How to Undo Rivets

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Rivets can be undone, but not without leaving a hole in the material.
Rivets can be undone, but not without leaving a hole in the material. (Image: Clou rouille pont rivet viaduc image by Mathieu Gerentes from Fotolia.com)

Rivets are mainly used to hold two pieces of metal or other heavy-duty materials together. There are several types of rivets, which vary by the shape of the head on the rivet. A rivet is inserted by drilling a hole through two pieces of material and using a rivet gun to set it. The gun pushes the rivet through the hole and expands the back end, locking it into place. Rivets are meant to hold for a long time and cannot be removed without damaging the rivet. Undoing a rivet is simple, but it will leave a hole in the material.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • 1/8-inch drill bit
  • Thin steel shaft
  • Nail
  • Hammer

Fit the 1/8-inch drill bit into the drill. Most rivets are 1/8 inch in diameter, but some may be larger or smaller. If this is the case, you will need a drill bit that matches the diameter of the rivet.

Insert the thin steel shaft underneath the head of the rivet. Pull the handle of the shaft toward you, using the leverage of the shaft to push the rivet out, and hold it steady in place. This may not be necessary for rivets that are older or rusted, as they will hold in place easily.

Position the drill bit against the center of the rivet head. Holding the steel shaft tightly, apply pressure with the drill and slowly start to drill out the center of the rivet.

Drill long enough to ruin the head of the rivet and allow it to come off the shaft of the rivet. Remove the steel shaft and the drill from the rivet.

Use the nail to push the rivet through the hole. Now that the head has been removed, the shaft should slide freely out the back of the hole. If the rivet is rusted or old, it may need to be hammered out. Hit the end of the nail with the hammer, forcing the rusted rivet through the hole.

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