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I Forge Iron

making tongs, what to use for rivets

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Very Nice!

Just a note, if you use a small ox/acetl torch and hold it parallel to your wood, you can heat only the rivit without scorching your woodwork. even the straps wont get hot. A cold rivit may be good enough, but a hot rivit is a better rivit. 

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Why not just heat the end of a heavy piece of steel and apply the tapered end to the rivet. Heat transfer should warm the rivet nicely.  Think old time soldering irons.

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Make test pieces to test the various techniques rather than risk ANY saddle. 

Were it me I'd use a torch to spot heat the end of a rivet rather than a heated punch as suggested. A small tip torch will bring the end of the rivet to heat in a second or two minimizing how much will conduct into section of rivet in the pieces being joined.

A hot punch must transfer heat to the rivet through contact conduction giving much more time for it to heat through the rivet shank. 

I'm glad you joined the gang, I didn't know ANYTHING about sidesaddles till you showed up. Talking horses and riding brings back fond memories.

Frosty The Lucky.

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It could also be an interesting experiment to try some kind of thin heat-resistant shield. For example, a square of thin titanium (which conducts heat rather slowly) with a hole in the middle could be slipped over the rivet end, the rivet heated with a sideways-pointing torch, the shield removed, and the rivet hammered down.

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