How to Peen a Rivet




As a start to my series of armouring Instructables i figured I'd go with something nice and easy. It also happens to be one of the most important skills you'll need if you ever want to build a suit of armour.
How to peen the humble unassuming rivet. It's a little more complicated than bashing it with a hammer a bunch, but not much.

Step 1: Supplies

Lets start with what you'll need.
in this picture i have....
-a 5 pound anvil
-a metal punch
-side cutters
-a small ball peen hammer
-2 pieces of metal to rivet together
-and a roofing nail.

obviously you don't need to use these tools specifically. a drill works as good as a punch, and the anvil can be replaced with any anvil like object. I regularly use a big ass block of steel i found at the side of the road, a chunk of railroad track, a 15pound lead sinker, or in a pinch I've even used a brick. just for some ideas
as for the nail, i usually use 6d nails from the hardware store if i'm riveting metal to metal and use the roofing nails when i;m attaching leather to metal.

Step 2: Preparing to Rivet

first thing you are going to need is something to rivet.
remember those 2 pieces of metal? well now is the time to punch/drill a hole in both of them. since this is practice it doesn't matter where, as long as there is 1 hole in each piece.
for a 6d nail or a standard roofing nail you'll need to make 1/8" holes. if your using a roofing nail 1/8 is a really snug fit, but you can shove it in there.

Once your nail is through both pieces of metal you'll need to cut off the extra, but how much exactly is that?
well thats easy. you'll want to have about 1/2 the width of the nail sticking out of the hole. just lok at the pictures they show it better than i can explain it.

Step 3: Moving Onwards

this step is an easy one.
looking at your rivet you'll see that it has a small peak. you need to use the mash the sides of that peak down so it is a bit more of a point.
it's a small thing, but it is important.

the pictures don't really show it well.

Step 4: Starting to Peen.

now that you've brought the rivet to port of a point you'll need to lightly hit it straight down from the top to flatten it out, then hitting it on a bit of a diagonal work your way in circles. this should cause the head of the rivet to begin to mushroom out.

Step 5: Finishing It Off

Now to finish the rivet off.
flip the hammer around and use the ball end of the hammer to repeat the last step. easy as that.

now you know to turn a regular old nail into a rivet, pretty simple eh?
now go and start riveting stuff together.

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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    105 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Would anyone be interested in me posting an in depth riveting guide? I could include forming standard, decorative, hidden, and tube rivets. I've been doing metalworking/jewelry making awhile, and just wrote an instructional guide on riveting for an English class. However, the guide I wrote was constrained by assignment restrictions; it could be much better. If enough people are interested, I'll put in the time to re-write it with full details. Can I get a show of hands?

    19 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'd be interested too. Have you any experience in riveting leather to leather? What differences should I expect? I'm guessing a nail might not peen into a rivet (if it can be verbed in this manner) as well on leather because the nail/rivet would sink into the much softer leather.


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    you can just rivet leather the same way you rivet metals, just keep in mind that it's soft and that if the size of the rivet heads are too small it could pull through the leather.


    Reply 3 years ago

    You can do this but you need copper rivets and copper washers to prevent the rivets from pulling through.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I assume that you want this for some sort of garment / belt / harness? Consider two things: (1) softer metal, ie copper, will be *much* easier to form but will still hold, since it'll be the leather that would fail before the rivet. (This is of course nothing new; see Levi Strauss) and (2) you'll get better, more consistent results (faster, too) if you invest in a tool and die, which you can probably find at a sewing supplier. Then - and I think this is the cool part - go to your local big box home ctr and get a foot or two of the heaviest bare copper wire they sell (in the electrical dept). Depending on your needs, 4, 6 or 8 gauge should work. Then just cut it to length with some heavy dikes or a cold chisel and an anvil if the wire is too thick for your cutters (whack, turn, whack, turn, then bend bend bend using pliers or dikes.)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    No, I've never worked with just leather to leather. I know it's done all the time though. I'd just give it a go on some scrap, and see what happens. I'd be interested to hear what happens, if you try it.

    trike road poetpins

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I'd love to read it, riviets are a good way to join a lot of stuff, so it would be handy knowledge!

    janine brownpins

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I am a beginner metalsmith jewelry designer and I would certainly love to see an instructional quide on tube, decorative and hidden rivets.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, sounds like at least a handfull of people are interested. I'll write it, but it'll be awhile.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'll raise my hand. although I dont think i'll use it nay time soon. I would like to know how to do it


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, go for it! After all, this is quite riveting stuff.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That would be a great idea!! Would also be a good exercise in writing - instructional writing can be a real challenge to do it clearly and leaving almost no questions.