View Full Version : What's the deal with riveting ???

Joe (SoCal)
06-22-2006, 06:56 PM
Im putting the rub-rails on the Dyer Dink. It is a bent oak rail and its a bitch to set in place. The rail kit came with copper nails and little washers. Obviously you clamp drill add washer and pound the point with a ball pean hammer. Eventually it flattens out and you have clamp though bolt. I get the concept, but it aint as easy as I just said.

So I clamped the rail, drilled and put the copper nail through, add the washer then clamp the back with a backing block, then bash the tip. Yea bash bash bash, miss hit the rail dent it. Bash bash bash slightly bent the copper nail. Bash bash bash bash my thumb. Bash bash bash kinda tight fit. Repeat the process I got three in, in what felt like a hour.

So my question why not just use SB screws ?

06-22-2006, 07:01 PM
Careful, Joe. You only got two thumbs.:D

06-22-2006, 07:09 PM
After you drive the rove onto the nail you have to clip the nail off with a pair of nippers about 1/8" from the washer. This little bit of copper is what you carefully (and gently) peen over with your hammer. If you have any extras it would be a good idea to practice by riveting some scraps of wood together first. Once you get the hang of it it's quite fun really. :) That is unless you have 10,000 of them to do, then it might get a little tiresome. :D


Ken Hutchins
06-22-2006, 07:26 PM
Joe, simple rap a tat tat. Ya see if you have about 3,000 of them to do you get to know which end of the hammer to hit them with and how many hits of the hammer it takes, and oh never mind, have fun.:D
They have to be nipped off at just the right distance from the rove, usually about 1 1/2 times the diameter, then they need to be backed up to prevent pushing them back out of the hole when peening. A small ball peen hammer with relatively light raps works good.
After peened to about the proper amount finish them off with a rivet set to get a nice consistant rounded over peen.;)

Todd Bradshaw
06-22-2006, 07:30 PM
You should be able to do all the "bashing" with the round end of the smallest ball-peen hammer you can find and the gunwale should never be in danger at any time during the process. Do you have a rove-setting tool that is made to fit the rivets? Should look something like this one and makes the job a lot easier.

Joe (SoCal)
06-22-2006, 07:37 PM
Todd I got everything but that cool rove-setting tool. Oh and yea I nipped the tip off and I used the round head of the hammer about the size of Todds. But unless any of you have replaced a Dyer steam bent oak run-rail you have no idea what hard little buggers they are. ;) But thanks. I still don't know why I just cant drill & countersink some SB screws and call it a day ;) To me it would be a LOT easier.

06-22-2006, 07:40 PM
Don't forget the part about practicing!


Todd Bradshaw
06-22-2006, 07:58 PM
Joe, a man in your position (hard-core interest in traditional wooden boats and posessing a big shop) should learn to rivet and will eventually understand why screws quite often suck by comparison. Especially for attaching small, skinny stuff like gunwales and rub-rails, the small hole required and the fact that the rivet head and rove are locking the piece to the boat can be quite valuable. But riveting (including practice riveting) is a lot easier (and much faster) with the proper tools. Next time you buy rivets, have them also sell you the setting tool for that shank size range. The process will soon become easy and nearly automatic and instead of asking "Do I have to rivet this on?" you'll be asking "Can I rivet this on?"

06-22-2006, 08:38 PM
You can also use a screw in the hole ahead of the one you are riveting to hold the rail for you. Then put a screw ahead of that one,back out the previous screw and rivet the one you removed the screw from. Sometimes easier than manipulating clamps and backers when working by yourself.

06-22-2006, 10:31 PM
Take a belt sander to the hammer handle and skinny down the shank a whole lot. You just want to swing the hammer head not the whole dang handle. I like about a 4 ounce head and a real skinny handle. You ain't trying to drive nails.

Paul Scheuer
06-22-2006, 11:14 PM
Resist the urge to overpower the process. Many light taps was what I learned from the above suggested practice, practice practice. If you are bending the shank, you're hitting way to hard. In fact, with the right stroke, if you happen to hit your thumb, it should hurt at all. I use a tack hammer that I hold lightly with my finger tips, sort of like a drumstick. I'll see if I can get a close-up pic of the results. I aim to have the peening look like the facets on a diamond. Each flat is the result of a light tap.

Dave R
06-23-2006, 05:26 AM
Joe, I made a rove set from a half in bolt about 4" long. I drilled a hole in the threaded end so the nail would fit easily, loaded it up with washers on the unthreaded part and locked them in place with a nut. That gave it plenty of mass. It works for my use and came from stuff I had on hand. I could smooth and polish the opposite end but to make a bucking iron of it but I just use small maul head for that.

