Riveting Tools

What to use for Riveting:  a Flex Shaft or Hole Punch?

Question

“I am trying to use my money “effectively” and would like to know how best to set myself up to rivet at home. I purchased a 2-hole punch (http://www.fusionbeads.com/Two-Hole-Metal-Punch) but wonder if getting a drill makes better sense as it provides more flexibility? If a drill, which one? I have seen some piercing/riveting systems but I would rather use rivets and eyelets with a hammer the way I saw you do (using the plumb bob and those other handheld tools). I do own a chasing hammer, a riveting hammer, and an anvil.” BTW, my husband has a Dremel.

Answer

Since your husband owns a Dremel, that would be the cheapest way to go.  Those hole punching pliers and presses are well and good but they are, as you said, not very versatile and they are more expensive than drill bits – you are also limited in how many different size holes you can drill.

Generally, when setting up a shop, there are initial expenses that might be steep.  What needs to be remembered is that these tools will last for a very long time.  But, you can start small and buy tools as the need(s) arise.  Junk stores, garage sales, ebay, etc. are all great places to find gently used tools.

The simplest setup for riveting is a dremel or flex shaft or even a hand drill, a piece of wood to drill on, some drill bits, lubricant (any oil or beeswax product will do – it preserves the life of the bits).

 For the actual riveting:  

  • a jewelers saw for cutting wire and tubing or a wire cutter that can cut the wire you will be using (like these power max cutters)
  • something like the plumb bob – to spread tubing – or a nail set like this from Amazon
  • a chasing hammer or any hammer with a small ball peen on one end
  • a steel block or steel sheet.  Old irons or other steel odds and ends work fine.  You just need a piece of steel that is flat.
  • Small things to rivet on (when you can’t place the piece on a flat surface without marring the details) like a dapping set.  This 25 Piece Doming set, from Harbor Freight (item #: 93539) is very inexpensive and works well.

You’ll want drill bits that are either the same size as or slightly smaller than the tubing or wire you will be riveting.  It also helps – to make perfect holes, when fit is imperative – to have a drill press like this one at Amazon.  The nice thing about this press is that is also accommodates a Dremel that have a flex shaft attachment. The drill press keeps the bit from wobbling while drilling which can cause uneven or larger holes. But, you don’t HAVE to have a drill press.

Harbor Freight High Speed Tool Steel Drill Bits (Item #’s: 62281,61637 or 1611).  These are larger drill bits but, do have their uses especially when drilling holes for tubing.

Smaller drill bits are available.  I buy sizes that I often use like for 14G, 12G, 16G and 18G.  See my Drill Bit Chart for conversions to bit numbers.  

Tubing is probably cheaper in the long run than pre-made rivets or eyelets.  It also has other uses in jewelry making like hinge-making or stone setting. You can get tubing at Home Depot or Rio Grande Jewelry, Metalliferous, etc.

Down the road, a tubing cutter might come in handy.  They have them in plier form or you can purchase the miter cutting vise – which is also useful for making straight edges on sheet, tubing and wire. Having this type of tool makes cutting tubing easier and saves time because the edges are straight and even.