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Arbor press for tube rivets?

Hello all,

I’ve searched the archives and came up null. So here’s my quest for
advice. :slight_smile:

I need to do a lot of tube rivets out of 10g tubing and they need to
look nice. I’m not the best tube riveter (they always seem to wind
up crooked). So, I’m thinking a 1 to 2 ton table top arbor press
would be big help, (i.e. keep the pressure even and so on). Or maybe
even use a drill press as a substitute.

This obviously means I need some kind of dies. So… Has anyone tried
this or something similar and what kind of dies (top & bottom) did
you use? Did you make them?

Thanks for any advice that will help me avoid the trial and error


Maybe someone will answer who has done it — Look up “staking
tools” either in Google or ebay, which should at least give you
clues. It’s what watchmakers and others use to do the very job you
want - new sets are expensive, used ones can be found if you’re fast.
I put it out more for clues, though - something similar could be done
with an arbor press.


So, I'm thinking a 1 to 2 ton table top arbor press would be big

Yes it would be a big help and a 1 ton or so will do the job nicely.I
wouldn’t recommend the drill press for applying pressure.It can wear
out things but onto the next part,some tube rivets can be spun so to
speak by using a die made for the job in a drill press. Theres a
company who makes a riveting machine called the rivetor I believe.You
might google them and see if they have pictures of there die sets.We
actually use all of the above here at the shop depending on the rivet
to be fastened.It’s really not too hard to make a die for riveting if
you have some knowledge of making small tools.Using a drill press can
work but the drill will be engaged and the die will work better if
it’s carbide or hardened tool steel. The complete metalsmith also
list some instructions as well as Oppi Uptracht’s book.This is by no
means complete in how many ways that people make tube rivets,just
I use the most.

Good luck!
Daniel Wade


Riveting is one of those techniques where “practice makes perfect”,
whether using wire or tubing to rivet. It’s a delicate process, so
using any press would be overkill (unless the rivets are huge),
resulting in frustration and very inconsistent rivets. It takes small
tools and small strength, but lots of patience. Use scraps for
practice, practice, practice.

I am a visual learner, so always try to find books w/ explanations
and diagrams. Take a look at Tim McCreight’s two books, “The Complete
Metalsmith” and “Jewelry Fundamentals of Metalsmithing” and you will
find what you need to do good riveting. A picture is worth a thousand

A fun thing would be for you to try to explain step-by-step what you
are doing. Then maybe we can fill in the blanks.

Kay Taylor

I think TRI-AD tools make a neat little tool that fits onto a flex
shaft that spins and rolls the edges over and finishes it off nicely.


Hi Gregg, Can you give the URL for TRI-AD, if they have one. I tried
looking it up and only came up with Human Resources stuff


Usually if I have a rivet bend sideways it is because I had too much
of it sticking up above the surface. Try slimming down that



I would love to see a picture of riveting w/ the 1 or 2 ton press.
Learning never ends!

Kay Taylor

Get the smallest arbor press you can 2 ton is a bit over kill, a 1/2
ton will be perfect for this, as for dies…two ball bearings work
extremely well, but will take some practice.


A long time ago I had the need to set quite a few diamonds into
tubes. I borrowed a watchmaker’s lathe, which worked great for me. I
cut the seat in the tube, burnished the tube closed onto the stone,
fine burnished the top edge of the setting for a finished look, and
then cut the tubes off, all by letting the spinning lathe do the
real work. I then soldered the finished settings in place. A real
labor saving device, that old lathe! They are pricey new, but there
have been lot of times that I’d like to have had one since. I still
don’t own one, but it’s always been on my “someday when I find one
used” list.

Look at knifemakers’ supply catalogs. They make a neat little device
for tube rivets. (they use rivets to make sheaths and holsters.)

Usually if I have a rivet bend sideways it is because I had too
much of it sticking up above the surface. Try slimming down that

Excellent point. A workshop instructor told us 1 mm above and below.
I use a center punch to flare out the tube before hammering.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Depending on size and shape, I use an old watchmaker’s staking tool
to do rivets. The set included many different stakes and punches,
that the jig holds in alignment for both riveting and removing pins
and rivets when needed. A very simple well made tool specifically
designed for this type of work.

Hello all,

I used the drill press instead of purchasing an arbor press. Sorry
to pass a tool buying opportunity but its that money thing…

Making the rivet heads:

  • Drilled out a steel block depth of 1mm less than my rivet length,
    diameter of hole a good snug fit. so much so that occasionally the
    rivet stuck and I had to put the whole thing in the freezer to shrink
    the metal and get the rivet out.

  • Chamfered the edges of the hole with a much larger drill bit. Just
    a tad.

  • Using the drill press as a press, I used a small dapping punch to
    press and open each rivet

  • Then I repeated the process for each rivet with the 5/16" center
    punch. Probably could have just used the punch but the results
    seemed better with the two step process.

  • One more time with each rivet using a flat punch. Hammering worked
    too. I hammered almost all the rivets until I thought about the flat
    punch. The flat punch was easier and more consistent.

The rivets did like to stick, don’t know if I needed to chamfer the
edge more or if the pointed bottom of the hole made things stick.
Found it helped to put lubricant in the hole about every other rivet.

Closing the rivets:

  • assembled the material to be riveted

  • used the small dapping punch in the drill press to open the rivet

  • used the 5/16" punch in the drill press to continue the flare

  • use the flat punch in the drill press to flatten the end.
    Hammering worked too but results were more consistent with the flat

Other notes:

  • I did anneal the rivets prior to the making process, it just
    seemed the right thing to do.

  • A press might have been nice, the drill press was a little light
    duty. But I couldn’t figure from the pictures how I would have put
    the different punches in the press.

  • A mill for doing precision holes would have been nice too. Too bad
    I don’t have access to one right now.

  • Would have preferred a center cutting end mill rather than a drill
    bit so the bottom of the hole is flat. I suppose I could have picked
    a piece of 3 mm metal and put a metal plate on the bottom. That
    would have made it easier to get the sticky rivets out of the hole.
    Guess I’ll try that next time.