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How to Choose the Right Rivets for Your Job


Man using a riveter to install rivets into an aluminum base

When it comes to finding the right fasteners for any job, you have many choices, especially when it comes to rivets. Often, it’s difficult to decide if you want to use a blind rivet, a pop rivet, a solid rivet, or some other type of rivet.

To choose the right rivet for the job, you must consider a variety of factors:

  • How are the rivets being used? What is the application, and what materials are you working with?
  • How will you be installing the rivets? Are you using a manual riveter, a battery-powered riveting tool, or a pneumatic riveter?
  • What are the stress factors for the application? Will the rivet be under stress or need to withstand rugged use?
  • What about exposure and corrosion? Will the rivets be exposed to the weather or corrosive environments, such as salt water?

These are just a few questions you must ask when choosing the right rivet for any job. Rivets come in many sizes, configurations, and materials. Selecting the right rivet type ensures a proper installation and a lasting joint.

Since there are so many rivets to choose from, here is a primer on some of the basics of rivet design to help you choose the right rivets.


Choosing the Right Type of Rivet

Rivets were created as an alternative to nuts and bolts or welding and are designed to be installed quickly and efficiently to create a lasting joint. Rivets are often used in manufacturing because they work well on assembly lines. Rivets are made of various materials, including steel, aluminum, brass, and even nylon, with specialty coatings and finishes for specific applications.

There are various types of rivets, including blind rivets, solid structural rivets, semi-tubular rivets, and so on. Here are five of the most common types of rivets:


1. Blind Rivets

Blind rivets are among the most common types of rivets. These rivets are fastened from one side of a workpiece. Initially, rivets required access to both sides of the workpiece to set the rivet. Blind rivets consist of a tube and a mandrel. When positioned in place, the mandrel is pulled to collapse the rivet on the blind side, and then the mandrel is snapped off. Blind rivets are very secure and easy to install.


Download “The Essential Guide to Blind Rivets” for a deep dive into this unique  fastener! →


2. Pop Rivets

Pop rivets are a type of blind rivet. The name derives from the popping sound they make when set.  POP® rivets are a branded product owned by Stanley Engineered Fastening and were first used in airplane manufacturing. The name “pop rivet” has become synonymous with blind rivets, just like Kleenex has become used to refer to tissues.


3. Mate Rivets

Mate rivets are ideal for situations where you need a longer rivet that has different grip lengths, such as connecting thick materials or layers of material where the thickness may vary. Mate rivets come in two pieces, a tube and a mandrel, and when set, the mandrel expands the tube to create pressure against the rivet hole for a secure connection without crushing the parent material.


4. Pull-Thru Rivets

Pull-thru rivets are used when you want a flush finish on both sides of a workpiece. When the rivet is set, the mandrel is completely removed, so there is no extra metal to pick up or sharp protrusions.


5. Cherry Rivets

Cherry Aerospace developed cherry rivets to build aircraft, and they have been adapted for other applications over time. Cherry rivets are typically used with thin sheets of metal that other types of rivets could damage. They are strong and easy to inspect.


Choosing the Right Rivet Materials

In addition to choosing the right type of rivet, you also need to consider the rivet materials. Ideally, you want to select the same rivet material as the workpiece (e.g., steel rivets for steel surfaces or aluminum rivets for aluminum surfaces). You can’t always match the materials, so you want to choose rivet materials best suited for the task. However, be careful about matching rivet and workpiece materials. For example, mixing aluminum and steel will cause corrosion.

Steel is prone to rust, so if you are using rivets for an outdoor application or a harsh environment, consider using something that’s resistant to weather or corrosion. Brass, aluminum, stainless steel, and galvanized steel work well in marine applications since they won’t corrode in salt water.

Brass rivets are strong and don’t create sparks, so they are often used for gas-tight joints. Copper rivets conduct both heat and electricity, so they are often used for electrical appliances. Copper-nickel alloys resist corrosion and high temperatures.


Choosing the Right Rivet Size

Rivets need to fit correctly to create a lasting joint, so you must choose the right rivet size. Consider how the rivet fits in the hole, the grip length of the rivet, and the type of rivet head you need.

Rivet diameter is a critical factor. Be sure the rivet diameter matches the hole. A rivet that is too narrow for the hole will leave a gap that will succumb to stress over time. If the rivet is too wide for the hole, it will be difficult to install and result in a poor joint. 

The rivet grip range relates to the thickness of the workpiece. For example, if you connect two 0.010-inch pieces of sheet metal, your minimum grip range is 0.020 inches. Be sure the rivet grip range falls within the limits of the total material thickness.

You also want to choose the right rivet head type and size for the application. Flat head rivets are set flush with the material and should be large enough to be secure and not pull through; the more surface area, the greater the strength. Dome rivet heads will show above the material and provide a different finished look. 


Shop for Rivets on the Bay Supply Marketplace

You must choose the right rivet for any job if you want a lasting joint. Be sure to consider which rivet type is best suited for the task, what rivet materials will offer optimal performance, and what size you need for proper installation. If you take the time to choose the right rivet type and materials, you can be sure of a joint that will last a long time.

You can find rivets to suit any need on the Bay Supply Marketplace. You can search for rivets by type, materials, size, finish, and manufacturer to find the perfect rivets for your next job.

And, for more information on blind rivets, download our free guide.