The Best Way to Remove Steel Rivets

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A steel rivet consists of two components: the head and the stem. The head of the rivet is the flat circular portion of the rivet, while the stem is the long cylindrical portion. Removing a steel rivet requires that these two components be separated. Separating these two components from small rivets is best performed with an electric drill, while large rivets are best removed with a chisel. Before using either method, it is imperative to wear safety goggles.

Drill Method for Small Steel Rivets

  • The drill method separates the head and the stem by gradually enlarging the hole in the center of the steel rivet. As the hole becomes larger, the head will disconnect from the stem. When preparing to disconnect the head from the stem, it is important to select an appropriately sized drill bit. The drill bit should slide securely into the center of the rivet without being forced. As most steel rivets are 1/8 inch, a 1/8-inch drill bit should initially be used. Attach the drill bit to the drill, then slide the bit into the center of the rivet. Activate the drill, then slowly turn the drill in a tight circle to bore out the center of the rivet. If the drill has multiple speeds, drill the rivet with the lowest speed setting. Once the drill bit no longer fits securely into the center of the rivet, remove the bit from the drill and insert a second bit one size larger than the first bit. Insert the drill bit into the center of the rivet and again bore out the center of the rivet until the head disconnects from the stem. If the stem has not fallen out of the metal, insert the tip of a punch into the center of the stem, then lightly tap the punch with a hammer to remove the stem.

Chisel Method for Large Steel Rivets

  • This method is best to remove large rivets, although it too can be used to remove standard 1/8-inch steel rivets. Rather than gradually enlarging the hole in the center of the rivet to disconnect the head from the stem, as with the drill method, the chisel is used to cut the head off of the stem. To cut the head off with a chisel, place the blade of the chisel tightly against the lip of the rivet's head. Strike the rounded end of the chisel with a hammer until the chisel cuts through the rivet's head, then insert the tip of a punch into the center of the stem and lightly tap the punch with the hammer to remove the stem.

References

  • Sheet Metal Fabrication: Techniques and Tips for Beginners and Pros; Eddie Paul; 2008
  • Sheet Metal Handbook: How to Form and Shape Sheet Metal for Competition, Custom and Restoration Use; Ron Fournier and Sue Fournier; 1989
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