Riveting is a method of joining materials using a metal pin, called a rivet. The rivet is inserted into pre-made holes, then the exposed ends are molded into heads. It ends up looking similar to a nail with a head on both ends. Riveting offers many advantages, among them are: • Rivets require no heat; materials that would be destroyed by heat may be joined (e.g. fabric). • Rivets do not merge with the materials they bind; they can act as fulcrums for moving parts. • Rivets are nearly permanent; they are more secure than a bolt, screw, or nail. Traditional riveting means manually forming each head. This is can be done with hammers, molds, or both. It has many applications, including metalworking and jewelry making. This style was used in pre-modern construction, such as the Eiffel Tower. The closeup on the right shows some of the 2,500,000 hand formed rivets used on the Eiffel Tower. This guide will teach traditional riveting. In modern construction, rivet guns are used. These automate the process, and use stock rivets with one premade head.

Standard Head

Round, and often hemispherical in shape. May be hand formed, like those on the Eiffel Tower, or used in rivet guns. These are the most common variety.

Decorative Head Tube

A premade head designed with aesthetics in mind.

A pipe shaped rivet replaces the typical solid cylinder rivet. Special equipment and techniques are used.

The remainder of this document contains a step-by-step guide to both making and forming standard rivets from scratch. Although riveting is a basic metalworking skill, it does require some prior experience. Proficiency using the following tools is required: Abrasives- both files and sandpaper, used to remove rough edges and resize pieces.t Hammer- used to form rivet heads. Drill Press- used to drill rivet holes. The following are recommended. They are needed for preparation, but not during Ability to Anneal- performed with a torch, softens metal by heating it, then letting it cool. Access to Table Shears- used to quickly and cleanly cut sheet metal. Knowledge of Gauge Sizing- a measurement standard used for wire diameter

Metal is like really, really, hard silly putty; it can be molded and shaped without breaking. And, like silly putty, metal becomes soft when heated. Knowing these principles is crucial in riveting. The rivet is first through holes in the materials to be joined, and then struck with a hammer. This compresses the rivet between the hammer and anvil. The metal in the rivet has nowhere to go but to the sides. Since the rivet is embedded in material, only the exposed portions expand, mushrooming into a spool shape. The spool’s edges are then tapped down with a round headed hammer, forming a smooth and secure rivet head. The round head of the hammer, or ball-peen, is used because it delivers precise, concentrated force. While following

Before buying anything, try visiting a local metalworking studio. They should have everything on this list, and will likely let you use their equipment for a small fee. They may also have a scrap bin, from which you can salvage free metal for your plates and rivets.

Borrow / Rent
Anvil or Steel Plate Drill Press Shears Torch Clamp (not shown)

Eye Protection Dust Mask Hammer File Sandpaper Ring Clamp Pliers Wire Cutters Nylon Block Stock Sheet Metal Brass Wire Drill Bit Center Punch Marker

For this practice exercise, 2” by 2” plates will work great. Keep the plates flat; the extra complexities of riveting curved plates won’t be addressed. Stick to brass wire. Brass is a good metal to learn riveting with because it is soft. Remember to obtain a drill bit that exactly matches the diameter of your wire! Wear eye protection at all times. Wear closed toe shoes. Secure loose clothing and long hair. Wear a dust mask when filing.


Plates Wire

Cut using bench shear. File rough edges till smooth. Cut one long piece, measure about 1/4” per rivet. Anneal wire- coil wire before heating. Straighten wire- see diagram on right.

wait! skip next step and turn page

Alignment Pins

Cut two 1” pieces of wire. File ends flat (see photo). Sand wire until it fits snugly in hole (see photo). Bend into “L” shape.

When drilling, always use a clamp and eye protection. Afterwards, always refine fresh holes by re-drilling from the backside, followed by light filing, and sanding. The instructions will not remind you, so remember to repeat this every time you drill.

Top Plate Only

Mark all rivet locations with marker. Center punch each location- lightly tap center punch. Drill all holes slowly.

Back Plate- First Hole Only Back Plate- Second Hole

Mark back plate using top plate as a stencil. Center punch and drill first hole only.

Make alignment pins- return to skipped step. Align both plates. Insert first alignment pin. Drill using top plate to guide drill. Insert both alignment pins. Drill all remaining holes.

Back Plate- Remaining Holes

Create Blank Rivets
Study diagram on right. Cut rivets from same wire as alignment pins. File ends flat, the wire should already fit holes snugly. If wire won’t fit in hole- lightly sand sides. File rivets until about half their diameter is above plate. Continue adjusting rivets to match diagram. Align plates & insert an alignment pin. Insert first rivet and position according to diagram. Hold plates over anvil, only rivet should touch anvil. Hit once, hard enough to crack a walnut, with flat side. If struck properly, the anvil will “sing.” Flip and strike back side once.

Set Rivet

Form First Head

Choose which side to form first. Strike edge of head with round side of hammer. Start out with , increase power until head deforms. Take your time, working in a circular fashion. A finished head is round and shiny. To prevent damage on plates, cover with masking tape. Flip piece. Protect first head by placing a nylon block over anvil. Form the second head just like the first one.

Form Second Head


Removing rivets is very hard, so practice until you can consistently form good rivets. Learning to rivet takes time, be patient.

Stephen Nomura 2008

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