Gwen Youngblood is a master at riveting and has created lessons and tools to make it as easy as can be. She sent us a few tips and techniques to help you rivet for function and fun. These riveting techniques are adapted from her Riveting Essentials class and use her Riveting Essentials tool kit with rivet gauges and rivet setters.
Tips Before Beginning
- Use the small peen side of a hammer if you’re using a chasing hammer. Using the wide, flat side will lead to a ruined hammer.
- Rivet wire should fit snugly. If the hole is too small, enlarge it with a bead reamer or round needle file. If it’s too large, you can gently hammer the edge of the hole with the peen side to make it smaller. Read more about wire gauges and their size conversions here.
- For a clean all-over textured look, be sure to do the texturing before riveting. If you try to texture after riveting, you may see a non-textured ring around the rivets.
- Make sure to drill all of your holes before riveting.
- When you cut the end of the wire, make sure it’s flush.
- Use this handy chart so you know exactly which size drill to use for your rivets:
Plain Wire Rivet
1. Stack the metal pieces to be riveted between two rivet gauges, of the same size, with the center holes aligned
2. Pass the wire through the holes with the flush-cut end resting against the bench block.
3. With the flat back of flush cutters resting on the rivet gauge, snip the wire flush with the gauge
4. Remove the top gauge and tap the end of the wire with your hammer to flare and form the first side. Flip and repeat!
Setting a Ball Rivet
1.To make a ball rivet, hold a 1 – 1 ½ inch length of fine silver wire in heat proof tweezers and suspend it vertically in a butane torch flame until a ball forms. Quench the wire in water.
2. Place the ball rivet through the metal to be riveted then place the assembly on a dapping block. Make sure the head of the ball settles into one of the small divots and the riveting wire sticks up into the air.
3. Place the gauge on top of the assembly and cut flush.
4. Remove the gauge and tap the wire with the hammer to form the rivet.
Be sure to check out Gwen Youngblood’s Riveted Pendant, which uses the ball rivet as a design element!
Attaching a Bezel Cup
Before you start, punch a hole in your metal as well as the bottom of your bezel cup. You may need to flare the bezel cup slightly, but be sure not to overwork the “teeth”. If the bezel cup is larger than 8mm, you may need more than one rivet.
1.Using a 16 gauge on the bottom and a 14 gauge on top, line up the holes in the metal to be riveted and the gauges. The different sizes accommodate for the bezel cup.
2. Pass the wire so the flush end is against the bench block and snip with flush cutters. Fine silver wire works best here since it’s softer and will flatten easier.
3. Remove the top gauge and place the bezel cup over the wire.
4. Use the largest diameter of rivet setter that will fit inside the bezel cup and tap the opposite end with your hammer to flatten the wire.
5. Remove the rivet setter and install it vertically in a vise. Turn the assembly over onto the top of the rivet setter and tap the exposed wire to form the back of the rivet.
Now you’re ready to set your cabochon in the cup!
Tricks & Design Ideas
- Try using a Pink Pearl Eraser to hold metal on your bench while hammering. The beveled end holds the metal in place while keeping your fingers out of the danger zone!
- Use a Sharpie for black patina. “Paint” the surface of the metal and work it down into the texture (a fine tip marker will work best for this). Let it dry and polish off as much or as little as you want with an Ultra Polishing Pad. You’re also not stuck with the Liver of Sulfur smell!
- Try using contrasting rivet wire. No one says the metal and the wire have to match! Mix it up with silver on copper, for example.
- Experiment with different textures if you’re stacking metal pieces. This contrast can lead to a fun look!
- Try using different sizes of rivets to add an interesting look to your piece.
- Consider leaving some of the drilled holes open or using tube rivets to highlight those holes.
- Try texturing after riveting! The non-textured ring around the rivets could create a fun design element if done on purpose.
Gwen Youngblood is a jewelry designer and instructor based in Texas. She regularly teaches at The Makery, The Austin Bead Society, The Hill Country Bead Society, and Bead Bistro as well as the Tucson Gem Shows, Bead Fest Santa Fe, Bead Fest Philadelphia, and Bead & Button.
She found her creativity and passion for teaching metalwork after exploring a variety of other creative outlets from cake decoration to lampworking. Gwen invented the Riveting Essentials Tools in order to make metal working techniques accessible to everyone. She has also filmed several instructional videos for Craftsy.