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Rivet Guns – Tools Used to Install Blind POP Rivets

Types of Rivet Guns and What They’re Used For

In order to understand rivet guns, the first thing to do is understand how a rivet works. Blind rivets, often referred to by the brand name POP rivets, are an incredibly useful fastener designed to hold two materials together with a clamping force. POP Rivets are comprised of two pieces: the hat and the mandrel. The mandrel goes through the inside of the hat and gets pulled during installation. As the mandrel is pulled through the hat, it deforms the back of the hat. Once the deformed portion grips against the back of the installation material the mandrel snaps leaving a clean finished application. It is common for this type of rivet to be used when you cannot get to the back of an installation earning this fastener the name of Blind Rivet. There are several exceptions to this including shave rivets (a rivet where the mandrel needs to be shaved down with a special tool after the installation).

Knowing how rivets work is great but how do you install them? A rivet requires a tool that keeps the hat of the rivet firmly pressed against the installation surface while simultaneously pulling the mandrel away from it. These tools are commonly referred to as rivet guns, riveters, rivet tools or riveting tools. Not only are there many things to call a rivet gun, there are also many varieties.

Types of Rivet Guns:

  • Hand Rivet Gun
  • Lever Riveter
  • Battery Riveting Tool
  • Pneumatic Rivet GunHand Riveter and Accessories

While not all rivet guns were made equal, it is easy to identify the type of rivet gun needed for an application. Read along as we cover the pros and cons of each type or riveter.

Hand Rivet Gun

Hand powered POP rivet guns work with a simple lever and squeeze technique. The first step when using one, is to choose the appropriate sized nose piece. Rivet guns normally come with several options to fit a range of blind rivets. Hand-operated riveters fit a variety of rivets, are usually made of mostly steel with a rubber grip and offer the cheapest cost.

Hand Rivet Guns are an excellent choice for the occasional user. If you find your project having just a few rivets, then this will do the trick. The biggest con on this riveting tool is the squeeze and the amount of time it takes. Used repeatedly, it can be very stressful on the hands, wrists and forearms making it less than ideal for projects requiring many rivets.

Lever Riveter

Lever Riveter Tool

Lever Riveting Tools are the next step up in rivet guns. They also come with nose pieces but work with a wider range of rivet sizes. Lever rivet tools tend to be more heavy duty that a hand rivet gun and are easier on the user. Due to their larger size and lever action, they reduce the amount of physical strength required by the hand riveter. They also come with a collection bottle that catches the snapped mandrels after installation.

To install a rivet using the lever riveting gun, first, open the arms all the way. Then insert the mandrel into the nose piece. Once the hat reaches the nose piece, insert it into the installation hole. Then squeeze the two handles together. This will pull the mandrel in and snap it off. Now hold the lever rivet gun so the nose piece is in the air and open the arms. This will release the hold on the mandrel and it will fall into the bottle catch.

The lever riveting tool is an excellent tool found on many job sites. It makes installing blind rivets easier than using the hand riveter but is still manually done. It does come at a higher price point than the standard hand riveter but also comes with the ability to use a wider and larger range of rivets.



Battery Powered Rivet Tool

Battery Riveting Tool

Battery Powered POP Rivet Guns come in many varieties. The two main types function basically the same way, except for the last step. One type of battery powered rivet gun spits the mandrel out from the front of the gun and the other pulls the mandrel into a mandrel holder, so you do not need to worry about them until emptying the catch.

Battery powered riveters are great for the job site. They offer the versatility of not having a cord and the ease of simply pushing a button to install the rivet. Choosing the version with the mandrel catch is typically more expensive than the other battery powered option. The catch version makes installations faster by collecting the mandrels for you but be careful not to over-fill the catch or the gun may jam.

Pneumatic Rivet Gun

Pneumatic Rivet Guns are powered by compressed air to very quickly and easily install blind rivets. With a built-in catch, the pneumatic riveting tool is easily the fastest way to install rivets.

Pneumatic Rivet Gun

The downside to pneumatic riveters is that they require a hosed connection to compressed air. This limits their versatility and portability more than any of the other tools available, but if the project requires installing a large number of rivets, this is undoubtedly the best tool to use to get it done. It also comes at a significantly lower price point than the electric powered tools.

Shave Rivet Tool

Shave Rivet Tools are a special tool used specifically for shave rivets. On shave rivets, the mandrel does not completely break off. The remainder is then shaved down using one of these tools to create a clean finish on the exposed hat portion. They are commonly used in trailer-based applications to resemble a buck rivet and leave a smooth head without the traditional hole of a standard blind rivet.

Shave rivet tools are a niche item because they are only used with shave rivets. However, there are multiple types of shave rivet tools. There are cheaper versions that act as an adapter to a cordless drill. These are more commonly bought by the DIYer or someone planning on sparingly working with shave rivets. The pneumatic option is much more expensive but works much faster and has supports to provide a smoother finish. They are commonly found in industries that use shave rivets on a regular basis.

Which Rivet Gun is the Best?

