Blind rivets, more commonly known as "pop" rivets after their original brand name, are useful in a number of situations. Used for everything from installing sheet metal siding and making auto repairs to attaching straps to a safety helmet, the rivets consist of a small metal tube with a nail-like mandrel sticking out from one end. If you've never used pop rivets before, though, you may be at a loss for just how to install them. Fortunately, installing pop rivets just takes a few moments – and perhaps a little bit of hand strength.
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Choosing the Right Rivets
Pop rivets come in a variety of sizes and materials. To choose the right rivets for your job, consider the thickness of the materials you're joining, the weight of those materials and whether the materials are likely to shift in their positions once the rivets are installed. You may also have aesthetic requirements that influence the head style of the rivets you choose. Some rivet manufacturers provide guides that help you choose the rivet material, thickness and size that will best fit your needs. For general-purpose jobs, you can assume that you'll need aluminum rivets with a steel mandrel that are thick enough to fit through both of the materials you're connecting.
Preparing the Materials
The materials you connect with pop rivets typically require very little preparation. Use a leather punch, drill bit or other tool to make holes in both materials at the point you want to connect them, making the hole as close to the size of the rivet you're using as possible. If there is any rust, dirt or other loose debris on either material, remove it with a cleaning cloth or sandpaper before installing the rivet to prevent possible slippage later on. If you want to match the rivets to the color of your materials, insert them mandrel-first into Styrofoam or a similar soft material and paint the rivets with spray paint before installing them.
Using a Pop Rivet Tool
Insert the mandrel of the pop rivet into the front of the tool, pushing it in all the way so that the rivet body is all that sticks out. If you're using a hand-powered pop rivet tool, squeeze its trigger or lever slightly to put pressure on the mandrel and hold the rivet in place. Line up the holes you previously punched or drilled, then insert the rivet through them. Be sure to double-check your positioning, then squeeze the trigger on the tool again. The mandrel will be pulled back into the tool, flattening the rivet in the process. Once flattened, the mandrel will break free from the rivet and eject from the tool. If you are installing multiple rivets, insert the mandrel of the next rivet into the tool and repeat the process.
Removing Old Rivets
Specialized pop rivet removal tools are available, though they can run $50 to $75 or more and still require a power drill to use. If you don't have the need for a specialty tool, using a small grinder to grind the head of the rivet off or an appropriate-sized drill bit to drill it out will get you much the same results. If you don't have a drill or grinder handy, placing a small chisel against the rivet head and hitting it with a hammer or mallet will also get the job done. Be sure to wear eye and hand protection regardless of the removal method you use.