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making rivets

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ok guys, i have been making tongs, and other riveted things lately, and let me tell you my rivets stink, how dose everyone out there make them, do you buy them? how about ones that are 1/8 in small, and as big as 1/2 in, maybe a nail header, i do know that i need to make some jaws that are semi circular for my vice so i can hold round stock tightly, any good ideas, tips
Thanks for the help

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I use an old plumbing tool that's made to flare the ends of copper tubing. one side is chamfered, the other is square. Has several sizes all in one short piece. Probably cost me $20 new. A few small modifications to hold it properly and a small plate under it for backup(though if mounted in a vise it easily holds the stock) and you're done.

You can purchase them and save yourself some time, but it's so easy to make your own in any size or length you need. And to me it's just a tad more satisfying to make one more part of the project myself. Your mileage may vary. And you may take exception on a larger project due to time, or reduce cost.

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This is what I do for tong rivets and rivets in a lot of other things. The general rule of thumb for length is leave 1-1/2 times the diameter of the rivet stock to make the head. So for example, with 1/2" stock, leave 3/4". So for 1/2", use a piece of 3/4" plate with a hole in it. Insert the straight rivet stock into the pieces to be riveted. Place the work on the 3/4" plate, the rivet stock going through the hole. Head the top, or at least get it started, then flip the work over, setting it on the anvil this time, and head the other side. The advantage with this method is that both heads on the rivet can be made in one heat. I'm writing and illustrating an article on this method that will be in the Ocmulgee Blacksmith Guild newsletter.

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Gday Mlmartin15,

I start by using a set of cutting dies in a guilliotine tool, cutting partway through the stock to the approximate thickness of the rivet shank, cut all the way around the stock, flat side of the cutter to the rivet head. Use flat fullers or butchers in the guilliotine tool to start to draw the stock down. Then I use a set of spring fullers to draw the shank to the final thickness. Then I use the cutting dies to partially separate the rivet from the parent stock, leave just enough metal to keep the rivet on the parent stock. Reheat rivet to a yellow and poke it into the rivet header, snap off the parent stock and hammer the head to your desired shape. one rivet :-) its slow, but makes good rivets.

Brisbane, Oz.

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I have approached rivets several different ways each has a purpose.
I have made 2 rivet tools fashioned after Irnsrgn's Bp.
I have taken old ball pien hammers and reforged the piens and then heated them bright orange and drove it down on to a rivet to make a header for that rivet size. I heat the hammer end and anneal it prior to hitting it with another hammer. When done you have a nice handled rivet header.
I have a block of 1" plate about 4" x 8" that I have taken Ball bearings about the same radius as several different rivet head sizes and drove into the orange hot plate to leave depressions matching the rivet heads. I have welded a piece of heavy angle iron to the bottom side so it will clamp in the vise. It has made a real nice rivet set.
I have several Jack hammer bits that I have done the same way to make rivet sets to fit in the anvil hardy hole.
Combine the headers and sets with JR's rivet helper and you can make a rivet for about anything.
In a pinch I have used long bolts and ground the corners of the hex and then cut the bolt off at the shoulder (were the threads end) and then
Inserted the bolt in the item to be riveted and the peined both ends with a hammer. When your done you have a nice hand hammered rivet.
I am not at home right now but will try to get some pictures of the sets and headers if you would like.


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I forged / ground ball punches with the profiles I wanted my rivet heads to be out of pieces of crowbar. Then I punched that profile into another piece of crowbar. That's my heading tool for that rivet size. Then I took a piece of ag. shafting (4140-ish) that's just under 1" square about 8" long and fullered the center 1 1/2" to a depth of 3/4" leaving me with 1/4" shoulders. Then on one end I sunk one size of ball punch and a different one on the other end. The shoulders on this make is "stick" in the leg vise and it makes a great bottom bolster tool. I also made a "holder" (don't know what else to call it at the moment) similar to what CQ was talking about above. Basically I took two pieces of 3/4" bar stock drilled matching 1/4" holes through them, then stuck a pin in the holes to keep them aligned. Then I put a couple thicknesses of notebook paper between them and centered up in the drill press on the seam. Then I drilled holes of my common rivet sizes through the joint. Also welded some 3/8 bar stock along the top edge of each of the 3/4" pieces to act as catches on the top of the vise jaws similar to the bottom bolster described above. The paper strips add just enough space so that when you remove the paper, the 1/4" hole will really get a grip on a 1/4" round bar without marring it up much. So to make a rivet out of 1/4" round stock, get it hot, then stick 3/8" up out of the "holder" in the vise. I usually take a couple of blows with the face of my hammer, then use the pien to upset a little more. Once the mass is close to the shape I want, I use the heading tool and give it a few good raps while rotating the heading tool (just helps get a more symmetrical head). Then to attach say the two tong halves together, take the "holder" out of the vise and put the bottom bolster in the vise. Get the rivet hot, and cut it off leaving the thickness of the peices to be joined plus 3/8" assemble the whole thing, support the already formed head on the rivet in the bottom bolster and do the same setting routine on the new end of the rivet. I guarantee you this is not the most efficient or expedient way to make rivet heads. It's just how I do it, and I can make some pretty passable rivets this way. It would obviously fall apart on a larger piece that I couldn't hold in one hand up to the tool in the leg vise. I'd have to modify. My advice, just keep practicing, eventually your rivets will start looking better. don't be afraid to spend some time making nice heading tools. They'll last forever and the better they work for you the better your rivets will look.

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