Now that we’ve gone over the many varieties of riveter tools, it’s time to determine which to buy when. Since one riveting tool isn’t necessarily “better” than the other we will instead identify which tool you should get depending on your situation.

  • Hand Rivet Gun – This tool is cost effective and ideal for small shops that use smaller size rivets sparingly. They require significant pressure to use and leave mandrel collection to the user which can be a pain.
  • Lever Riveter – The lever riveter is a step up. It’s a little more expensive but does everything you want the hand riveter to do and can’t. It works with larger sizes than the hand rivet gun and makes installations easier by increasing the leverage on the handles. The lever rivet tool comes with a mandrel catch to make cleanup easy.
  • Battery Riveting Tool – Ignoring the differences in battery riveters, both types come with a critical benefit: versatility. They offer powered installations without any cords. They are an ideal choice when commonly working with rivets on job sites.
  • Pneumatic Rivet Gun – Air-powered tools in general boast performance at the cost of being attached to a compressor. The Pneumatic Rivet Gun is no different. If the job calls for an excessive number of rivets, then this is the tool you want by your side.
  • Rivet Shaving Tool – This tool is only used with shave rivets making it a very niche item. For those working with them often, get the pneumatic version to save some time and headache but if you’re only working with them once in a while the drill attachment will get the job done.

Conclusion

While many tool varieties have options available that are totally unnecessary, the rivet gun varieties are different. Each tool has a place in each situation and they perform very well when placed in those situations. Before buying one for yourself, decide what you work with the most often and be realistic about the goals you wish to achieve with the tool.


What Are Structural Rivets?

What Are Structural Pop Rivets?

Structural pop rivets (structural blind rivets) are rivets that are specially designed with a locking mechanism to hold the mandrel in place. Before we talk about how exactly a structural pop rivet works, we should begin with how pop rivets in general work.

Pop or Blind rivets are comprised of two parts: the hat and the mandrel. A rivet hat is the portion of the rivet that deforms and stays in the installation. The mandrel is the portion of the rivet that is pulled into the rivet and mostly removed. A standard pop rivet mandrel has a designed flaw near the base of the mandrel which makes it easier to snap.

To install a rivet, first a hole needs to be drilled into the two materials. The hole should be just wide enough for the rivet hat to fit into. Once the rivet is sitting in the two materials, a rivet installation tool is used to pull the mandrel through the rear of the hat while keeping the hat pressed firmly against the installation surface. As the mandrel is pulled into the hat it deforms the back of the hat causing it to widen and pull firmly up against the rear of the installation surface. Once the torque is reached the weakened point of the mandrel will snap resulting in a complete rivet installation.



How Do Structural Rivets Work?

Structural Blind Rivet Diagram

Structural rivets work slightly different from the typical blind rivet. A structural blind rivet has a built-in (internal) locking mechanism that is designed to hold the mandrel inside of the rivet after the exposed portion snaps. This is commonly referred to as an interlock rivet. Notice how in the diagram to the right, the portion of the mandrel to the left of the hat is also much larger in a structural rivet than in a standard pop rivet.

There are several reasons structural rivets keep the mandrel locked inside the hat once installed:

  • Increased Shear Strength
  • Increased Pullout Strength
  • Higher Resistance To Vibrations
  • In some cases, they are also said to be considered weather-proof

How To Install Structural Rivets

Installing a structural blind rivet can be done basically the same way as installing a standard pop rivet:

  1. Line up the two installation materials
  2. Choose the appropriate drill bit to match the diameter of the structural rivet
  3. Drill a hole through both materials
  4. Insert the rivet through both materials into the hole
  5. Attach a rivet installation tool onto the mandrel
  6. Activate the tool to draw the mandrel out towards the installation surface
  7. Once the mandrel snaps it is completely installed

How To Remove Structural Rivets

Removing a structural rivet is just as simple as removing a standard blind rivet. To remove a structural rivet:

  1. Punch a starting hole into the center of the rivet
  2. Get a drill bit that is the same diameter as the hole originally drilled
  3. Add some lubricant to the drill bit
    1. *If the rivet is spinning, cover it in tape to prevent it from spinning
  4. Drill through the rivet with the drill bit until it goes completely through the hole

How To Install Rivets With A Lever Rivet Tool

How to Install Structural Rivets

Common Industry Uses For Structural Rivets

  • Commercial Vehicles
  • Sheet Metal
  • Electrical
  • HVAC
  • Agricultural Equipment



Pop/Blind Rivet Installation Tools

Hand Operated Riveter
Hand Riveter
Industrial Lever Riveter
Industrial Lever Riveter
Battery Operated Riveter
Battery Operated Riveter
Pneumatic Riveter
Pneumatic Air Riveter

*Pro Tip: Rivet measuring can be quite confusing try using an Rivet Gauge or our all-encompassing Rivet Guide to answer all of your rivet questions!

How to Remove a Rivet

How to Remove a Rivet

remove a rivet

Rivets are very useful tools that are used  to quickly and efficiently connect two materials together. The problem is that they aren’t really designed to be removed.

