How to Use Solid Rivets

Updated April 17, 2017

Rivets hold metal pieces in various environments. Automotive workers, aviation mechanics, ship builders and construction workers all rivet metal pieces. The processes for riveting are very similar, though the actual rivets will vary depending on the particular job. Installing rivets takes practice and it also usually takes a two person team. The driver impacts the rivet head with an air-powered rivet gun, while the bucker flattens the rear of the rivet with a heavy metal bar.

Lay out and mark the rivet holes. The particular material types and thicknesses you are attaching will determine the size and spacing of the rivets. Your repair or installation documents will describe how to layout the rivet pattern. Measure and mark the hole locations with a permanent marker. This step is unnecessary if the pieces are already drilled.

Clamp your materials together. If the pieces are already drilled, use specialised clamps that fit into the rivet holes. You may need to use a C clamp or other type of clamp if rivet holes have not been drilled yet.

Drill your rivet holes. Insert the correct sized drill bit into a drill and hold it perpendicularly against the part while you drill completely through it. The drill bit size will be determined by the rivet size. The rivet hole must be slightly wider than the rivet.

Countersink the holes if you will install flush rivets. Put an appropriate countersink bit on the drill and hold it at a 90-degree angle as you countersink the holes. Be careful not to leave a knife edge or sharp edge on the interior of the holes.

Deburr all the holes, whether or not they were countersunk. A small, hand deburring tool will remove sharp bits and shards of metal along the inside of the rivet hole.

Place an appropriate rivet in a hole. The rivet should be slightly longer than the total material thickness and slightly smaller than the hole's diameter. Your repair or installation documents should describe what types of rivets to use.

Insert an appropriate rivet die into a pneumatic rivet gun. Use a flat die for countersunk rivets and a concave die for protruding head rivets.

Place the gun firmly on the head of the rivet. Make sure to hold it straight and align it with the direction of the rivet.

Position the bucker at the opposite side of the rivet, holding a bucking bar firmly and flat against the back of the rivet.

Pull on the trigger of the rivet gun only when the bucker signals you to do so. Then, release the trigger when the bucker signals you to stop.

Inspect both sides of the rivet. The factory head must be undamaged by the rivet die and the formed head must be round, flat and centred on the rivet hole. It should be about half as thick as the rivet's diameter and about 50 per cent wider than the rivet's diameter. Repeat the installation procedures for each rivet.


Always consult your maintenance or installation documents. They should describe all the procedures and job materials, including hole spacing and rivet types. You may need to establish a form of nonverbal communication. A riveting team is often out of sight from one another and may not be able to hear well in a loud work environment.


Never attempt to drive a rivet without a bucker holding a bucking bar against the back of the rivet. Always use ear protection. Riveting is dangerously loud.

Things You'll Need

  • Rivet gun and dies
  • Appropriate rivets
  • Drill with drill bits and countersink bits
  • Deburring tool
  • Bucking bars
  • Ear Protection
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Michael Signal began writing professionally in 2010, with his work appearing on eHow. He has expert knowledge in aviation, computer hardware and software, elementary education and interpersonal communication. He has been an aircraft mechanic, business-to-business salesman and teacher. He holds a master's degree in education from Lesley University.