Copper rivets are a popular choice for fasteners because they can be used for a wide range of applications. They are durable as well as attractive, which is why they are used in everything from clothes, belts, and leather goods to electronics and even construction applications.
You may be most familiar with copper rivets in jeans. Copper rivets were first used in 1873, when Jacob Davis, a tailor in Reno, Nevada, applied copper rivets to reinforce the pockets in a customer’s pants. Davis asked Levi Strauss to help pay for the patent, and today many garment makers use copper rivets to reinforce other types of work clothing.
Clothing manufacturing is only one of the many applications for copper rivets. They are also popular for making leather products such as saddles, bags, and shoes, and in addition to clothes and accessories, they are used in other types of manufacturing and assembly applications.
The Benefits of Copper Rivets
Copper rivets have a variety of characteristics that make them popular for many applications.
First, copper rivets are extremely strong. They offer a higher tensile strength and shear strength than most other rivet materials, so they can be used where high-performance fasteners are required.
Copper resists corrosion, which makes copper rivets ideal for applications such as attaching copper flashing on a roof, or in applications where the rivets are continually exposed to corrosives such as seawater.
Copper rivets can also be highly decorative, so they can be used in applications in which a finished appearance matters. That’s why they are popular for uses such as making shoes, belts, and saddles.
Of course, copper is also a good conductor of heat and electricity. That’s why they can be valuable in manufacturing electronics or other applications in which you want high conductivity with little corrosion.
What to Consider After You Decide to Use Copper Rivets
When choosing the right rivets for the job, keep in mind these three specific things your copper rivets must do:
1. Consciously Clinch Materials
When clinching copper rivets, it is important to calculate the clinch allowance, which is the amount of material required to roll over to secure a tight fit. For applications in which you need a blind fastener, remember that compressible materials, such as copper, do not provide a firm base for clinching blind rivets. However, you can compensate for a weak clinch allowance either by putting a washer against the copper with the rivet head on top of the washer or by using a large-flange rivet with the compressible material under the flange.
2. Meet the Demands of Your Job
Copper rivets are often chosen because of their inherent strength. When choosing a copper rivet for a task, it is important to consider the overall weight or torsion that the rivet will need to support and the job it needs to perform. For example, in a riveted connection where two plate-like connections or roll-shaped flanges are joined together, the connection will be subjected to a tension that could pull the joints apart. With this torsional twisting or tearing in mind, you have to determine the forces that act on the connection under normal—and extraordinary—circumstances and what kind of structural failures could occur.
It is also important to remember that rivets become unusable after disassembly, which may or may not have an impact on the type of fastener you choose for your application.
3. Avoid Galvanic Corrosion
All metals have a measure of nobility, which is a metal’s resistance to corrosion when it comes in contact with another metal. Galvanic corrosion (also called bimetallic corrosion) occurs when two dissimilar metals that are fastened to each other come into contact with a common electrolyte, such as water. When this happens, the more noble metal, or cathode, is protected, while the active metal, or anode, is corroded. Copper has one of the highest measures of nobility, so it typically isn’t harmed by contact with other metals. However, it will cause corrosion in those other materials, especially aluminum and zinc. Additionally, if copper comes into contact with iron and steel and the other metal has a mass similar to or smaller than that of copper, it can cause galvanic corrosion.
One of the most well-known examples of galvanic corrosion is the Statue of Liberty, whose exterior is made from copper (cathode) and whose interior was originally made from cast iron (anode) with only a thin, shellacked asbestos skin. The Statue was closed in 1984 because of structural safety concerns after extensive corrosion was discovered inside the statue, primarily caused by rainwater leaking from the torch in the statue’s right hand. The repairs were extensive and included the removal of the cast iron interior, which was replaced with low-carbon, corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
When using copper rivets, be careful to avoid installing them with an anode metal like aluminum, which could cause a galvanic response. Instead, consider using metals like stainless steel, brass, and, of course, copper.
Another strategy to prevent galvanic corrosion is to add a corrosion inhibitor to the application or applying coatings to both materials. If you do opt to apply an anti-corrosion coating, the application to the cathode is the most important and must be of high quality.
Brands of Copper Rivets
Most major rivet manufacturers include various types of copper rivets in their catalog, including open-end, closed-end, solid, and multi-grip rivets. Here are three of the most popular brands that we carry:
We are especially proud of this line of copper rivets because we make them ourselves. Bayfast rivets were specifically developed to offer quality rivets as an alternative to discontinued rivets or order volumes that are unrealistic for most customers. We offer Bayfast 1/8-inch open-end copper rivets with grips from 0.063” to 0.375”. We also offer Bayfast 1/8-inch closed-end copper rivets with grips from 0.126” to 0.31”, as well as Bayfast round-headed solid copper rivets in multiple sizes.
Marson Klik-Fast rivets are high-quality, open-end copper rivets that are ideal for use as blind rivets when you don’t have access to the opposite side of the workpiece. Klik-Fast open-end rivets are available in various sizes and setups, including multi-grip rivets.
POP rivets are extremely popular, and we have both open-end and closed-end copper POP rivets. The POP open-end copper rivets resemble tubular rivets, but the head stays in the body for a secure fit, making them ideal for load-bearing applications. The POP closed-end copper rivets offer 23 percent more tensile strength than regular open-end rivets and are ideal for watertight or pressure-seal applications.
If you aren’t sure whether copper rivets are right for your next job, contact the experts at Bay Supply to discuss more details.
Originally published April 2018, updated in October 2020.