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Rivet removal tips

Paul O

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I'm in the process of shortening several flightcases by removing the rivets from one side, shortening the panels and edging then re-riveting back together.


Where the original rivets are aluminium pop-rivets removal is a simple matter of drilling through, using the mandrel-hole to locate the drill bit. This is nice and quick and I can have all the rivets removed from a case in a few minutes.


However several of the cases I need to modify are fastened using steel semi-tubular rivets which are a real pain to remove. I've been using a centre-punch then drilling through from the domed side but this is very slow and the rivets are prone to spinning. The inside of the flightcases have limited access so I'm attacking the rivets from the outside.


Are there any easier/ quicker methods of removing tubular rivets?

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If you have the funds ..... My linkhttp://www.lasaero.com/site/products/article?id=A013R3M6T


Otherwise, you need to use a very sharp drill bit of exactly the same size as the rivet. Better still get a cobalt bit or similar. Cut into it very slowly and if you want the drill bit to last, use some cooling lube. Much easier to stop the spinning if you can get to the inside. If your bit is sharp enough, you don't need oodles of power.


Grinding them off is quicker but needs a steady hand and of course proper eye and hand protection. When the heads fly they go a long distance and are very hot so make sure they don't land on anything flammable.


In both cases, if the case needs to be unmarked, its preferable to go almost through, then gently lever the remainder off. Then carefully drift out the rivet. A good tip here is to get a wire nail of the requisite diameter and grind off the point. If its exactly the size of the hole it will drift through cleanly. If you make it too small it will case the remaining shank of the rivet to expand in the hole. I've known others use an old drill bit upside down, but they are so hard its likely to shatter when hit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a follow-up for anyone who comes across this thread in future. The rivet removal tool Robin D linked to above is superb for removing dome-headed rivets. The ones I'm removing are steel so it takes a bit longer than drilling out normal pop rivets but it works well and most of the rivets come out cleanly.


Dave M: in answer to your question I use grooved pop rivets when reassembling the cases as this provides a good strength fixing while being quick and simple to fit.

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