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Riveting falls short in the popularity content run with screws, bolts, and nails. They seem like a forgotten and lost art. I'm here to tell you that riveting is awesome, and can do quickly what screws and bolts can't.
To be clear: I'm going to be focusing on POP rivets in this article, as riveting in general is too wide and too complex a topic to go into all in one go. If you're interested in learning about other types of rivets, let me know in the comments below and I'll do an accompanying article on those.
What you'll probably need if you want to start riveting:
Step 1: Types of POP Rivets
Let's start with some basic terminology, so that we are all on the same page. POP is actually the name of the original brand that invented and marketed these types of rivets. The company was acquired by Stanley tools in 2013.
The pop rivet was invented in Scotland shortly before World War I. In the United States, inventors such as Carl Cherry and Lou Huck experimented with other techniques for expanding solid rivets, such as the pull-through method. By drilling a hole through a rivet and expanding it with a mandrel, these fastener pioneers eventually developed a cost-effective rivet that could be installed in structures where fasteners were accessible from one side only.
In 1939, the first U.S. patent was issued for an aluminum blind rivet. It was quickly adopted by the aircraft industry. The device enabled mass production of military aircraft during World War II.
It is a modernized form of these types of rivets that we know today as a blind rivet.
Step 2: How Does a Blind Rivet Work?
It's actually a really ingenious invention! Before blind rivets were invented, you had to have access to both sides of your work piece. For complex machinery, this could be a huge hassle as it would often mean that whatever you wanted to repair had to be disassembled.
Blind rivets have a few main features:
- A tubular rivet
- A mandrel, or center wire with a nub at the end
The process for riveting is based on a pulling motion, and the fact that the rivet is made from a soft metal. The action of pulling the mandrel through the tube of the rivet flares out the "blind" side of the rivet, which is on the other side of the work pieces. This flaring action binds the two work pieces between the rivet head and the flared blind end.
Step 3: Types of Blind Rivets
Over the years quite a few types of blind rivets have been developed for different uses and to side-step patents held by competing companies. Rivets also come in different materials and head types to suit your specific needs.
That being said, it is likely that your needs will be fulfilled by a simple Aluminum rivet with a domed head.
Step 4: How to Use a Rivet Gun
Select your rivet
Rivets come in different gauges, which means that you have an assortment of options. Select the smallest gauge that you think that you can get away with. The size of the rivet will define the hole that you will need to drill.
Drill your hole
You'll start by drilling a hole through your two work pieces. I find that clamping the two pieces together first ensures that the hole that I drill is exactly where I want it. Remember to use a center punch first because a bit will tend to wander on metal without some sort of initial guide.
Set your rivet in your gun
Select a rivet length that will fit your work pieces. You can measure the depth of your materials with a good caliper. The length of your rivet should be at least 1.5 times the thickness of both of your work pieces together. So if you are riveting together two pieces of aluminum which are each 3mm, you should add them together and multiply by 1.5 to give you 9mm for your rivet length.
The blind rivet gets inserted into the riveting gun via the mandrel. The head should be pushed firmly up against the end of the gun. The "nub" end of the rivet will be pointing away from the gun.
Insert your rivet into your pre-drilled hole
Firmly press your rivet into the pre-drilled hole, with the nub completely clearing the hole. Pull on the gun's trigger to pull the mandrel through. This will lock your rivet in place. The mandrel can be thrown away after you're done. I tend to keep them as they are useful little pins that I've found dozens of uses for over the years.
Step 5: Joining Plastic
An important tip that you should keep in mind is that when joining plastic, you should use a washer on the inside face of your work piece if you can. The washer gives more solid purchase to the flared end of the blind rivet, which will allow your rivets to last longer as the wear and tear directly on the plastic (what is most likely to break) is lessened. You're effectively sandwiching the two parts you are riveting together between metal, one side being the head of the rivet, and the other being the washer.
Step 6: How to Remove a Rivet
When removing a rivet you will be destroying it permanently, as there is no way to re-use a rivet.
The easiest way to remove a pop rivet is to drill it out. Select a drill bit that is smaller than the hole which your rivet is positioned in. This will ensure that it doesn't remove any unnecessary material from your work pieces. Drill out the center of the rivet carefully. Follow up with a punch and a hammer. Tap gently on the head of the rivet until the head snaps off. The rivet will fall through to the other side.
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