Basic Rivets


TIP 1:

To create a rivet that allows pieces to move, use a thin piece of cardboard, like the type used in food packaging.  You can also use thin metal like brass foil instead.  Drill a hole in the cardboard and put it between the rivet heads (top and bottom) and the base metal (top and bottom – if a lot of movement is required).  creating-moveable-riveted-joins  Put the rivet through the top piece of metal, then through the cardboard and finally, through the bottom piece of metal.  After completing the rivet,  either rip the cardboard out or soak it until it becomes soft and then tear it out. making-a-spacer-for-riveting  To help with removal, cut a slot that runs from the hole, in the paper or metal, to the outside edge. Make sure that the slot is not too wide or too narrow.  You want the rivet to pull out easily but, not leave such a big space that the rivet isn’t hammered evenly.  Pull the paper/metal out after riveting, or soak as stated above.


TIP 2:

When making more than one rivet, make one first, then the second, then the third, etc.  Often when riveting, the metal shifts a hair and if you pre-drilled your holes, they will no longer line up.  I often have to true up my edges because of this shift.

About Rivets

Not really.  Although, Rivets are a great way to attach metal to metal and attach any thing in between them. Actually, you don’t even need metal.  Rivets can be used on almost any material and have any random stuff in the middle. They can be decorative or blind (invisible).  They can disguise themselves as screws or a stone setting.  They can be a place to hang a jump ring or tie a ribbon.  Versatile  little devils.

Rivets are composed of three parts:  1.  The head or top  2. the shaft and 3. the tail – which is at the opposite end of the head!  Makes sense to me.  Some rivets can hold pieces immobile while others can be designed so that there is mobility.

The above necklace uses basic rivets to hold the image between the 2 sheets of copper and ball rivets to attach the bail to.

We’ve just created four videos on riveting:  Basic Rivets, Tube Rivets, Invisible or Flush Rivets and Decorative Rivets.  Please see my website for a written tutorial on tube, invisible and decorative rivets under Techniques (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

Materials and Tools for Creating Rivets

Metal – any kind that you want to bond together. OR, any two random things that you want to join together.

Round Wire – gauges (B&S Gauge/AWG) 12, 14, 16 or 18 (although any gauge will do – these are just the easiest to rivet with).  Copper, brass, steel, sterling, fine silver, bronze, whatever…

Hammers – Ball peen, or ball pein or ball pane – three names for the same thing.  What is means is that one end has a hemispherical or ball-shaped end. Another type of hammer used for riveting is called a Riveting or Cross peen hammer. This hammer has a  wedge shaped edge on one side.

Steel Surface – This is to hammer the rivet on.  If you hammer your rivet on wood, you’ll reduce the amount of force the rivet receives – as the wood will “give” under your blows –  and you’ll not only dent your wood surface (probably your desk) but you’ll make a lovely bowl shape in your metal. You can use a bench block, an iron (without steam holes) held upside down in a vice, a railroad tie, or an anvil -whatever you have or want.

Flex shaft                          Dremel                              Hand drill

Someway to spin those drill bits – Either a flex shaft, a Dremel or a drill (manual, battery or electric).  To learn about hand drills check out this great article called “Hand powered drilling tools and machines”by Kris de Decker, the founder of Low-tech Magazine.

Drill bits – These you want to match to the size of wire that you are using for your rivet. You want a snug fit.  If you are unsure, make a test hole in scrap metal and then insert the wire. High speed drill bits will last longer.  When drilling, hold the flex shaft perpendicular to the metal.  Try not to rotate the drill bit too much as that will make the hole larger.  If it doesn’t drill easily, perhaps it’s time to get a new drill bit.  They do get dull, ya know. Better yet, use a drill press or a Dremel drill press.


A nail set,  center punch or an automatic spring punch.

Nail punch                                                Automatic spring punch

Clamps – small, yet strong clamps – like these red tipped ones.  Preferably four of them.

How to Make a Rivet

Determine what gauge of wire to use.  In this imaginary riveting demo, I am using 14 gauge copper wire.

Ruler                                    Digital Calipers                                      Micrometer

Measure, using a ruler, calipers or a micrometer,  the wire and use the drill bit chart to determine the appropriate drill bit or measure your drill bits until you find a similar size.

To avoid verbal confusion, I’m going to call our riveting project a sandwich.  This sandwich is composed of a top piece of metal, a paper insert and a back piece of metal.

Now,  arrange the sandwich exactly how you want the finished project to be.  Line up all the edges and clamp the arrangement together with our handy dandy little red clips (see below).

Red Clamps

With a marker or a scribe, mark where you want to place your rivet. Place the sandwich on a metal surface and using a nail set or similar tool, push or tap the nail set  to leave a SMALL divot where the drill bit will sit.

Drill your first hole.  Don’t drill the entire piece – you will be sorry! Drill just one hole at this time.

Push the wire into the hole and check the fit.  If too tight, either use a larger bit, or a small round file or angle the flex shaft (with bit in it) and move the angled flex shaft  in a small circle to widen the hole.

Cut a piece of wire at least 10 millimeters long.  Ensure that one end is flat and smooth.  Push the end of the wire with the flat side, into the drilled hole.   Leave about one millimeter extending out on one side and, with a Sharpie, mark approximately 1 millimeter on the other side.  Clip the wire with the flush end of the wire cutter.

This diagram shows what the end of your unset rivet should look like:

Once your wire is cut, CAREFULLY (hold that little sucker in place) put the sandwich with the rivet in it, onto a steel block.  Grab your hammer and start to rivet.  Below is a diagram of the hammer blows.  Take care to only hammer a few blows (maybe 4-6) and then turn the piece over and hammer a similar number of times.  You want balance in the number of blows per side.

Here’s an image of what the hammered rivet should look like:

Now you should flip the hammer over (flat side down)  and, hammering an equal number of times,  planish the rivet face smooth.  You can also sand the rivet a little to further clean it up – just don’t over do the sanding as you could remove too much metal and the rivet will not hold up.

By George, you’ve made a Rivet!  Congratulations! Now, all you have to do is practice, practice, practice. Good Luck.

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6 thoughts on “Basic Rivets

  1. This was some very important information. I was working my brains on how to do rivets, this is very easy. This information is very helpful to me.


  2. I am looking for information on making ball rivets. I will be trapping pearls in a square sterling silver frame (like an abacus). The first end can be balled before construction. The other end stumps me! I know it can be done but don’t know how without damaging the pearls. There seems to be very little information available on this technique. Would you know how to do this?
    Your videos are just wonderful!!!! I watch them over and over again!

  3. thank you, thank you, thank you nancy!
    i love watching your youtube videos, very entertaining as well as informative.
    you are funny, concise and obviously very knowledgable 🙂
    …thank you for helping out newbies like me!

  4. I adore your work and videos. Can you add my name to your subscription? When I try it will not go through for some reason. I would like to know when you do more videos or make new pieces. Your videos have allowed me to take classes from an amazing and humorous teacher and artist. Thank you so much.

    Jenita Davidson

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