How to Use Copper Rivets & Burrs

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How to Use Copper Rivets & Burrs
Copper rivets are rustproof and tough, ideal for leather belts and rugged garments. (woman's hand image by Vasiliy Koval from

Copper rivets are rustproof and tough. That is why Levi Strauss used them for making his patented copper-riveted canvas trousers in 1873. A copper rivet holds layers of fabric or leather together with a copper burr, a washer-like ring that fits over the post of the rivet. Copper rivets are ideal for fastening leather straps, layers of fabric in outerwear garments and a host of other crafts needing more reinforcement than thread alone can provide. Using copper rivets and burrs requires several specialised tools.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Awl or hole-punch cutting tool
  • Fabric or leather
  • Anvil or metal surface
  • Copper rivet and burr
  • Hammer
  • Metal nippers
  • Rivet setting tool

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  1. 1

    Poke the awl through the layers of fabric to separate the threads, and then insert the copper rivet so the flat side faces inside the garment and the post faces out. Leaving the threads uncut this way prevents the fabric from fraying so the rivet connection lasts for the lifetime of the fabric. For leather, go to Step 2.

  2. 2

    Lay the leather piece on a flat cutting surface, such as a workbench. Match the size of the rivet post to the hole-punch cutting tool; the rivet should fit snugly inside the hole-punch. Punch a hole through the leather with the hole punch and hammer. Several sharp blows should provide a clean cut. Insert the flat side of the rivet into the hole so the rivet faces out and the post faces in.

  3. 3

    Lay the flat side of the copper rivet onto an anvil or metal surface. Place the copper burr onto the post and push it down as far as it will go. The post of a rivet is tapered so the burr fits just at the top and then must be hammered down the rest of the way.

  4. 4

    Place the hole of the rivet-setting tool over the post and hammer down the burr so it is snug against the fabric or leather. Cut away the remaining rivet post with metal nippers so only 1/4-inch is remaining.

  5. 5

    Place the peening side of the rivet tool over the rivet stump. The peening-side of the rivet setting tool has a depression used for flattening the stump and creating a mushroom-like cap that holds the burr in place. Rotate the rivet setting tool while striking it with a hammer to create an even cap. Continue shaping the rivet cap until you are satisfied that the rivet is secure.

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