Basic Skills for Metal Riveting

A rivet gun is a very useful tool that fastens metal parts with rivets. Working with a rivet gun can increase productivity without degrading the quality of the finished product. There is more to the operation of a rivet gun is more than just learning the triggering mechanism.

A rivet gun is a special type of tool that is used to drive rivets into metallic objects to bind them. This tool is also known as a pneumatic hammer because it is a pneumatically powered tool, i.e., it uses pressurized gas to drive the force. When a rivet is used to fasten metal pieces, the gun produces the head of the rivet while a bucking bar is used to tighten tail. Rivet guns that are used for fastening steel parts are quite large while those used in aircraft assembling are comparatively small. They differ from air hammers only by the level of driving force; the underlying concept used in both the tools is same.

How the Rivet Gun Works

There are various sizes and shapes of rivet guns with different handles and grips. The basic parts of a rivet gun are the regulator, throttle                Rivet Gun 

valve, trigger, piston, and rivet set. The regulator is used for adjusting the amount of air entering the tool. The air, controlled by regulator, passes through the throttle valve. A trigger present in the handgrip controls this throttle valve. When the trigger is pressed, the throttle valve opens immediately. The controlled air flows into the piston through the opened valve. The piston starts moving due to this pressurized air and opens a port from where air starts to escape. The moving piston strikes the rivet set on the tip of the rivet gun. This force is responsible for pushing the rivet towards the workpiece against the buck. The buck then deforms the tail of the rivet fastening it in place. A spring then returns the piston to its original position.

Equipment Required

○      Scrap piece of wood

○      Safety glasses

○      Air tool oil

○      Drill

○      Compressor


Preparing Rivet Gun for the Operation

Lubricating the inside of the rivet gun is very important. Follow this procedure to lubricate all of the moving parts of the gun.

○      Turn on the air compressor.

○      Air fittings are located on the rivet gun, find them and add air tool oil to them.

○      Attach the air line to the air fittings of the rivet gun.

○      Press the trigger so that the O-rings present in the rivet gun are also lubricated.

Prepare the Work Pieces

Next, prepare the work pieces that need to be fastened.

○      Decide on the type of joint you will use. If you want to apply a lap joint then place one part over another, for a butt joint butt the parts using other metal pieces over them on both sides.

○      Place the combined work pieces on the table with a piece of wood beneath of them.

○      You will need to drill holes in the metal pieces. Secure the desired size drill bit into the drill motor and drill the required number of holes through the metal pieces. Drilling of the holes should be done after selecting style of the riveting (for example straight or zigzag style).

Set the Rivets into the Holes

○      Insert rivets into the holes you drilled.

○      Precision setting of the rivet gun is very important in this process. You have to position it onto the metal pieces at a 90 degree angle so that maximum pressure can be applied to the metal pieces and there is no slippage.

○      Depress the trigger when the head of the rivet rests flush on the surface of the metal piece.

○      Check the back side of the rivet to assure that the back side is tightened accurately.

Precautions When Using Rivet Gun

○      The rivet gun should be lightly oiled every day before use.

○      Do not press the trigger of the rivet gun without a set secured by a retained spring.

○      When the rivet gun is not being used disconnect it from the air source.

○      Disconnect the gun for routine maintenance or when sets are being changed.

○      Always wear safety glasses when operating the rivet gun.


The operation of a rivet gun requires a skill set that includes more than just operational knowledge. Maintenance of the gun and all of its moving parts is an essential component to ensuring a clean, flush rivet. Proper placement of rivets involves pre drilling seat holes for the rivets and securing a buck to the back to give resistance to the pneumatic thrust. This resistance creates the pleat in the back of the rivet that secures it in place. Not following safety precautions or failing to assure a precise alignment of the rivet gun head to the rivet can result in a poorly secured joint or, in the worst case, a sever injury to the gun operator.

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