How Do I Set Rivets?

Amy Rodriguez

Rivets are remarkable fastening devices that can be set in two main ways: by heating or striking the rivet's head. Both setting techniques permanently fasten the rivet to a material, such as sheet metal or leather. You may need to practice the chosen technique repeatedly to properly set rivets.

Rivets can be set to permanently fasten sheet metal.
Rivets can be set to permanently fasten sheet metal.

One of the most common ways to set rivets is using heat. You must place the rivet bolt through the material with one end protruding outward, while the opposite end remains pressed against the material's base. Most rivet installers use a welding torch to create a visible red hot appearance across the rivet's protruding end; once heated properly, you can strike the rivet's hot end with a ball peen hammer. The striking action warps the rivet's end so that it flattens out across the material's surface. As a result, the fastener becomes part of the material's overall structure as a secure point.

A rivet may be hammered into shape once in place.
A rivet may be hammered into shape once in place.

Using heat to set rivets requires caution and adherence to safety protocol. A welding torch can easily ignite surrounding items if used improperly; you should be trained by an experienced torch user to learn all the correct operations. Heating the rivet too much can cause the nearby material to become scorched, whereas too little heat will make the riveting process more difficult.

You can purchase rivets that are specially designed for a striking installation only. Learning to set rivets with a striking action requires a fastener with a long bolt and burr, or specialized lock washer. You can install the bolt into the material just like the heated rivet versions. A burr must be installed on the protruding end of the bolt; a rivet setting tool will help you move the burr down the bolt's length so that it is tightly pressed against the material, effectively fastening the rivet to the material in a temporary fashion.

After the burr is secured, you must cut off any excessive length from the rivet's protruding end with clippers. A riveting tool must be placed on top of the cut rivet end; you will need to strike the riveting tool with a hammer to slowly flare the rivet into a flattened shape. It is good practice to move the riveting tool from left to right on a continuous basis while striking. This action will form an even, flattened surface as you set rivets. As a result, the final rivet shape should hold the material tightly together for a permanent fastening point.

Rivets are typically set using a welding torch.
Rivets are typically set using a welding torch.

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