How to use rivets with a hammer

Written by g.k. bayne
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Rivets are used to hold two pieces of metal together. Using a hammer to rivet is called rivet peening. This method was commonly used to create armour. The peen rivet has a smooth shank or body. The head of the rivet is rounded in shape with a flat shoulder that rests against the top piece of metal. All the holes must be predrilled to the exact diameter of the rivets' smooth bodies. Rivets can be made of brass, copper or steel.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Peen rivets (one per hole)
  • End nippers or wire cutters
  • Small anvil with peen rivet holder
  • Small round peen hammer

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  1. 1

    Insert the peen rivets into the holes of both pieces of metal. Insert two rivets at the beginning of the job, to keep the metal and all holes aligned. Push each rivet until the shoulder of the round head rests on the face of the metal surface.

  2. 2

    Turn the metal pieces over. Cut the rivet shank to length with the end nippers or wire cutters. Place the backside of the cutter against the metal surface. Close the jaws to cut the rivet. The remaining metal will be the correct length for peening.

  3. 3

    Place the top round of the rivet into the peen rivet hole or holder on the anvil. The rivet hole will be a depression in teh shape of the rivet head.

  4. 4

    Strike the cut end of the rivet with the small round peen hammer on the side of the shaft. The object is not to flatten the end of the rivet, but to shape the rivet into a shallow round head.

  5. 5

    Work your way around the rivet in a circular pattern. Shape the rivet slowly into a rounded head shape. Move the metal by striking accurately. The final round head should overlap the hole by approximately 1/16 of an inch evenly around the opening.

  6. 6

    Continue shaping the new round head slowly and form a smoothly-shaped contour.

Tips and warnings

  • Beginners may wish to practice using the softer metals of brass and copper, then move on to steel rivets as their skills improve.
  • You can also join leather and fabric to metal. Use brass and copper rivets for this purpose. Steel rivets will corrode and destroy the fabric or leather.

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