06-23-2006, 06:29 AM
Tippy tippy tap. When JD and I started riveting the "Marjie B." I had it all wrong, and nearly knocked Mssr. Dillon across the shop a few times. By the time the rest of the "Roving riveting crew" (Lisa S., Figment) showed up I had a pretty good hang of it. I have 2 rivet set/backing irons that the local machine shop made for me during lunch hour for $10.

Joe (SoCal)
06-23-2006, 07:05 AM
I'm getting the hang of it I'm using a small steel mallet as a backing and using light tap tap tap. I kinda see how it works now. Thanks for the advice guys. Lucky it's only a 7-ft dink rub-rail so it's good practice. Man I would hate to do a whole boat like this.

Lefty you had one of these Dyers aint the rub-rail a bitch especially at the apex of the bow curve. Damn I'm using every clamp in my shop.

I just found out it's not a 10 ft "Dink" but a Dyer "Midget" witch is even smaller at 7' 11" (Seems even smaller and lighter ). Way smaller than my other Dyer. That little tub has got to weigh about 150 lb. and aint easy to car top. This lil one has a handle on the skeg and practically built to carry. I'm going to trade the larger Dyer I have to the guy who's small I'm restoring. He will jump at the idea since the larger one has all the bells and whistles including a new sail rig and sails. But at 12 ft it just would look goofy as a tender to a 16' 7" Tidbit. The idea is to use it as a tender and for Tidbit and to use for the mooring shuttle for Dove.

Gonna name her Lil' bit ;)

06-23-2006, 08:21 AM
No pictures? ;)
I repaired a Dyer 2 years ago. Yes the bend at the bow is a bitch. I broke 5 pieces before I got 2 to make the bend. I steamed them until they were like Linguine al dente. (But not as tasty!)

06-23-2006, 08:55 AM
I have a question concerning the difference between copper burrs and copper roves. All of the work I have done with copper rivets was light interior work with plywood and I used copper roofing nails and burrs. Are the purpose made copper boat nails and roves of heavier gage and therefore stronger?

06-23-2006, 09:06 AM
Man I would hate to do a whole boat like this.
Lil' bit ;)

not very encouraging... I'll be riveting a 4 strake 14' skiff later this summer :(

Can you get some shots of your process?

Mike Field
06-23-2006, 09:06 AM
Hh'mmm.... I'm not sure if I should tell you this now Joe, but in fact screwing those rubrails on as you wanted to in the first place was actually The Right Thing To Do. You really shouldn't have rivetted them at all. In fact, rubbing strakes are about the only things that really shouldn't be rivetted because being what they are you're quite likely going to want to replace them in due course. And will you then really want to drill out and then replace all those rivets as well? :(

All the rivetting advice you've been receiving is good and to the point though, and I'm sure the practice you've been giving yourself will stand you in good stead in the future.... :D

Chadd Hamilton
06-23-2006, 09:28 AM
Joe, I have replaced the rub rails on my Seafarer Dinghy which is basically a Dyer Midget, but the hull is rounded(no chine). I used bronze screws, but can totally relate to your expericene. Working around the bow area was a PIA. Best o luck.

06-23-2006, 10:08 AM
I have a question concerning the difference between copper burrs and copper roves. All of the work I have done with copper rivets was light interior work with plywood and I used copper roofing nails and burrs. Are the purpose made copper boat nails and roves of heavier gage and therefore stronger?

Purpose made copper nails are available in many gauges and are generally ďharderĒ than slating nails. This makes them slightly stiffer and less likely to bend in the joint while heading them. I suspect the increase in "hardness" also raises the tensile strength. The heads are smaller and thicker than slating nails and more suited for countersinking, bunging or just painting.
A bent rivet is not a good job and should be removed and redone - it could possibly straighten under stress and leave a loose joint. For a big job (like a hull) I was trained to always try a test assembly of planking and cut it open to inspect the rivet for bending.

Russ Manheimer
06-23-2006, 10:33 AM

As others have said, lots of little taps are the key as well as using the lightest ball peem hammer you can get away with.

I helped rivet the A Cat Ghost and after a couple of thousand rivets it gets easy. Try to use just your wrist and keep the arc of the swing to a minimum. What you want is an simple repetitive motion. I found keeping my thumb in line with the hammer handle helped as well. Riveting is one of those skills that requires some regular use before you're comfortable with it.

Let's see some pics of your progress. Waiting for Dave Fleming to chime in here.


06-23-2006, 11:06 AM
Canoeyawl, Thanks. I know about the uselessness of bent rivets. as soon as they loosen they start to "work" and the hole gets bigger and the rivet gets looser.

06-23-2006, 11:16 AM
... and the rot starts -LOL

Dave Fleming
06-23-2006, 12:05 PM
Learned to rivet at Stone Boatyard in Alameda,CA,.

We built 2 lapstrake Monomoy Surfboats for the Calif Maritime Academy.

