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How Do I Remove Rivets?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Trying to remove rivets can be a difficult job, because rivets are meant to be permanent fixtures, but it is possible with two simple tools and some patience. On certain types of rivets, you should start by grinding down part of the rivet’s head. You then should select the right drill bit and drill into the rivets. Being careful and patient is important when you remove rivets, because you don't want to accidentally enlarge the rivet’s hole and cause a major problem in the process.

The first step when you remove rivets is to grind down part of the head. This will expose the rivet shaft and should make it easier to drill out the rivets. You only need to remove some of the head, just enough to see the rivets’ hole. While it is possible to skip this part, it is not advised. If you skip grinding down the head, it can be harder to drill through the head and you may not drill through the rivet’s center, increasing the chance that you enlarge the rivet hole.

You should use the grinder for most rivet heads, but not all of them. If you are removing domed, regular and most other rivets, then grinding is advised. Countersunk rivet heads should not need any grinding, however, and grinding actually can be difficult. This is because the rivet should be flush against the surface, so there is no head to remove and you will end up grinding the surface of the item instead of the rivet itself.

Before you remove rivets with a drill, you should pick the proper drill size. This will depend on the size of the rivets. The drill bit should be slightly larger in diameter than the center hole of the rivet, but not larger than the rivet itself. If you use a drill bit that is the size of the entire rivet or larger, then this will increase the rivet’s hole size and you will have to use a larger rivet to replace it.

After choosing the proper drill bit, you can start to remove a rivet by drilling slowly into the center hole. You should keep going down until you have drilled through the entire rivet; then stop. If you continue, you may cause damage to the item itself, triggering a need for vast repairs or causing enough damage to make repairs impossible. After this, you should be able to remove the remaining parts of the rivet by hand.

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