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How to Measure Material Thickness for Rivet Installation

Determining Rivet Length

Blind or POP rivets are one of the best tools for quickly and efficiently fastening two materials together. Blind rivets get their name because they are used when there is only access to one side of the material. Though efficient, this type of installation can cause problems when selecting a rivet to use.

Why is having access to one side of a material a problem?

Determining the rivet diameter is easy, but what about the length? The length of a rivet determines its effective grip range, or how much material it can effectively hold together. If you don’t have access to the second side of the rivet installation material, it can be a real pain to pick the right rivet. Having access to both sides of a material is something often taken for granted. It allows a user to easily install and gauge the size of the fastener they need, but often, both sides of the material are not available, and it causes two large issues.

Issues Caused by Only Seeing One Side of an Installation Material

  1. Impossible to use a traditional nut and bolt
  2. Cannot determine material thickness because the blind side material thickness is not known
  3. Often leads to users trying multiple grip lengths until they find one that works
measuring material thickness when only one side is available

Determining Material Thickness

In the event of needing to fasten one material to another with a rivet, it is actually quite easy to determine thickness. The problem is determining thickness when you cannot access the back of both materials.

Many users will resort to using a multi-grip rivet at this point, as it serves as a best-case option for going in blind. While there is nothing wrong with multi-grip rivets, they are not always the best answer and can still not cover the thickness needed, or be suitable for every application

Measuring Material Thickness with Access to Both Sides

Material thickness can be easily measured when you have access to both sides. All you have to do is place the two materials against each other and measure them with a tape measure or caliper, or measure both materials on their own and add them together: Material 1 + Material 2 = Material Thickness. Once you have the material thickness you can figure out the grip of rivet you need.

Measuring Material Thickness without Access to Both Sides

What You’ll Need
  • A Drill
  • A Pencil/Marker
  • A Rivet Diameter
  • A Drill Bit
  • 1 Nail with the head smaller than the diameter of the drill bit.
determining rivet length
Determining the Thickness
  1. The first step is to line your materials up and determine where you will be putting a rivet.
  2. Mark that spot and use the drill bit to drill through both materials.
  3. Once the hole is drilled take the nail and insert it (Head Side First)
  4. Pull up on the nail and begin pulling it back out. It will catch on the inside material.
  5. Then, take the pencil / marker and mark the exposed portion of the nail where it enters the drilled hole.
  6. Now stop pulling the nail up and remove it from the hole.
  7. Using a tape measure or caliper, measure from under the head of the nail to the mark. That number is your material thickness.


Now that we know the thickness, we can measure the diameter of the hole (or use the measurements from the drill bit if we know it) to determine the diameter of rivet to use. Using the thickness, we can determine the grip that we will need. For example, the hole is 3/16 inch in diameter and the measurement from the nail is 0.30 inches. This means that we would need a 6-6 rivet, which has a 3/16 inch diameter and a 0.251 – 0.375 inch grip range.

For an added bonus, check out our Rivet Measuring Guide view rivet diameters and grips to determine the number rivet you need.

How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation
How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob, today we’re going to show you how to measure two pieces of material to receive a rivet. So let’s get started.

So everybody’s asking “how do I measure material, in place, on a jobsite? How do I measure the two pieces of material for a rivet?” We’re gonna demonstrate to you here how to do it.

Let’s just look at this as if it’s in place, and you can’t see the backside, but we’ll show you the backside. All you need is a nail or a screw, a flathead screw. Something that has some type of lip on it that you can grab the backside with. That’s what we’re looking for.

You would put the nail in the hole and you just pull it. Then you take a sharpie or a marker and just pull on it, and then put a mark on you nail. You see, there’s the mark. Take a caliper or tape measure and then you would measure it. This comes out to about 0.478”.

You can then find a rivet within that grip range. This is an 8-8. This grip range is between a quarter inch and a half inch. We needed 0.479″ which falls in that range. This rivet goes between 0.25″ and 0.50”. So I’m gonna slide it in. Take my tool, and I’m going to show you that this will work perfectly.

There you go. It’s installed. The proper size. And that’s how you measure product when you can’t get to the other side.

Thanks for watching.

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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

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