Approx. 22 feet long. Port Orford Cedar on steamed Oak ribs.
I forget how many strakes to a side. Jack Erhorn, foreman and finest kind of mechanic, showed Billy Linderman and me just how it is done. On practice strakes!

You want the hammer to be on the springy side with the head weight to fit the quage of the Copper Nail. A 4 oz ball pien hammer would have been too light for the size nails we were using.

We worked the neck of the hammer handle, slimming it down with a spokeshave, whilst the part you hold was shaved down with the bottom of a broken Coke bottle. All factory applied finish was removed. Just the natural oils from your hand was all the finish needed.
That factory finish will bring up blisters faster than you can zipper yer fly!:eek:

Should do that with all your hammers, sledges etc... .

Machinist made up "Bucking Bars" and "Rove Sets" for both of us, still have mine.

Copper Roves are a bit thicker than normal copper washers but, I suppose in a pinch could be substitued.

Finally the motion is all in the wrist NOT the whole arm.
You go round the cut end of the rivet in a circular pattern using as few stroke as possible, yet enough to tighten it up. Too many taps and the metal will begin to crystalize. That ain't good!

06-23-2006, 05:29 PM
.... and turn off the radio. or at least turn it down. you can stop tap tap tapping when you hear the pitch change and know that the shank is in tension.

Unfortunately, unless those rivets are really closely spaced, you'll juuuust about have developed a real feel for riveting about the time you're done with this rubrail job. ;)

Joe (SoCal)
06-23-2006, 07:28 PM
No pictures?

Come on ya know me. :D












06-23-2006, 09:25 PM
Joe, why are you choking up on that hammer handle?

Joe (SoCal)
06-23-2006, 09:36 PM
Joe, why are you choking up on that hammer handle?

I was using the framing hammer as a backing block, it worked better than the mallet. I was choking up on it because all I needed was the head hard agenst the end of the nail. I used the ball pean hammer to pean the other end.

landlocked sailor
06-23-2006, 09:42 PM
Joe, the protruding part of the rivet may be SLIGHTLY too long in your photo; it ought to be about equal to the diameter of the rivet. This way you are peening over a mass that is as long as it is wide. Otherwise, you seem to have the hang of it. Rick

Antonio Majer
06-24-2006, 02:38 AM
If it may still be useful to your quite-ended work, I got this idea from the book by Larry Parley; my "version" is simpler (two flat pieces of iron and a bit of sticky tape):

http://img232.imageshack.us/img232/3271/029sh.th.gif (http://img232.imageshack.us/my.php?image=029sh.gif) http://img133.imageshack.us/img133/6497/030uy.th.gif (http://img133.imageshack.us/my.php?image=030uy.gif) http://img205.imageshack.us/img205/8404/045jh.th.gif (http://img205.imageshack.us/my.php?image=045jh.gif)

06-24-2006, 06:59 AM
You'll want to polish yer ball peen Joe. See how your peened rivet is kinda...... crusty looking? With a polished ball you will get a nice smooth surface.

Dave R
06-24-2006, 07:30 AM
Joe, instead of lineman's pliers, get a large side cutter like this.

I learned to put the rove on before cutting but who knows. Maybe that's wrong? ;)

Nice work Joe.

06-24-2006, 08:20 AM
I got big end cutters. If you put the rove on before you cut, the slight "mashing" of the cut rivet will prevent the rove from falling off when your first tap misses the rivet....

Paul Girouard
06-24-2006, 10:51 AM
Pretty good "How to "Joe:)

Even thought your not a "Master" of the rivet/rove I'm sure someone out here got a great visual lesson on riveting.

Nice job:cool:

Good additional , added value , responces from the "peanut gallery" as well ;)

B/Z to all hands :)

06-24-2006, 11:01 AM
Although my rivet job wont be until this fall or later, this has already been a great help, love the pics. I have a couple of questions though:

1) is there much difference between the side nippers and the end nippers? Is one more appropriate for smaller boats and rivets?

2) how do you determine the size rivet to use for a given plank thickness? Most plans I have that mention rivets don't say what guage to use.

3) any tips on single handed riveting?


06-24-2006, 12:13 PM
... the slight "mashing" of the cut rivet will prevent the rove from falling off when your first tap misses the rivet....

well, yeah, but shouldn't the fit between shank and rove be tight enough to prevent this in the first place?


These two pics make it look like the rove is just kinda jangling around on the shank of the nail. If that's the case, either the rove or the nail are not quite the proper size, and this may make it more difficult to get a good snug rivet.

Todd Bradshaw
06-24-2006, 12:26 PM
I like the Norwegian rivets. Once you drive a round-holed rove onto a square-shanked nail, it ain't going nowhere. Same thing when you drive the square shank through the round hole in the wood. Plus, you get those cool-looking pyramid heads and domed roves.

