The most common method for attaching metal panels to each other is bolting, screwing, or welding. These methods work well in some cases, but aren’t the only method for securely fastening metal together. Before the days of every home shop having a welder, rivets were used to fasten things together. Solid Rivets were used for structural joining of metal with an air rivet gun. The interference fit of a properly set rivet can equal or exceed the strength of a bolted or welded joint. To this day the aircraft industry still uses an air rivet gun to attach solid rivets to metal on many parts of a plane. Below we describe the process for anyone that is looking for a strong, clean way to fasten panels together.
An air rivet gun uses a pneumatic hammer where the air pressure can be regulated and also modulated with the trigger. This allows you ease into the hammering force of the rivet gun and smoothly mushroom the back side of the rivet controlled manner. To start, a hole is drilled that is just a little larger than the diameter of the rivet. This allows you to slide the rivet through the panels that are to be fastened together. A bucking bar (similar to a body dolly) is held firmly behind the rivet on the tail. You can then install a rivet set that matches the shape and size of the head of the rivet. The set is centered over the head of the rivet and held firmly in place, sandwiching the rivet between the rivet gun/set and the bucking bar. You can then squeeze the trigger, starting slow and working your way up to a pressure that allows you to hammer and mushroom the rivet in a controlled manner.
Don’t mistake an air hammer or air rivet gun for an air chisel. While they look similar, there are a number of differences. The big difference between an air rivet gun and a typical air chisel is the blows per minute and the longer stroke of the air riveter. Even within air rivet guns there are differences between the different models. 1X 2X and 3X rivet guns are most common and the larger the number, the longer the stroke and the harder the rivet gun hits. Also, the higher the number/stroke of the rivet gun, the lower the blows per minute (BPM). The lower the number rivet gun, the harder it is to control because the stroke is shorter and the BPM (hammering speed) is higher. That is why using a air chisel isn’t ideal as the chisel has an extremely short stroke and a very high BPM. Couple that with a trigger that is On/OFF and not progressive you will find that you will wreck more rivets than properly set rivets.
With the recent popularity of riveting panels in the classic car and street rod hobby an affordable solid rivet gun and kit were needed. Eastwood offers an air rivet gun that has a progressive trigger producing 4500 BPM’s and requires only 2.8 CFM at 90PSI. The Eastwood air rivet gun is equal in power to a 3X air hammer and has plenty of force to drive solid rivets of equal size as other 3X guns. For full solid rivet kits with clecos, rivets, bucking bar, and pneumatic rivet gun we also offer an entry level kit here: https://www.eastwood.com/solid-rivet-kit.html