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Using Pop Rivets for Metal Sculpture

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I use several different fasteners in metal working. Rivets have a special place in my repertoire.

Rivets in metal panel

Rivets in metal panel

What is a Rivet?

A rivet is a fastener for making cold connections. Usually, it is used for thin gauged sheet metal. Although rivets can be used to joined dissimilar and various materials like plastics, leather, and wood etc.

The basic principle of operation is the same for all types of rivets. A hole of the exact size of the rivet is drilled into the materials to be joined. The rivet must fit snugly with little play in this hole to make an effective joint. Once the rivet is inserted, tools are used to upset or mushroom the end of the rivet opposite the head locking it into place.

Pop Rivets

There are many types of rivets for different connections and a wide variety of materials. The most common type of rivets are pop rivets. The pop rivet is a thin walled tube with a mandrel wire inserted with a ball at one end. The pop rivet is inserted into its properly sized hole with the mandrel sticking outward. A special pop rivet gun, with correct sized die, is placed over the mandrel and the handles of the rivet gun are squeezed to grab the mandrel and pull it to force the balled end through the rivet body. The end of the mandrel has a groove cut in to make an intentional weak spot so the mandrel snaps off leaving the balled end inside the rivet tube expanding it on the other side locking it into place.

What Advantages do Pop Rivets Offer?

Pop rivets and the manual pop rivet guns that go along with them are fairly inexpensive. This means pop rivets make a decent entry point for a new metal artist to get started if they do not have welding or soldering equipment. Aside of the low cost and easy accessibility. Pop rivets offer a number of benefits over other tradI too although methods of joinery. These include:

  1. No special electric welders or tanks of gas needed since no additional heat is applied
  2. Since rivets are a cold connection, parts and pieces already painted can easily be drilled and riveted without compromising the finish
  3. Pop rivets, also known as blind rivets, can be used when only one side of the connection is visible or accessible in contrast to solid rivets which requires bucking bars and access to both sides of the rivet.
  4. Rivets can offer a much more attractive designs than using regular nuts and bolts
  5. Dissimilar materials can easily be joined that otherwise can’t be done feasibly by other methods
  6. With a little planning in design, it’s relatively easy to hide rivets if it is desirabl.

Pop Rivets for Beginners

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Found Object Riveted Art

Android art

Android art

Found Object Art with Rivets

Rivets are a type of cold connection along with nuts and bolts, wire and crimped joints. Because no additIonal heat is required, found objects that would be destroyed by torches and soldering irons can be joined with other materials effectively. This is a big plus since found objects can often be made of unknown metal alloys or plastics of unknown composition. Plus, using rivets means you can use pre-painted items eliminating the need for masking off sections of sculpture while finishing.

Creating Hidden Rivet Connections

Rivets are more than functional, their professional and neat refined appearance offers a unique aesthetic especially to metal art. On occasion, it may be desirable to hide the rivets when creating certain styles of sculpture. When the joints are strategically designed to hide rivets, it looks as if multiple modules are magically joined as one without visible weld joints. If mounting layers of panels and assemblies into an assembly, a sculptor can use tubing or brackets with predrilled holes to mount pieces together. Mounting a flat sheet of material to a tube is what makes pop-rivets be also referred to as blind rivets. This means the other side of the connection can go unseen and there no need for bucking bars and the like as you would need with solis rivets.

Rear Mounted Rivets on Metal Wall Art

Rear Mounted Rivets on Metal Wall Art

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