Which Aluminum Rivet Tools?


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Tin Man

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Oct 1, 2011
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I want to do some projects on my boat and believe I will need Rivet tools.
Boat in my sig:
2017 Alumacraft V16
It is built with .065 thick aluminum (bottom and sides). Not sure of type of aluminum.

Couple of planned projects:

Front deck (from forward-most bench to bow)
Front TM deck

I believe I will be using aluminum angle and alum. flat bar (1/8" thick).

I would like tools that will rivet the above alum for my projects as well as the ability replace any rivets on my hull that may be needed in the future. I have attached pics of various rivets used on my hull.

So, what tool (hydraulic, electric, pneumatic, manual, ?) and rivets are needed?
I prefer quality tools, but don't need the best.
I prefer the best quality in rivets.

Also, I'd like to know the names of each type of rivets....some are flat heads, pan head, round head, rivets with holes, etc.



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Those look like standard 3/16" brazier head solid rivets through the hull, and 3/16" blind rivets @ the accessory stuff.

Use solid rivets everywhere you can get access to both sides. Those square-looking round rivets are just the inside of the solid rivets.
If you cut your front deck to fit tightly, you won't need much support, just a couple of angle-aluminum tabs on each side.

Blind rivets are fine for transom caps and interior parts. You can use them through the hull if you HAVE to, above the waterline. For below, you might go with the ones made for that, and you will need a HD, 2-handled rivet tool or a pneumatic one.

You can buck solid rivets just fine with two hammers, but if you have to do more than a couple, you might want to get a bit for an air hammer. Use a mini sledge or buy a bucking bar to tap against.

Your boat looks great. I hope your project goes well.
Thanks thill! I do have an pneumatic air hammer. I'll have to look into bits for the specific rivets.
Also what are the better hand tool riveters for the blind rivets used as you mentioned (transom caps and interior parts)?
1) Rivets
Most use 3/16" diameter rivets

2) Where?
Buy in bulk from Jay-Cee Rivets, as they have a large inventory for great prices! See: https://www.rivetsonline.com/a187b0375a/a187b0375a
You want 'Brazier' head 1100F alloy 3/16" rivets, most likely in 3/8" length with a handful of 1/2" or perhaps even longer ones in case you need a few longer rivets, but if so, ALWAYS cut the length for best application.

3) Other
You need more tooling - see below, plus an air compressor and air hammer. On my old Starcraft with new transom 'skins' inside and out, as well as a new transom core, I put in over 300 rivets using a Harbor Freight pancake compressor and their air hammer tool (< $20). And many 100 since on other's boats too.

AIR HAMMER ANVIL SIZE - Here's a link to the proper tool to set brazier head rivets, 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.

You can use a scrap piece of metal for a bucking bar, but you DO NOT WANT a 'dimpled' bucking bar ... as you are bucking the TAIL end, not the rounded or dome-shaped Brazier head. You want a perfectly flat/square piece to bear up against the tail end of the rivet. And for best results, they must be held perpendicular to each other before AND while pulling the trigger.
Thanks DaleH! Air hammer and compressor I have. Bucking tool, air hammer anvils, and rivets should do it. Then, plenty of practice!

BTW.....how do you cut rivets down....and how is correct size determined?
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Dale gave great answers above with links and everything. Nice!
EDIT: Unfortunately, the links are dead, but a web search will quickly show the same parts.

5 years ago, Dale and others helped me step into the world of solid rivets, and I very much appreciate their help! Look at my post asking for help here, from 5 years ago... Solid Rivet Advice Needed

In general, don't cut them down. Buy several lengths, as Dale suggests above. In a pinch, you can always use a cutting wheel, but you want the rivet to be about 3/16" longer than the combined thickness of the materials you are fastening. A little long doesn't hurt, but too short and you may not form the "head" on the inside, as you pictured above, (The flat-looking heads) and if not, the connection may be weak

As far as the blind rivets, you can use a standard Harbor Freight rivet tool in most cases. The HD blind rivets need either a pneumatic or a two-handled tool to set. The hand squeeze one usually won't get those set.

Try to stick to solid rivets anywhere you can. They are the best.
I am wondering about Pneumatic Hammers vs Pneumatic Rivet Tools. I read on another thread where DaleH discussed variable triggers on air rivet tools and ability to adjust how hard it hits rivet. Whereas air hammers only have one setting for hard hits.

I understand that solid rivets can be set too hard causing alum hull material to crack, be overly compressed/squashed, or be damaged due to too many or too hard of hits with pneumatic tool. Is this so with both rivet air tool and air hammers or is it more prone to happen with an air hammer?

Examples of air hammers and air rivet tools.
What would be the differences between these two tools as far as installing solid rivets goes?
They both have variable triggers.

HF models does 2800 BPM
Jay-cee model does 1740 BPM
Eastwood models does 4500 BPM

HF Chief Professional Long Barrel Air Hammer

Jay-Cee TP 84 (4X RIVETER)

Eastwood Pneumatic Rivet tool
Once again I might suggest Bolt Depot.com. They have rivets, blind, closed end, multi-grip. All sizes, all aluminum inc. shaft. good prices & order on line. Good for above water use. DO NOT HAVE BUCKING RIVETS. Used a Milwaukee cordless gun on my old alum. tinny boat for all aluminum rivets. Old hands not so strong.

1970 Crestliner 18' Voyager (Ut) tiller
I only use the Cheap Harbor freight $20 air hammer, that is not adjustable, less I can adjust the pressure. I have never set a rivet ‘too hard’. And don’t think it would be possible with my set up, lol!
Strange... My cheap HF air hammer has an adjustable rate trigger. If I squeeze light, it barely taps. The harder I squeeze, the harder it hits.

Maybe mine is newer than yours? It's maybe 5-6 years old.
This is what I needed to work the 1/4” hard allow rivets I got from … Harrison? Harrington?
Just so everyone knows, shear strength is one thing, but otherwise the rivets used should be softer than the alloy you're holding together ... so that the rivets become the 'weak link' and are eventually the item to be replaced ... and not that of the hull structure itself.

I too use that large 'A'-frame riveter for setting large blind rivets. Works great! Tip - To achieve the shear strength without sacrificing the parent alloy, go to a larger diameter body.
Curious....If you can't see the diameter of installed solid rivets, how do you know the size without removing? Can it be determined by head size?
Just so everyone knows, shear strength is one thing, but otherwise the rivets used should be softer than the alloy you're holding together ... so that the rivets become the 'weak link' and are eventually the item to be replaced ... and not that of the hull structure itself.

I too use that large 'A'-frame riveter for setting large blind rivets. Works great! Tip - To achieve the shear strength without sacrificing the parent alloy, go to a larger diameter body.
In some instances I'm not sure that is possible.

The butter soft aluminum angle from ACE is about as soft a grade of aluminum Ive come across, and Ive worked with a lot of aluminum. Not even sure they give you an alloy or heat treat designation on it.

I factored in the issues I had, being structural but not through hull, and factored in I needed to pull parts together in some instances and could only get one rivet where I would have rather had two and just went with that.
Take a sharp wood chisel and lay flat against the surface and tap with a hammer. It should slice or pop the head right off the rivet without damaging the surrounding area. Then take a punch or even a nail and tap the rivet out of the hole.

Most rivets are going to be 3/16" or 1/4". Most I have come across have been 3/16".

... maybe it's just an artifact of it being a cheap tool, LOL! As in a light squeeze isn't opening the valve, haha!
Maybe so! It works great, though. I've had ones that are all or nothing, and they are harder to control, and want to jump around.
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