Introduction: Making Copper Riveted Metal Boxes or Drawers

About: A small creature in an ocean of giants. I feel like I'm getting nowhere.

I'm currently making myself a coffee roaster, and with some leftover steel from making the control box/panel, I decided to make some boxes for rivets. At the last minute I edited my file to make them drawers instead though (Just the addition of a .5 inch bit to make a handle. )

After a few compliments on the roasters control panel, I decided to write this instructable to share the process I used to make a metal box.

Step 1: You're Going to Need.....

1: A way to cut the metal. I used a cheap tile saw that someone gave me, but a hacksaw, aviation snips, jigsaw, or bandsaw, will work well too.

2: Drill. Preferably a drill press. But as long as you can drill a hole large enough for your rivets to fit snugly, you'll be fine.

3: drill bit sized for your rivets. As I'm using 1/8 copper rivets, a 1/8 inch hole is the perfect size.

4: Rivets. 1/8 inch copper rivets were my choice. Mainly because they look good. But pop-rivets work too.

5: Hammer to set the rivets. A ball pein is the normal choice here, but since my boxes are small, I used the claw end of a claw hammer to set them. This takes some practice.

6: Anvil with a small depression to accommodate the rivets head.

7: a way to bend the metal. A brake would work best, I used a vise and some pliers.

8: a center punch. For keeping a bit from wandering on sheet metal, this is a necessary tool. Invest in a good set, take care of them.

9: A PLAN! When you make something from metal, you should plan ahead. You're making a box that will last a very long time and be very sturdy. Plan ahead, and it can be beautiful too.

Step 2: The Plan

Made in Sketchup, This template is for a small box/drawer. The IN is a number assignment for my personal template inventory. A plan for the plans if you will.

Find the file below if you wish to make this exact one.

Step 3: Gluing, Punching, and Cutting....

1: Glue your plan to the metal. I cut my plans so they'll fit the scrap I designed the boxes around.

2:Center punch ALL holes. You will appreciate this during drilling, I promise.

3:Establish a cut plan. I draw these out on the plan before I cut. This way I will not make a mistake I cannot fix. These boxes are made from scrap, I can't save material if I mess it up.

4: CUT. A hacksaw would be a good choice, But I went with the diamond tile saw. SAFETY GLASSES! Following the cut plan, I was able to cut well enough that the bends were clean.

5: No photo for this one, But DEBURR! Sheet metal cuts can be serious, Please file, sand, or grind, all burrs before continuing on.

Step 4: Drill First Set of Holes.

You'll be drilling one set of holes first. Handle side, and opposite end. This way the holes will guide the drill bit later when you are ready for them. The reason you center punched is to prevent the drill from wandering inside the hole and potentially breaking. Look at the photos carefully before drilling to ensure you drill the right ones.

Step 5: FOLDING!

There is an order that must be followed to keep your results consistent.

1: The small tabs that will ultimately be the backbone of your box MUST be bent first. Strike with a hammer to bring the fold true.

2: The Large sides the tabs are on are the next parts to be bent. Strike also to bring folds true. You'll have more defined angles this way.

3: Handle side (NOT THE HANDLE THOUGH) and back side of box to be bent last. I had to use a block of steel to allow the bend to fold properly over the vise.


Step 6: Cleanup

Clean the box well with your chosen solvent. I used acetone because the glue I used was rubber cement.

While you are cleaning, check again for burrs. A little work now, saves a lot of work later.

Step 7: Drilling.... Again.

1: Drill through your first set of holes into the tabs. Take your time. If the tabs bend, your bit will break. The metal I used was of sufficient thickness that I could just drill through, But if you are using a thinner metal, Make a wooden block that fits snugly, and drill through the tabs and into the wood. You'll avoid breaking the bit, and have less burss to clean up .

2: Deburr the holes. Look, I cannot stress how important it is to deburr your holes. Just do it.

Step 8: Riveting Ain't It?

Using your chosen rivets, and an anvil with a depression for the rivet head, Set rivets. Being sure all are in place before you set the first. That way If the metal moves, the rivet will already be in the hole, Preventing you having to redrill the holes.

In my case I needed to use the claw end of the hammer to set them in such a small place.

On riveting: Strike squarely, but not too hard. Your rivets will set better with 5 softer hits than it would with 2 hard hits.

Step 9: Done. Bend the Handle to Suit.

Now you can finally bend the handle down. I used my lineman's pliers to bend a little at a time until I liked where the handle sat. Just far enough I could get my fingers under it.

Step 10: Why Learn This Skill?

I thought this would be a good skill to share because I use this technique to build boxes for electrical enclosures. The latest being my coffee roaster project:

Using the copper rivets gives a rather industrial look I think, And holds very securely. Please vote for me in any contests I might enter, and if you like the YouTube channel, give a like and subscribe for more projects and tips.

Box Contest 2017

Participated in the
Box Contest 2017

MacGyver Challenge

Participated in the
MacGyver Challenge