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    April 6, 2023

    5 Types of Rivets and How They Work


    When you can’t use traditional bolts and nuts, you’ll probably have to fall back on rivets. Rivets are a unique way to fasten things together in a semi-permanent fashion. In this guide, you’ll learn about 5 different types of rivets. We’ll explain how they work and when you should use each option.

    What Is a Rivet?

    A rivet is a type of fastener that can’t be easily removed after it is installed. It requires a special riveting tool to apply the rivet. The tool deforms the rivet and jams it in place. 

    If you imagine a bolt that can’t be unthreaded once it’s installed, you’re left with a rivet (in theory, at least). 

    Due to the nature of how rivets work, they’re largely made out of either steel or aluminum. 

    Rivets all look a little different, but the overall shape is roughly the same. You’ll notice one side that has a flat head, and the opposite side is typically a shaft of some sort. The flat head is, of course, called the “head” of the rivet, and the opposite end is called the “tail”.

    How Does a Rivet Work?

    Types Of Rivets 2 A rivet is placed into a thru hole that goes between two parts, like two pieces of sheet metal. A riveter, which is the tool used to install the rivet, will start pulling or pushing against the tail of the rivet. It will push or pull so hard that the tail deforms and creates a button head roughly the size of the actual head of the rivet.

    Be permanently deforming the rivet, it is suddenly too large to fit in the drilled hole that it was installed into. In addition, it will add a force pushing through the material towards the designed head of the rivet.

    What are you left with? A shaft with two heads on it that is too large to fit through the machined hole, so it’s jammed in place — this pins the two pieces of sheet metal together permanently. 

    5 Types of Rivets and How They Work

    There are a few different types of rivets that you might consider using in your upcoming project. Here is our list of 5 common types of rivets, as well as how each option works.

    Solid Rivets

    Solid rivets are by far the most common option. This option features a simple shaft with a designed head on one end. A rivet gun or hammer is used to flatten and deform the tail once the head is installed.

    You will often find solid rivets on the structural parts of aircraft, since this rivet option is so sturdy and reliable. Installation is very simple, and the design is straightforward.

    Pop Rivets

    Pop rivets, also called blind or hollow rivets, are the next most common option on the market. They have a long rod that goes through a hollow tube between the head and tail of the rivet.

    They’re called blind rivets, because they can be installed from just one face of a material, meaning that you can install them without seeing the other side.

    By pulling the rod, you’ll deform the tail of this rivet. After doing this, the central mandrel will snap off and permanently fix the rivet to the parts you’re fastening. 

    This type of rivet can’t be installed without a rivet gun, and it’s relatively easy and fast to install a pop rivet.

    Pop rivets are commonly used on bridges, ships, and airplanes.

    Tubular Rivets

    Tubular rivets have a hollow tail and a manufactured head. Due to their design, they typically need to be cold-formed and hammered into position to fully activate the rivet. This process is more involved and very difficult to do, but it creates a firm grip between both parts that are getting riveted. 

    Split Rivets

    Split rivets are very commonly used in home repairs. The tail is bifurcated, or split (hence the name), and they can pierce through the material. They’re really good on softer materials like leather, wood, and plastic. 

    The sharp tail is used to pierce through the material, then the tail gets hammered on the underside of your material to expand the head and lock the rivet in place.

    These rivets shouldn’t be used in critical applications, since they aren’t as strong as other options.

    Countersink Rivets

    A countersink rivet’s head is flatter and more low-profile than other options on the market. For that reason, these rivets are typically reserved for applications where the drag coefficient or the final appearance really matters. 

    We should also mention that these rivets are typically more expensive and can have lower overall fastening strength. You’ll usually only see them in aerospace applications.


    Now that you know more about rivets, you can use rivets in your next design. Keep these 5 options in mind, and remember what you learned here. If you need more information or want to get started with a riveted design, reach out to our team at Rapid Axis. We’re a machine shop of highly trained machining experts that can incorporate rivets into your design. Get a free quote today.

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