What’s a Rivet Gun?

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A pop rivet gun sets pop rivets in sheet metal fabrication. It comes in pneumatic and manual types and is used to join two or more pieces of sheet metal. The gun tightens the rivet, making a clicking sound. Early rivets were solid steel bolts. Blind rivets use a stem to expand the body. Riveters are used for heating and cooling systems, while rivet hammers are used for watertight and airtight seals in aircraft and boat manufacturing.

A pop rivet gun is a tool used to set pop rivets. Usually offered in two types, pneumatic and manual, the riveter is used in sheet metal fabrication where a welded seam is not required or practical. Pop rivets come in a variety of sizes and styles. They all share one common trait: a shank that looks like a long, nail-like shank that protrudes from the top of the rivet that is driven into the jaws of the riveter. When pulled, the riveter drives the rivet head through the rivet body, expanding it so that two or more pieces of sheet metal are joined together.

The pop rivet gets its name from the telltale sound the rivet makes when it is fully tightened. When the gun tightens the rivet, the head of the rivet comes off the shank and makes a clicking sound. The shank is then unwrapped by the riveter and another rivet is driven into the jaws to be set. While the pneumatic style of the rivet gun is operated with a simple pull of a trigger, the manual style is pressed firmly until the rivet is set. This method of repetitive squeezing can become very difficult and tiring after placing just a few rivets.

Early rivets were pieces of solid steel that resembled a bolt with a rounded head and threadless shank. This rivet was driven into a hole drilled in a piece of steel and the rivet gun was used to drive the protruding shank into a round ball similar to the head of the rivet. With that done, the shank was shortened and effectively tightened the rivet into place. The advantage of this type of steel construction was that there were no bolts to loose or rust. This was the preferred method of fastening steel girders together before practical welding and was the method of fastening used on bridges and high-rise buildings around the world.

The blind rivet used the same principle, however, the stem takes the place of the rivet’s hammer and forces the body of the rivet to expand outward to create the bond. The riveter is mainly used in the installation of heating and cooling systems to fasten the thin sheet steel and aluminum ducting material. The rivet hammer is typically used in aircraft and boat manufacturing where watertight and airtight seals are required in sheet metal seams.

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