Solid Rivet Advice Needed

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Well-known member
Feb 25, 2011
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Virginia, USA
I've refurbished a number of tin boats, and in the past I've used a lot of 3/16" pop rivets. With the backing washers, they work pretty well. (But NOT so good without the washers, in my opinion) But when I want something to really be strong, I always use stainless steel bolts with nylock nuts. This has worked very well and I've never a failure with the bolts.

But the more of this work I do, the more I want to move over to solid aluminum rivets. I've re-bucked many rivets in the past using a sledge and a hammer, so making the change seems easy to do. But when I look online for materials, it gets dizzying!

Here are some questions that maybe you fellow members can help me with....

When I go online, 3/16" solid rivets are hard to find. Most are Metric - M4, M5, M8, etc. For some reason, when I look up the 3/16", the price more than doubles. WHY??? Either way, it looks like M5 is about the right size for my 3/16" holes. Might need a 5 MM drill bit, but no big deal, really.

But that brings up a question. I see quite a number of 1/4" solid rivets, and the price is much more reasonable than 3/16. (Because they are more common, maybe?) Are 1/4" rivets stronger, as it would seem, yet still not prone to leaking? Are there any negatives to going up a size?

Is there any specific type of aluminum needed for boats? All of them just say "Aluminum". I know when working on boats, the type of aluminum is important. Some is stronger, some is soft, some resists corrosion, and so on. Anything specific I should be looking for?

I see a lot of "round" head rivets that look strong. When you buck them, do they flatten out a bit, like the factory rivets?
I also see a few "brazier" rivets, which look more like the factory rivets. Are these the ones I should use to match?

I've searched here and found a number of posts showing the Northern Tool rivet anvils for an air gun. Do these 4 sizes include tips that match the heads of both M5 and 1/4" rivets? Any source of single bits, or must I buy the set?

I see a great post by Johnny (THANKS!) showing how to make a custom bucking block.
But are there any good sources of dimpled bucking blocks online for a reasonable price?

Thanks in advance for any assistance or insight you can give!

thill said:
Here are some questions that maybe you fellow members can help me with....
SIZE - Buying in bulk from Jay-Cee rivets, rivets on-line, has a large inventory for great prices! I have never heard of anyone running into supply issues with 3/16" rivets.

MATERIAL - You want the 1100F alloy, to be 'softer' than the tin alloy, typically 5052 as used on the hull. Remember ... the rivets here are the intended 'sacrificial' piece, if/when something goes and needs to be replaced. As to the size, perhaps getting up into the 1/4" diameter makes the river too strong for the alloy around it? But I bet it is also a cost factor and I wouldn't bother using 1/4" one myself.

HEAD SHAPE - IMHO for tin boat use, you only want 'brazier' head rivets.

AIR HAMMER ANVIL SIZE - Here's a link to the proper tool to set brazier head riverts, using an air tool, for $10 to $13 ... at least when I posted those prices a year ago.

BUCKING BAR - See link for this $20 bucking bar from VintageTrailer. I ordered it and had it 2-days later.

Link =

NOTE - You DO NOT WANT a 'dimpled' bucking bar ... you are bucking the TAIL, not the rounded or dome Brazier head! You want a perfectly flat piece to bear up against the tail and for best results, they must be held perpendicular to each other before AND while pulling the trigger.
Thank you so much for the information and the links. Sorry for this coming so late. Since my last post, I've been busy, and I didn't seen this until today, but I did already find the posts you linked to.

About a month ago, I got my first batch of solid rivets, and while waiting for the bucking tool, I played with them using two hammers. WOW, they are so much stronger than pop rivets! It's not even close.

As an experiment I riveted two pieces of 3/16" angle aluminum together with a pop rivet. I was able to twist and pull, and basically rip the rivet out without damaging the aluminum.

Then I did the same thing with a solid rivet. When I had a hard time even swiveling the metal around the rivet, I was already impressed. It was almost like it had been welded. But with force, I was able to swivel the pieces around, and then I tried levering them apart... No dice. I bent the aluminum up, but the rivet pretty much unaffected. Okay, NOW I was impressed.

Once I got my air gun tip, it got even better. Now I could fabricate stuff! I made a couple of braces out of aluminum stock, and with 2 rivets in each corner, the piece feels like it was TIG welded.

Wow, I wish I had listened to you guys here years ago! Pop rivets are not even close.

Again, thank you Dale and others who have been trying to steer me toward SOLID rivets for a long time!
Yes, that was definitely a typo. I just went back and edited.

Thanks for the heads up!

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