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Cut or drill rivets?

#1
I have a bunch of rivets to remove shortly. Anyone got a foolproof way of doing this? They are painted and the surface underneath is painted, the paint surface I’m trying to preserve

I’ve drilled them out in the past, or cut the heads in an X shape to gently remove the rivet.

I do have a spot weld cutter but I don’t think that would work well
 

CalgaryPT

Well-Known Member
Vendor
Premium Member
#2
Industry standard is to drill. Pop rivets are easy, solid ones tricker. If you have lots, I found a pair of Vampliers Screw Extraction Pliers are faster and less likely to damage the sheet than pliers or vise grips when it comes to pulling the drilled rivet out. They have a unique grip pattern perfect for this job ( https://www.vampiretools.com/ ). I once restored an old pop cooler with hundreds of rivets and the tool was a blessing.

There's not really a faster method if preservation of the surrounding material is your objective. One exception is really small alum or brass rivets where you can sometimes use end cutters on the rivet shank. But because the softer materials tend to expand, you often still have to drill. It won't work with steel rivets very well though.

In the airline industry they sometimes fabricate a steel plate (16 gauge or so) to fit around the rivet head and held in place with tape temporarily. This helps prevent damaging fragile sheet if you miss with a centre punch making a hole for your drill bit, or your drill bit slips off. Custom car guys do this too. In your case put tape on the backside of the plate to minimize scratching of the paint.

Best of luck. Score the paint around the rivet head prior to extraction; it will help minimize paint damage.

P.S. There are specialized removal tools that center the drill bit and prevent it from wondering: https://www.amazon.com/Air-Capital-Rivet-Removal-65007/dp/B004APCEZU
 
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PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#3
I'm diggen those Vampliers. I agree with one of the posters, a vise grip mechanism would be even nicer but maybe there is an inherent reason.
 

CalgaryPT

Well-Known Member
Vendor
Premium Member
#4
I'm diggen those Vampliers. I agree with one of the posters, a vise grip mechanism would be even nicer but maybe there is an inherent reason.
I agree. My dad and I used to have a quarter section of land up at Lacombe where we strung lots of barbed wire. Fencing pliers often offset the machined grooves by 90 degrees to better grip the wire. Vampliers do the same, but then take it further by having a groove for the screw head too. Genius I think! One of my favourite tools. Super useful for many applications.
 
#7
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That’s one of the panels I want to fix up, I think the rivet heads pop off just due to age.

A 3/16” drill bit fits in the hole, but a 13/64 doesn’t.

So I’m assuming grab 3/16” shank aluminum head, steel mandrel, closed end rivets?
 

RobinHood

Active Member
Premium Member
#10
+1 Drill them out. Some seem to have the steel mandrel head remaining in the rivet body. I would use a punch to punch it out through so you are left with just the aluminum body => much easier to drill then and the drill bit will not have a tendency to wander off center and elongate the original hole.
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#11
This kind of explains whats going on. From (very limited) experience its helpful to punch out the steel pull pin before drilling out the softer aluminum wall. But there is a right & wrong way (or easy & difficult if you prefer). If you happen to be facing the pop rivet from what is the bottom of this sketch, you are only forcing the tapered head deeper in & making things worse. This also explains why you hear don't bother driving out, just drill it. That's because if you were to start drilling from the top, the drill just pushes on the pull pin & it drops out on its own. That's the best case but sometimes doesn't happen. If the shear is rough then the bit can wander on the surface, kind of like drilling on steel without a center pop. So the rule of thumb I've been told is 'drill or punch from the side with the deeper hole to pin' if you can. But I have also seen people drill from pin side, essentially coning out the steel head. You just have to be careful about drilling into the sheet material so drill size becomes important. Not a problem over drilling your 1962 fridge, bigger problem on an antique aircraft skin LOL.

 

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