Tinker Talk – August 2020: Fab Skills: Pop-Riveting

By Justin James

The art of metal fabrication is most commonly associated with the welding trade. Welding is indeed a fabrication skill, and probably the most beneficial, but it is certainly not the only one. There are an abundance of different skills that make up the art of metal fabrication. It is possible to fabricate great things without welding. Pop-riveting (referred to as riveting here after) for example, is one skill that can often be used in place of welding. This edition of Tinker Talk will highlight the fundamentals of riveting

The Basics
Getting Started: Riveting does not require expensive equipment. A standard drill, drill bits, a hand riveter, washers and of course, rivets (Photo A) is all you need to get started. You can opt for an air riveter but they are more expensive, require a compressor and not always usable in confined spaces.

Riveting Uses: Many materials can be riveted. Sheet metals, leather, plastics and fiberglass can all be secured by the use of rivets.


How It’s Done
Drilling: To install a rivet you will need to drill a hole just large enough for the rivet head to fit through. If the hole is too large for the rivet being utilized, the rivet will not properly secure. Make sure the hole is drilled straight and free of any burring. Refer to Photo B for visual demonstration.
Set Up: Most riveters will come with an assortment of collets for different size rivets. Choose the appropriate collet and thread it into the head of the riveter.
Installing: Insert the rivet so that the head is square and flush with the top layer of the material being riveted. Slide the collet/head over the shank of the rivet until it bottoms out on the rivet head. Squeeze the handle until the shank pulls through and shears off. This may take more than one squeeze. When working with soft or thin material it is a good idea to “back” the rivet with a washer. Photo C illustrates how we riveted the leather cover to the seat pan on our 2020 Blue Collar Build Off bike.


Riveting is a great skill to be proficient in for experienced fabricators and newbies alike. It is very inexpensive and does not require a power source other than your own grip. Everything needed can fit into a standard size tool box. Level up on your riveting skills and get busy making some cool and custom parts!!!

Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat

-Justin James (follow more of my Tinker shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)

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