If you are looking for a permanent joint that will last and resist vibration, nothing compares to the reliability of a rivet. Rivets are easy to install and are a great substitute for screws or bolts because they don’t loosen over time. There are different types of rivets, but the pop rivet is one of the most popular. Depending on the type of rivet you’re using and the application, you need to choose the right pop rivet tool for proper installation.
Pop rivets are a specific type of blind rivet designed to be installed from one side of a joint, making them extremely valuable for manufacturing and assembly applications where you can’t access both sides of the workpiece. Pop rivets have a relatively simple design that consists of a shank that is inserted into a pre-drilled hole and a mandrel that fits through the shank. To install the rivet, the mandrel is pulled out using a pop rivet tool, which collapses the shank on the blind side of the workpiece and cinches the material together. Once the joint is complete, the mandrel is snapped off at a premade breakpoint for a clean finish. These rivets are called “pop rivets” because of the sound you hear when the mandrel breaks off.
Installation is usually completed with a single, smooth pulling motion, but the power needed for installation depends on the size of the rivet and its application. For simple repairs or where you only have a few rivets to install, you can use a manual pop rivet tool. For heavy-duty applications, such as manufacturing or construction, you will want to use a pneumatic or electric pop rivet tool, which delivers more pulling power.
Pop rivets have been around for almost a century and were originally developed by the George Tucker Eyelet Company in England, which made hooks and eyes for boots. In 1934, the company, which would decades later become part of STANLEY Engineered Fastening, was approached to develop a new type of fastener for aircraft manufacturing. The result was the POP® rivet, which was revolutionary because it could be set from one side—or the “blind side”—of a workpiece to connect two pieces.
Although the term “POP® rivet” is trademarked by STANLEY Engineered Fastening, “pop rivet” has become a generic term for any type of blind rivet with a shank and a mandrel and is often used in place of nails or screws. Pop rivets can be used to connect wood, metals, or even plastics, and they can be made of specific materials for specialty applications such as when additional strength or corrosion resistance is needed.
Lightweight manual pop rivet tools are ideal for simple tasks such as joining metal sheets or thin materials. If you need to repair a metal panel or connect two pieces of acrylic, for example, a manual pop rivet tool can probably handle the job. Most manual tools have a squeeze handle that sets the pop rivet, and for tougher jobs, you can use a manual tool with a longer lever handle to apply more force.
Of course, there are applications where manual tools are awkward to use or just don’t apply enough force. In such cases, you need a power pop rivet tool. One option is battery-powered tools that are highly portable and useful on a job site or where a power source isn’t readily available. For industrial applications, such as manufacturing or where you have to set multiple pop rivets quickly, a more appropriate option might be a hydraulic or pneumatic pop rivet tool.
There are three basic categories of pop rivet tools:
For hobbyists or professionals who use rivets for simple jobs and repairs, having a manual pop rivet tool handy is the way to go. For example, if you need to repair a truck bed or do some other automotive repair, a short-handled hand rivet gun will probably do the job. If you use a handheld riveter for bigger jobs or to install multiple pop rivets, your hands and arms will surely become tired. If you need more leverage and want to save your arm muscles, use a heavy-duty hand riveter with longer handles to provide more leverage. Some of the most popular manual pop rivet tools are made by Avdel, Cherry Aerospace, FAR, Gage Bilt, Huck, and Marson.
As batteries have become more sophisticated, cordless rivet tools have become increasingly popular. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter, hold a charge longer, and deliver more power than standard batteries, making them ideal for job sites or applications where you want a powerful, handheld tool. The most popular battery-operated pop rivet tools have a mandrel catcher to collect mandrels once they are removed from the rivet, although others will spit the mandrels out for manual collection. You can find battery-operated rivet tools from manufacturers such as Avdel, AVK, Gesipa, Huck, and STANLEY Engineered Fastening.
Some jobs, such as aircraft manufacturing, require more rivets than you would want to install by hand. Pneumatic rivet tools are ideal for big jobs with repetitive rivet installation because they are fast, powerful, and consistent in their installation. Pneumatic rivet tools are extremely fast and reliable, but they do require a compressor and hose to provide power, which is why they aren’t as popular for use on job sites or in remote locations. Some of the most well-known makers of pneumatic rivet tools include Atlas, FAR, Gesipa, Lobster, and STANLEY.
Choosing the right tool depends on the pop rivets you are using and where you are using them. Each type of tool has different pull strengths and is designed for specific needs and applications. To learn more, check out our guide to riveting tools, Rivet Guns: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Tool for the Job. For more assistance, you can contact one of our fastener experts to help you choose the right pop rivet tool for your next project.