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All you need to know about Rivets {Guest Post: Kylie from Handbag Hardware Australia}

Hi Everyone!

Today I have invite Kylie from Handbag Hardware Australia to be here to help us learn all we need to know about Rivets.  Rivets play a big part in my new pattern The Hippo Hobo, so we are so lucky to have Kylie here to help us today 🙂

rivets - guest post

So over to Kylie…


0 Tools Anatomy

To attach your rivets you’ll require the following items:

  • Hammer
  • Old Chopping board or work area you can hammer on
  • Rivet Setting Tool and Anvil
  • Saddler’s / Hole Punch
  • Rivets


Anatomy of the Rivet

0a Anatomy of Rivet

Essentially it’s made up of two parts

  1. The top / head of the rivet and
  2. The Cap which attaches to the bottom of the shank to close off the unit.

The anatomy picture highlights an important element which is the shank length. The picture is of two identical head width rivets being 9mm however the shank length differs by 2mm which makes a big difference in the world of a rivet.

Choosing the right shank length

4 Rivet Shank Length cw

Rule of thumb for shank length is 2mm longer than the relaxed thickness of the area you’re riveting.

The correct shank length ensures the rivet has enough traction/compression to hold over the long term.

In reference to the picture:

  • Rivet 1. While it will still work it won’t be on for a long time, only use this in areas of low activity – decoration only.
  • Rivet 2. Perfect length 2mm over the relaxed thickness of the fabric means there will be enough hold for longevity.
  • Rivet 3. Too long, this will also still work, however you’ll have trouble keeping it straight and there’s a chance the excess shank may push through causing a bubble in your cap and no one wants that!

What does relaxed thickness mean?

Effectively, when your project is sitting idle without any pressure this is the relaxed thickness. I’ve used one of my favourite tools, the Vernier Calliper, to demonstrate in the photo, however, you can also use a ruler against the fabric edge.

Take into account the fleece, interfacing, fabric, leather or other attachments, you want to get the actual thickness of where the rivet is going without squashing the area.

2 Relaxed thickness cw

3 Thickness strap c

The two pictures above demonstrate how the relaxed thickness determines the shank length of your rivet.

  • The bag body example with 640 fleece, DHJ501 (SF101) and main/lining fabrics is 6mm thick and so requires the 8mm shank length.
  • The Handle however is 8mm thick and needs a shank length of 10mm to hold it in place.


How to attach a Rivet

6 Mark c

Mark the placement of where you’d like the rivet to go following any pattern instructions.

7 hole punch c

Punch through all layers on the mark you created earlier.

Note on Saddlers / Hole Punch sizing – the diameter of the punch should be slightly less than the diameter of the shank. Eg. Shank diameter is 2.25mm, your punch diameter should be 2mm – slightly smaller so that it’s a snug fit.

8 Insert rivet c

Thread the shank of the rivet through the hole so you can see it on the opposite side.

9 push through lining side c

Once the rivet shank is through place the cap on the end, it will click into place

10 place cap on c

Bring out your chopping board, hammer and smooth side of the setting tool anvil.

11 centre cap in anvil c

Place the anvil on the chopping board (or hammer safe surface)

Centre the cap side of the rivet onto the anvil

12 curved end of tool  c

Using the curved end of the setting tool.

13 Align hammer and tool c

Ensuring the cap remains in the centre of the anvil, place the setting tool over the top of the rivet head and strike down with your Hammer forcefully several times to close the unit. NOTE: It’s very important that the alignment of the hammer, direction of strike and setting tool are straight up and down.

14 Finished front and back

Jobs done! Congratulations.

Problem solving

Twisted Rivet 1.    Hammer/Setting tool alignment – pressure/direction needs to be straight down

2.    Shank length too long for application

Cap is warped/bubbled 1.    Shank length too long for application

2.    You’ve hit too hard for too long

Cap popped off after a few uses          Shank length is too short

Also recommend in high wear areas, such as handles, use a bit of glue between the body of the bag and the handle than rivet. This will support it further, especially if there’s no stitching being used

How do I remove a rivet I don’t like Use your pliers and remove the cap end first than pull the shank out.
I don’t want to spend the money on a rivet tool The teaspoon method – yes this does take a bit of practice and you have to be super straight with your hammer and accurate on your shank length, recommend slightly shorter shank length. However, you can do all of this with a teaspoon, blu-tack and a scrap piece of fleece fabric.   The teaspoon becomes your Anvil, blu-tack holds the rivet in place in the centre of the teaspoon and your fleece is used to protect the rivet head from the hammer blows. It’s not perfect but it definitely gets the job done (with a bit of practice)

Thanks Emma for inviting me to create this little riveting tutorial (sorry couldn’t help myself!)

Enjoy, Kylie
Handbag Hardware Australia

Thank you so much for the great information Kylie, I’m sure this post will help heaps of wonderful bag makers out there 😉

Until next time, happy sewing and riveting 😉







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  • Reply
    Tammy Hawksworth
    May 3, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Great tutorial-thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    July 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Does it make a difference whether the relaxed thickness of the area you will rivet is compressible? For example, in the two photos using callipers — In the first, the fabric and fleece can be squished more flat (and probabably will be where the rivet is installed.) In the second, the two layers of leather handle cannot be squished down much and will stay the same thickness where the rivet is installed? Is the 2mm longer guideline a hard and fast rule, or should it be adjusted a bit for the qualities of the materials the rivet will go through?

    And another question — Should the hole punch and the setting tool be hit with a metal hammer or would it be better to use a rubber mallet? (I like to use tools properly and I’m not sure which is the best on these tools.)

    Thanks for the information. I am ready to branch out a little and rivets will be a great addition to the bags I want to make.

    • Reply
      July 2, 2016 at 11:15 pm

      Hi Jan,
      In my experience the “squish” factor hasn’t really been an issue…but in some instances I have added extra bulk (ie. another small piece of fleece) to the area to be riveted when I’ve been worried that area might not be thick enough once the bag is completed. So I think use your judgement here.
      I personally use a hammer rather than a rubber mallet, I prefer it because there is no give (as there can be with rubber) – I rivet on cement, so there is no give on the opposite side either…I feel this gives my rivets a better finish – however, I’m not sure which is better technically, it might come down to personal preference? Feel free to ask around 🙂
      I’m glad you found this post helpful!

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