We already did a post on how to remove a spinning rivet so if your rivets start spinning during this process please hop over to that post.(make this a link to the blog post once that post is live)

What You Will Need

drilling out a rivet

  • A Punch
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit



Remove a Rivet

Now that you have to tools that you need, get your safety gear on (gloves and glasses) and grab your punch.

Locate the center of the rivet with your punch and create an indent into the rivet on the flange(integral washer) side. This hole will provide a seat for the tip of your drill to sit in.

drilling a rivet

Now that you’ve made your hole and have your drill seated start slowly drilling into the rivet. You can use a drill bit that is the same size as you used on the install or smaller if you plan on reusing the hole. Make sure you apply steady pressure to the drill so that it stays in the seat you made for the bit.

You should be able to cut through the rivet very quickly. Once through back the drill out and whats left of the rivet should either fall or slide out with ease. Assuming you drilled with the right size your hole should still be the same size as it was before you installed the first one.

drilled through a rivet           the hole after a rivet is removed

How to Measure a Rivet

Using a Rivet Gauge to Measure a Rivetrivet gauge

Many of our customers get in contact with us and ask us how to measure rivets. We used to find rivets annoying to measure ourselves, until we found this. This rivet measuring gauge is perfect for measuring rivets. We are so sure that it’s the perfect measuring tool we use it ourselves in our warehouse.

Made of sturdy plastic, this tool comes with preset sizes and lengths used to measure all kinds of rivets. So, where should we begin?



Understanding a Rivet

Rivets are odd-looking fasteners composed of two parts. The hat and the mandrel. The hat is the short stubby side which needs to be measured for its length and diameter. The mandrel is the long thin end that is pulled off of the rivet during the installation process.

To understand what size rivet you will need you need to determine the diameter of the hole to be filled and the material installation thickness. You then need to find a rivet size that fits this range.

Measuring a Rivet Using the Gaugemeasuring rivet diameter

So, first things first, we are going to place the hat of the rivet into the circular holes on the rivet gauge. The holes represent different diameters that rivets come in. When you place the rivet into the hole it should be a snug fit. If you have a lot of wiggle room then you are probably in a size that is too big. On the other side, if you cannot fit the hat into the hole the hole is probably too small. The diameter of our test rivet was 4.

Next we are going to measure the length of the rivet. insert the hat into the open-ended top areas. You will want to make sure the rivet’s washer or flange area is pressed up against measuring rivet lengththe top of the plastic. As you can see from our example, the first section did not properly house the hat of our example rivet so we had to check the next size up. After checking that we determined that our length was 4.

This rivet is a #4-4.

What Comes Next?

Now that you know the size of your rivet you can find out what range it fits to determine if it is the proper rivet to fit your needs.

For everything you will ever need to know about rivets we have compiled all of our information about rivets onto our free Fasteners 101: Rivets Guide Resource. Please check it out to find any information you are looking for.

If you are interested in buying one of these tools, check out our Rivet Gauge page to learn more.

Tool: Rivet Gauge

Rivet Installation Guide

How Do I Install A Rivet?

It’s a question many people ask the first time they see a rivet and not one that’s incredibly easy to explain. Today we will show you how to install a rivet, but first, we need to determine what tools we will need for the job.

The Tools You Need

  • Riveter
  • Rivets
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits

Installing Your First Rivet

hand riveter

The first thing to do when installing a rivet is to choose the appropriate tool for the job. There are many different riveting tools but we find that for day to day use, a simple hand riveter will do nicely. If you plan on installing a large number of rivets, check out this Battery Operated Rivet Tool and our review of a similar tool here.

The next step is to use your drill and drill bit to create a hole in the materials you plan on fastening together.

After drilling the hole its time to prep the rivet for install. All you do is slide the mandrel (longer thin end of a rivet) into the hand riveter until it sits against the flange.

After the rivet is placed into the hand riveter you place the hat of the rivet (the end still sticking out of the tool) through the hole. Now while keeping pressure against the rivet so it stays all the way in the hole, squeeze the handle.

install a rivet    installed rivet

When you squeeze the handle several things happen at once. The tool bites down on the mandrel and begins to pull it backwards. As it does, the mandrel, which starts in the hat of the rivet is pulled through the hat towards the riveter tool. As the mandrel is pulled through the hat the hat expands creating a fat end which can no longer slide through the hole. Once the maximum torque is reached the mandrel snaps and leaves only the hat and flange behind.

installed rivet (front)installed rivet (back)

Above are images from the front and back of 6 installed rivets. The image on the left is the front of the rivet which is what is exposed once the installation is complete. The picture on the right is the back (blind) side of the installed rivet.



Conclusion

As you can see, installing a rivet is a simple process that can be difficult to explain. You should also note that rivets need to be sized based off the thickness they are being installed into. If you do not choose a rivet in the correct grip range your rivet will either be loose or try to expand into the hole during installation.

Need more rivet information? Check out our Free Rivet Guide. We have compiled helpful videos, charts, grip ranges and other useful information to make rivet installation a breeze!

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