Rivets have been used for more than 5,000 years, and although we have come a long way since blacksmiths had to forge rivets by hand, their basic shape and applications have not changed. What has changed is that we have more types of rivets and rivet designs that make them more versatile, with different features for specific applications.
All rivets have common features. They all have a smooth shaft that is passed through a pre-drilled hole. They all have a pre-shaped head on one end, and the opposite end is reshaped to form a strong, lasting joint. These days, rivets are used to secure all kinds of materials, such as steel, concrete, wood, plastic, and even fabric, forming a stronger and longer-lasting joint than screws or other types of fasteners.
The most common rivet design has two basic parts: a shaft and a head. To create a fastening, the rivet is inserted into pre-drilled holes to connect two workpieces. The shaft protruding on the side away from the head or the blind side is deforming using a hammer or tool, so the shaft end is flattened and firmly seated against the base material. The rivet design is what dictates how the joint is set and the types of tools required.
Below, we will review the three most common types of rivets, their different designs, and how they are installed.
Blind Rivets Are Versatile and Easy to Install
Blind rivets have become extremely popular because they can be installed quickly and easily and blind rivets come in various sizes, lengths, and materials, making them suitable for almost any application.
For buildings, bridge, and steel construction, riveting used to require heating a solid rivet to 1,100° Celsius to soften the metal, placing the hot rivet in a hole, and then holding the head against the joint on one side while hammering the hot metal on the opposite side to flatten it into a joint. This process is time-consuming and dangerous and requires three or four men to drive one rivet. Blind rivet design eliminated these problems, requiring only one person to install a lasting joint from one side of the material.
A blind rivet is designed with two basic parts: a tubular rivet shaft and a mandrel with a thin tail and a ball-shaped head that fits through the river body. When the rivet is inserted in the hole, the mandrel is pulled up, so the rivet body collapses on the opposite or blind side of the joint to form a lasting connection. The mandrel is then sheared off to complete the rivet installation.
With blind rivets, you only need one person on one side of the workpiece to make the joint. There is no need to heat the rivets or have another worker on the opposite side to complete the joint. Blind rivet design makes installation faster and easier, so these rivets can be used almost anywhere, including for heavy-duty construction, on an assembly line, or for spot repairs. Blind rivets can be made tough enough for constructing bridges or railroad cars, or they can be used to form waterproof joints in plastic or fiberglass. It’s just a matter of choosing the right rivet materials and the right tools.
For example, for factory assembly or critical construction work, you may want hardened steel rivets that are installed using pneumatic or electrical power tools with sufficient pull strength to create a solid joint. For other types of jobs, you may want to use specialized materials—such as copper for its conductive characteristics or brass because it won’t corrode in water—and you may want to use handheld, battery-operated tools that are easier to handle. You can even use handheld blind rivet tools for small jobs or simple repairs.
Solid Rivets Are Simple and Reliable
Solid rivets have been around for millennia and are among the simplest and most reliable types of fasteners.
The name says it all: A solid rivet has a solid shaft with a head at one end. To install it, simply place it through a pre-drilled hole so the head is flush with the workpiece. Then, holding the head against the workpiece, you deform the opposite end with a hammer or rivet tool, collapsing it into a mushroom that fits snugly against the workpiece.
Solid rivets may be the most common type of rivet. They are versatile and simple to install, and are often used in applications where reliability and safety are important. They can be made of aluminum, copper, brass, steel, titanium, and nickel-based alloys. For example, aluminum alloy rivets are used to manufacture most airplanes because aluminum offers superior strength and is lighter in weight.
Use Semi-Tubular Rivets for Special Jobs
The third most common type of rivet is semi-tubular rivets. These are similar to solid rivets except they have a shallow hole in the tip of the shaft, which means you can create a joint with less force. To set the rivet, you use a special tool to force the sides of the hole outward to form the joint.
Because semi-tubular rivets require only one-fourth the power to install as solid rivets, they are commonly used in applications where softer materials could be misshapen or damaged by too much force, such as brakes, ladders, notebook binders, HVAC ducts, and electronics. They are available in steel, brass, copper, aluminum, and other materials and are often waxed to speed assembly.
These are the three most common rivet designs, but there are hundreds of variations. In addition to coming in different materials, they also come in different widths and lengths, with different ratings for performance and different recommended tools for installation. If you want to learn more about the rivet options for your next job or project, the fastener experts at Bay Supply are available with information and advice. Please contact us if you need to know more about your rivet options.