Copper rivets are endlessly fashionable and create a nearly indestructible bond between two pieces of sturdy fabric or leather. From belts to holsters, tote bags to axe sheaths, rivets are basically bombproof and easy to install—with the right tools and technique.
How To Install Rivets
Step 1: Cut Your Materials & Mark Your Layout
Plan out where your rivets will go and mark your materials clearly with a high-visibility marker. Get the spacing just right, because with rivets, there’s really no going back. Remember: measure twice, punch once!
Step 2: Punch Your First Hole
We humbly submit that nothing does this job better than our Revolving Leather Hole Punch, which can punch holes in six sizes (ranging from 1/16” to 3/16”) through even the toughest fabric or leather. Select the appropriate size for your rivets, matching the size of your rivet shanks, and make your first hole.
Step 3: Insert a Shank & Keep Punching
We recommend inserting a shank before moving on to punch the next hole, as it eliminates fabric slippage and ensures your materials stay in line. Grab a shank, slide it through the back of your material (both layers), and then, making sure everything is lined up, punch your next hole.
Repeat this process, punching a hole and inserting a shank, until you’re finished.
Step 4: Seat & Secure Your Burr
Now begins what we like to call “The Fun Part.” Our heavy-duty Rivet Setter pulls double duty, and its first job is to set the burrs (the bits that look like washers) in place. You’ll notice the bottom of the Rivet Setter has two main features: a wide, shallow Doming Tool—we’ll see you soon, big fella—and the narrower, deeper Rivet Set. This is the one we need right now. You’ll want a very sturdy surface for this step, and our Bench-Top Utility Anvil is a great tool at a great price for small work like this.
Grab a burr and place it on top of one of your rivet shanks, pressing down gently to expose a portion of the shank. Place your Rivet Set over the exposed shank and, using a medium-weight hammer or mallet, tap the Setter firmly until the burr can’t go down any farther. Your materials are now held fast. Continue setting burrs until they’re all in place.
Step 5: Clip Excess Metal
The finish line is in sight! Now we need to clip most of the excess metal protruding from our burrs. Using your favorite heavy-duty wire cutters—we love our Compact Bolt Cutter (note: no longer available) or, if you need more oomph, our Diagonal Super Cutters (note: no longer available)—trim your posts, leaving about 1/16” to 1/8” on each rivet. (Eye protection might not be a terrible idea here!) Work your way around until all your shanks have been trimmed.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Grab your Rivet Setter once again and move back to your anvil or other sturdy work surface. Place the wide, shallow Doming Tool over an exposed rivet shank and use your mallet to round over the remaining bit of shank. Tap firmly and repeatedly, rotating the Rivet Setter a bit before each hit to make a smooth finished rivet. Work your way around your piece until you’re finished!