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How to Use A Pop Rivet Tool

You may have to secure two thin pieces of metal together from time to time. It's possible to do this with solder, epoxy or screws with special threads meant for biting into thin metal, but my guess is you might turn to rivets.

Rivets have been used for hundreds of years to join metal. The hull plates of the HMS Titanic were fastened with rivets. Study some old steel and iron railroad bridges on Long Island and you'll see the telltale rounded heads of rivets where steel beams are fastened to other pieces of structural steel. Rivets of all sizes have a long history of success.

You'll use rivets around your home to connect an aluminum downspout to a bracket you may secure to a wall. Rivets can be used to interlock pieces of aluminum metal trim around windows, doors and other outdoor fascia boards.

As a homeowner, you can work with rivets using a simple pop rivet tool. This tool binds two pieces of metal together with inexpensive rivets that fit into the end of the tool. The rivets can be made from steel or aluminum and often come in different colors. The best part is it's easy to use a pop rivet tool!

Degree of Difficulty: hammer-1-5

Step One: Purchase an inexpensive pop rivet tool and an assortment of rivets. You can find these tools and supplies for less than $20.00. Remember that the higher the cost of the tool, the better it will perform. Price is always a reliable barometer of quality.

Step Two: Gather up several scrap pieces of thin metal. Pieces of metal ductwork, small pieces of tin-coated steel flashing, or scrap pieces of aluminum gutter or downspout are perfect.

Step Three: Get out your electric drill and a new sharp metal bit that drills a 1/8-inch hole. Most rivets that you'll install around your home are the 1/8-inch size. Rarely will you need a larger rivet.

Step Four: To get used to using the pop rivet tool, begin testing it by overlapping two small scraps of thin metal and drill a 1/8-inch hole through both pieces of metal at the same time. Use a clamp to hold the pieces of metal together and clamp them to a scrap piece of 2x4 so they don't move while you drill. Wear work gloves to ensure the metal doesn't cut your hands.

Step Five: Insert a rivet into the pop rivet tool. Push the smaller end of the rivet through the hole in the metal and press the tool hard against the metal pieces so the larger head of the rivet is tight against the metal.

Step Six: Squeeze the handle of the pop rivet tool. This action starts to pull the metal pin in the rivet through the rivet. When the head of the pin reaches the small end of the rivet, it will begin to enlarge the rivet end compressing the two pieces of metal together. It will take two, three or four squeezes of the tool handle to pull the metal pin completely through the rivet. Once it's through and you've kept the tool tight against the metal, you'll have a tight connection.

Step Seven: Install five or ten practice rivets in the scrap metal until you master the technique. You'll discover it's very easy to install perfect rivets each time, the key keeping the tool pressed hard against the thin metal.

Step Eight: When joining two finished pieces of metal, be sure you drill slowly through the metal and it's secure. The drill can grab the pieces of metal causing them to spin. If you're not wearing work gloves, this spinning metal can cause severe and deep cuts to your hands, fingers or arms. Do whatever is necessary to ensure the metal can't move as you drill through it.

Summary: If you make a mistake and need to remove a rivet or you need to disassemble metal secured with rivets, just drill the rivets out. The rivets you install at your home will have a hole in the larger head that a drill bit fits into easily. Just use the same sized drill bit you used to create the initial hole for the rivet.

This popular column was mentioned in the September 24, 2014 Newsletter.

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