06-24-2006, 12:41 PM
Diagonal cutting pliers have leverage proportional to where within the jaws you make the cut. End cut nippers apply the same force across the entire cutting edge and they are a little easier on the knuckles in tight places.

Paul Girouard
06-24-2006, 12:54 PM
I like the Norwegian rivets. Once you drive a round-holed rove onto a square-shanked nail, it ain't going nowhere. Same thing when you drive the square shank through the round hole in the wood. Plus, you get those cool-looking pyramid heads and domed roves.

Got a sourse for those Todd? Thanks they sound really cool :cool: Are they sort of like "mission style "srq. plugs/ bungs after they're peened ??

Todd Bradshaw
06-24-2006, 03:41 PM
I got mine many moons ago from The Wooden Boat Shop in Seattle. I don't know whether they're even still in business. Faering Design probably has them (since that's what they use on Faerings). Installed, they look like this. I couldn't find my nippers and just hacked off the excess nail with pliers, leaving a bit more there than desired. Usually the peened part is a somewhat smaller and flatter than it is on this one and leaving too much shaft to peen down always makes the job a lot more tedious. With these square-shank rivets, even leaving excess about as tall as the shank's diameter is usually too much. As you install and peen them, you flatten the top of the pyramid head a little bit. Some boats seem to look better with the more uniform look of English-style round rivets, others with this more rustic, Norwegian type.


Brahm Thexton
06-24-2006, 03:51 PM
Hiya guys,

Another little roving tidbit..... If you find that you're beating up your rib or inwhale or whatever with the hammer while peining make up this simple little thingy....

Just take a small square piece of doorskin and drill a hole the size of the rove through it and place the hole around the rove as you are peining. In our shop we call this little thingy the 'roving arsehole'. Its handy while you're learning.... or at least i found it so.

Jay Greer
06-24-2006, 03:58 PM
I finish off my rivits with a jewlers tool called a "Dapping Die". It is really just a large punch with a polished half dished end. It puts a nice smooth surface on the rivets so's they don't snag on your clothes or skin.

Paul Scheuer
06-24-2006, 04:16 PM
I would have called that an outwale. A rub strake being a more sacrificial part. Maybe itís a regional thing. Or maybe Iím just wrong. Rivets look like the right approach, both parts, inwale or outwale, being a little scant for screws to hold the sandwich together.

I may not be seeing your pics correctly. I think that normally the head of the rivet is bucked and the rove end is peened. Iíd be interested in hearing whether it makes any difference. Also, Iíve gotten better results with the square face of the hammer. I didnít even try my small ball peen hammer thinking that I stood less chance ricocheting into the wood with a flat faced hammer

When I did my similar project, I counter bored both the outside and inside holes for bungs on the outside and to slightly recess the roves/peens on the inside to protect against snags.

06-24-2006, 06:43 PM
Yes Mike..... The roves should be snug, but as you know, things ain't always as they should be.
RE: Countersinking the rivet head. I've found that even in White Oak, the heads tend to countersink themselves when the rove is snugged up.

Dave Fleming
06-24-2006, 07:22 PM
That slight countersinking and the change of sound is what tells you that the rivet is done.
When you cut the nail shank with a pair of END NIPPERS not Side Dikes after the rove is set. The action of peening the end actually pulls the nail shank tighter in the material.

06-24-2006, 08:43 PM
hey, I said "more difficult", not impossible. :)

oh, and I'm with Mr. Fleming on the end nippers vs. dikes thing. I dunno the how or the why, but I always got more consistent "leftovers" with the end nippers. Of course, there isn't always space to work a pair of end nippers, so ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Kevin G
06-26-2006, 01:29 PM
The gods must have been reading this thread. Take a look at the latest WB

Kevin G

Syd MacDonald
06-27-2006, 10:14 PM
For everything you need to know about riveting, check out
Woodenboat no.114 and 124.
Also Classic Boat no 34.
You can get the Channellock nippers from Lee Valley tools.

Bruce Hooke
06-27-2006, 10:50 PM
I'm no riveting expert, but I like to use something a good bit heavier than a framing hammer as my bucking iron. I've used the head of one of those short-handled, small sledge hammers. The head probably weighs around three pounds. Of course a proper, purpose-made backing iron would be nice. Don't underestimate the importance of the backing iron -- I've found that getting this end of the operation right makes a big difference in how fast the riveting goes.

Bruce Hooke
06-27-2006, 10:54 PM
any tips on single handed riveting?

I've never had a problem with single-handed riveting as long as I was able to reach both ends of the rivet easily. If the location is such that you can't easily hold the backing iron in place while swinging the peening hammer then you will, most likely, need a second person. If you can reach both ends then a second person would just be in the way because you can easily hold the backing iron in one hand and the peening hammer in the other.