Rivet Block

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A rivet block is a two sided bench block used to make rivet blanks by holding the stock in place and allowing you to upset only one end.

This rivet block it designed to be an relatively easy to make tool for making your own rivet blanks of set sizes.

  • Notes on rivet sizes:
    • >1/4" - very large rivets like this are used for large metal assemblies holding 2 or more pieces together; Gates, Door, Tables, Hardware, Etc.
    • 1/8" - 1/4" - commonly used for small assemblies like Trivets, or Ash Shovels. Also used for hinges & tool bindings like Pliers, Tongs, Clamps, Chains, Door Hinges
    • 1/16" - 1/8" - commonly used for decorative metal work to add flare, or for use with leather.
    • <1/16" & Small Gauge Wire - small gauge wire rivets like this are often used in jewelry. (best for chain mail rivets)

Supplies:

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Materials

  • High Carbon Steel Plate at least 3/8" thick (i used a salvaged railway plate)
  • Cutting Oil (recommended)
  • 1/4" Hex Bolt [2]
  • 1/4" Nuts [2] (make sure these are not locking/speed/permanent nuts; wing nuts work best)
  • Mild Steel Wire/Bar Stock for making rivets (brass, and copper work also)

Tools

  • Sawzall / Angle Grinder with cut-off wheel / Chop Saw (anything to cut and shape your steel plate)
  • Drill
  • 1/4" Drill Bit
  • Various Size Drill Bits (whatever size you plan to make your rivets)
  • Grinder / Sander (optional)
  • Letter & Number Punches (optional)
  • Small / Medium Ball Peen Hammer (for making rivets)
  • Bench / Leg Vise

Step 2: Cut

I used an old Railroad Tie Plate i had in the shop. any large enough block of good steel will work, just make sure it is long enough to house all the rivet sizes you want to make with at least 1/2" between cuts (4 sizes of rivets = 2.5 inches).

Dimensions:

  • Length = ( Size of Rivets + 0.5 Inches ) * Number of Rivets + 0.5 Inches
    • Figure out how many rivet sizes you want to make.
    • Put 1/2" spacing on each side of the cut, and on each end for stability.
      • Four 1/8" Rivets = 3" Total Length
  • Width1 = Deepest Rivet + 0.5 Inches
    • Figure out what the longest rivet is you want to be able to make.
    • Put 1/2" spacing around the greatest desired depth for stability.
      • 2" Rivets = 2 1/2" Total Width
  • Width2 = Deepest Rivet + >1.5 Inches
    • Figure out what the longest rivet is you want to be able to make.
    • Put at least 1 1/2" spacing around the greatest desired depth, this will leave you a large area to lock into a vise while working rivets.
      • 2" Rivets = 3 1/2" Total Width
  1. Cut to shape
    • the Top Plate should be your Length x Width1
    • the Bottom Plate should be your Length x Width2

I used a Jawzall, but a few cut-off discs would work too. NOTE: Whatever cutting method you use be sure to Oil / Cool your cutting area regularly (this will help extend the life of the tool without the need to a full tempering)

Step 3: Drill (Mountings)

Here you are drilling across both plates to mount them in place. --[]-[]->

  1. Arrange
    • Make sure that your plates are still relatively smooth.
    • Line up your plate so they have 3 common edges flush together.
    • Clamp your plates together so that they will stay in place trough the drilling (or tac-weld them).
  2. Drill
    • Place your mounting holes 1 Inch (so the are in between rivet slots) from the sides near the middle of your Top Plate.
    • You will want at least 2 holes, use more if you have a longer plate (1 every 4-6").
    • Make sure you drill all the way through both plates keeping them are steady as possible, these mounts are the most important part of the assembly.

Step 4: Drill (Work Holes)

Here you will be drilling down into the seem between the plates. this way you will have a half circle drilled into both faces -->=

  1. Prep Drill
    • Make sure you have a drill where you can measure the depth of each hole as you cut.
    • Zero out your depth with the drill bit at the face of the plate.
    • Bolt your two plates together using the mountings you made in the last step. keep them firmly together as tighten them regularly during your drilling.
    • Align your drill so that you bit is centered BETWEEN the two plates.
  2. Mark Holes and Notations
    • I recommend laying down a piece of masking / duct tape over the top of your working area and marking your holes on this.
    • Be sure to mark which points are to be which size AND at what depth.
    • Using the tap will also help you see when / if your plates are coming loose.
  3. Drill
    • Drill straight down in between the two plates keeping the vertical.
    • As you drill your holes be sure to oil your drill bits, If you feel the metal getting too hot, stop and cool it.
    • Keep your plates tightly together as you go.
    • Be sure to Zero out your depth again any time you switch drill bits.

Notes on depths: for this we are calling a rivet's length as the length PAST the mushroomed head. It is best to make your rivets a little longer than you think you will need them so that they are easy to cut down to the length you need. I found it easiest to make mine at mostly regular lengths.

  • Recommended formula: Rivet Length = Total Widths of Joined Materials + (1.5 Dia or Rivet)
    • Two 1/2" pieces with a 1/4" rivet = 1 3/8" rivet needed.

Step 5: Finish & Assemble

Grind and Smooth:

  1. Take your plates apart and clear out any metal shavings in the tracks you've made.
  2. Sand the indies of the plates so the fit tighter as tightly as possible
    • I put this after the drilling step so that the hole will not be perfect circles. This will help them pinch and hold the stock as you work it.
  3. Grind / Sand / Smooth the top of the block so that the places the holes meet together have a nice surface to work on.

Stamp Numbers (optional):

  • I found it very helpful to mark my diameters and lengths for each rivet hole so that i can quickly and easily see the area i need when working rivets.

Step 6: Usage

Simple steps to use your new Rivet Block:

  1. Loosely screw the plates together.
  2. Clamp in Vise (keeping the hole you are working in directly over the center of the vise)
  3. Put stock into the desired hole and cut to size
    • ~1.5 Diameter length more then the desires finished length (see step 4 for formula)
  4. Tighten the plates together holding the stock firmly in place.
  5. Upset and Peen the remaining stock into a nice mushroom shape.

I recommend this article on Anvilfire.com for more info on rivets.

photo credit: anvilfire.com

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    4 Discussions

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    ErikA33

    2 months ago

    Nice thank you, can also be used for making custom brass/copper decorative nails.

    1 reply
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    kweixelmanErikA33

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you.
    Very true, I didn't do a whole section on the rivets themselve (might do another one later), but i've use it to make some nice flower-headed copper nails as well.