How to Rivet Metals for Design and Structure

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Even if you're making fiercely cutting-edge jewelry, it always pays to know how to do things the old-fashioned way. Case in point: riveting.

This classic way of creating cold connections is an MVP skill to add to your repertoire, for so many reasons. Say you're new to jewelry-making and you find yourself without a torch, or your design ideas involve a stone that's sensitive to heat, or you want your piece to be movable. Knowing how to rivet for design or structure will help you solve problems creatively, and add an extra dose of flair to your jewelry pieces.

Once you've got the riveting skill under your belt, watch as it keeps on giving. Maybe your brand-new fancy tool goes kaput just before a deadline, or you need to figure out how to make a tricky piece work. Knowing how to get the job done with a simple set of tools could save your project — and your sanity — and massively boost your design potential.

How to Rivet Jewelry

What You Need

  • Two pieces of sheet metal (this tutorial uses two pieces of sterling silver, 26 gauge)
  • A drill bit (the one we're using here is 1 millimeter)
  • A cross peen or riveting hammer
  • Wire that will fit very snugly into the hole you'll be drilling (the same size as your drill bit, in this case 1 millimeter)
  • Steel bench block
  • A burr just slightly larger than your drill bit

1. Clamp

Clamp the pieces of metal you want to attach — that way they won't move during the drilling process. Vice grips with jaws coated in thick leather work great to avoid marring the metal.

2. Drill

 

Drill a hole through both pieces of metal. Before you start, you might want to make a slight divot in your metal, so your bit won't jump around.

3. Dome Out a Bit of the Metal

Do this gently, using a burr that's only a tiny bit larger than the hole you just drilled. Don't push the burr all the way through or you'll end up with a bigger hole. You just want a slightly larger space so that when you hammer your metal, it will fill into that cavity nicely. Not only will your rivet look a lot cleaner, it'll hold better too.

4. Measure

Measure the thickness of both of your pieces. Take note of the overall thickness of both pieces of metal. You'll want your plug to be 1 millimeter longer than that number.

5. Align the Sheet Metal

After you align it, insert your pin so about 0.5 millimeter sticks out on either side.

6. Start to Flare the Metal on Top

Holding your pieces above a steel bench plate, use the blade-like end of your cross peen hammer to gently begin to flare the metal on top. Be careful not to make excess hammer marks on your sheet metal: You're just aiming for the top of the pin.

7. Work from the Back Side

Flip the piece over and work from the back side. Do this with the flat head of your hammer.

8. Turn

Working both the front and the back of the piece, turn it so your hammer blows begin to strike in a perpendicular direction across the marks that you made in the previous step. This should help you spread the metal more evenly.

9. Flatten or File the Excess

At this point, you can keep hammering and flatten your piece more, or gently file the excess so the transition appears seamless. In either case, be careful of the surrounding metal. Scratches will create a lot more work for you when you're trying to finish the piece.

You may need to try this technique a couple more times until you nail it, but now you know the basics of creating cold connections. Your jewelry skills just got a lot more riveting (yeah, we had to go there!).

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