The other day I came across a blog where someone showed a piece that they had riveted together, obviously having trouble with the riveting process (they mentioned how difficult it was.) They also mentioned punching the holes for the rivets. I looked around and saw a tutorial at Michaels that also mentioned punching holes for rivets. This was a bit disturbing, so I wanted to offer some tips for riveting.
Always drill your holes. If you use a punch, you are forcing metal apart creating a very sloppy hole. Yes, drill bits don’t actually make a perfectly circular hole, but it at least removes the metal instead of just forcing it out of the way. If you use a circle punch (which cuts a perfect circle) that would work too, but I think that it would be very hard to get one that exactly fits your wire. Bringing us to…
Drill a hole that’s the same size as your wire or even slightly smaller (and then file it to the correct size.) Use a drill bit gauge to figure out what size bit will fit your wire. If your hole is too big, your rivet won’t fit and it will be a huge pain to push the metal enough to hold the two pieces together properly.
Make your rivet the correct size. The wire shouldn’t be too long, otherwise it will look very sloppy and smoosh all over the place. You could do this on purpose, but I suggest first learning to do it right and then experimenting on a practice piece to get the look right. Your wire should be just slightly larger than the two pieces you are riveting together. A good rule of thumb is the width of a fine sharpie line. (Fine sharpie, not regular size.)
Secure your two pieces that you are riveting together and drill the holes at the same time. That way you know they line up.
Make sure the parts that will be riveted together are flush where the rivets will be. Otherwise you’ll dent your piece. The only way to rivet two pieces together that aren’t flush where the rivet is is by using a tube that keeps the top piece from collapsing while you rivet.
Always rivet on a steel surface. If you hammer on one side and have the back on a piece of wood, it won’t rivet. Using steel on the back stops the wire from sinking into the support surface and also helps upset (technical term for “smoosh”) that side of the wire.
Flip back and forth hammering each side of the wire to ensure it upsets evenly on both sides.
There are a lot more tips and I’m sorry that I don’t have photos for everything here, but I do teach a rivet pendant workshop where you learn to make floating rivets like in the photos above if you want to learn more. The next one scheduled is at the Newark Museum in New Jersey on November 18th.