, so you could put the rivet head on the anvil, while you hammer the other end. Can someone please explain, how to hold the head on one side while the open end is hammered, when the objects are big, like in ship building?


Kabira, I built semi trailers for one summer to pay for grad. school. You use a large bar of steel on the backside of the rivet, and a small pneumatic hammer with a rounded head on the other side. The rivets look like the ones from the first slide, i.e., mushroom shaped. The rivets are relatively soft metal and as you pound on the head, and apply pressure to the back, the back mushrooms out too. One person can do it but sometimes two with one person holding the steel bar, and the other the hammer.

f749hge7 years ago
The reverse side of the is important and should be supported or the riveting will be loose and will be ineffective.
Rishnai7 years ago
You say that a roofing nail makes a good rivet for joining, say, metal and leather because of the head. Should I put the head on the metal or the leather side? Does it matter?
wocket7 years ago
wonderful instructable. Thanks!
Dr.Ellen7 years ago
This Instructable works best for relatively large rivets. When working with small rivets in a place you want to look good, you can make a special head-forming tool. (I really should do an Instructable on this one...)

1) Take a rod of hardenable metal, the diameter of the final rivet head you want to make. Shape and polish to the form you want to end up with. (This need not be a simple spheroid - you can make something more decorative.) When finished, harden it by heating red-hot, then quenching. We will call this the forming positive, because it is the same shape as the rivet dome we want.

2) Take a larger-diameter rod of hardenable metal. Flatten one end, then fasten it in a metal vice with the flattened end protruding quite a bit. This will become the forming negative. Heat the end of the negative red-hot with a propane torch, then drive the forming positive into the end. You'll wind up with a hollow in your negative, the shape of the final rivet head.

3) Step 2 will push metal out to the side. (Think of the rim of a meteor crater.) File and smooth it down. Quench the forming positive to keep it hard. Heat the negative red-hot again, and hammer the positive in, in register with the last strike if you are making a decorative head. Repeat until satisfied. Polish.

4) Heat the negative red-hot, then quench to harden. Preserve the positive - you might find it convenient (if you are in a shared shop) to make several negatives. Then shaped rivets could become a trademark of sorts for your shop.

To use this tool, put the rivet through the metal as in this instructable. Then put the forming negative over the end of the rivet, and use it to beat out the rivet head into the shape you desire. Have the forming end of the negative rod hardened, but the end struck with the hammer should be a bit soft so the hammer won't bounce.

Masonry nails are excellent and affordable hardenable steel. I make all kinds of things with them: rivet formers, maker's-mark stamps, scratch awls, chasing tools, specialized chisels. They come in a range of sizes and shapes suited to a lot of jobs.