Rivets are designed to provide a permanent joint, but sometimes they have to be removed. Maybe a rivet was installed incorrectly or cracked during installation, or perhaps the rivet has started to corrode and needs to be replaced. When you have to remove a rivet, it pays to use the right rivet removal tool.
When a rivet has to be replaced, you want to make a neat job of rivet removal so the pre-drilled hole doesn’t change shape or size. If you use the wrong tools or are careless, you will have to replace the rivet with a larger size, which may weaken the strength of the joint as well as affecting the appearance.
Old-School Rivet Removal
There are different approaches to rivet removal, and each will yield a different result, which makes a difference if you want to reuse the pre-drilled rivet holes or if you have a large number of rivets to remove.
If you don’t have a rivet tool, there are three basic techniques you can use:
1. Drill it out.
Using a power drill and a drill bit that matches the size of the rivet mandrel, you can drill the rivets out manually. However, using a handheld power drill is less accurate than using a rivet removal tool, and this technique could result in a misshapen hole or damage to the workpiece. The type of rivet also may make it difficult to use a power drill. Round-headed rivets, for example, make it harder to center the drill bit on the rivet head for a clean drill out.
2. Use a grinder.
Rather than drilling the rivet heads out, you can always cut them off using a grinder. This approach is usually fast and can be useful if you are disassembling something for disposal or recycling and don’t intend to reuse the pieces. Using a grinder is sure to mar the surface of the workpiece.
3. Remove it manually.
For small disassembly jobs, you can always use a hammer and a chisel. The approach is the same as with a grinder, but you cut the head off manually instead of with a power tool.
Each of these methods is time-consuming and messy. If you need to replace a rivet with an equally strong or stronger joint or if you are removing multiple rivets, it pays to use a rivet removal tool.
Using a Tool for Rivet Removal
A tool for rivet removal is specifically designed to cleanly remove rivet heads without damaging the drill hole so you can replace the rivet. The principle of rivet removal is similar to rivet installation in reverse, and you can use a rivet removal tool for your power drill or as part of your rivet installation tool.
The basic design of the rivet removal tool is simple. It consists of a drill bit that matches the size of the mandrel and a collar that fits over the rivet head. The idea is that the collar centers the drill bit on the rivet head for a clean cut that won’t damage the hole. The rivet removal tool also lets you set the depth of the drill bit, so it only removes the rivet head and won’t affect the rivet hole.
Some tools for rivet installation and removal are designed to operate with a conventional drill. However, many rivet tools from manufacturers such as Gage Bilt and Bayfast have rivet removal kits that work with their installation tools. If you choose a rivet installation tool with a removal kit, you have all the capabilities you need in one tool.
When shopping for a rivet removal tool, consider how you will need to use it and what features to look for, such as:
Rivets come in a variety of types and configurations and are made of different materials, so you want a tool that can handle rivets of different sizes and materials.
If you are only replacing an occasional rivet, then speed may not be a consideration. However, if you have to disassemble large units with multiple rivets of different types and sizes, then you want a tool that delivers fast results. The rivet removal tool should be able to remove rivets quickly, and it should be easy to change heads to accommodate different rivet sizes. You don’t want tools that require you to remove and replace multiple parts every time you want to tackle a new rivet size.
Ease of use should always be a consideration. Different rivet tools use different power sources, such as hydraulic and pneumatic tools that use hoses to deliver power or cordless tools that use batteries. Just as you choose the right rivet tool for the job, you also want to choose the right rivet removal tool and consider the tool’s weight, portability, and difficulty to use.
Matching the tool to the job is always a primary consideration, and when you are shopping for the right rivet gun, it is important to think about what you may need for rivet removal as well. It pays to choose a versatile rivet tool that can handle rivet removals as well as installations.