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What is a Hand Riveter?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
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A hand riveter is a manually operated tool used to install blind rivets. This tool group includes tools which are hand operated and hand powered and those that are hand operated and pneumatically powered. Both types are used to install blind rivets and both function in the same way. The tools expand and lock a hollow rivet by pulling a mandrel through the rivet body. The mandrel is then broken off and discarded, leaving the expanded rivet to secure the work pieces.

Hand riveter tools are generally designed for use with blind rivets only and work by pulling the rivet mandrel through the rivet body to expand and secure it. This drawing action is supplied by a locking jaw assembly and the compound leverage produced by a set of manually operated handles or pneumatic pressure. It is this source of leverage potential which differentiates the two main categories of hand riveters: The first group are those tools operated by hand and reliant on manual mandrel retraction. The second are hand riveter tools which, although operated by hand, rely on a compressed air source to set the rivet.

Manual-powered hand riveters typically use one of three types of actuation. The first is the plier type of riveter commonly used for light duty applications and smaller, aluminum rivets. These tools have a jaw mechanism that retracts the rivet mandrel via a plier type handle arrangement. To complete the riveting operation the two handles have to be squeezed closed several times, releasing the tension after each closure to move the jaws down the mandrel. Once the mandrel has reached its pre-stressed cut point, it breaks off and is ejected from the back of the jaw assembly.

The lazy-tong type of hand riveter is the second manually activated riveter type and works on a trellis-style lever system. The tong arrangement is extended fully to open the jaws and position the rivet mandrel. The tong lever is then pushed toward the riveter head, closing the jaws to grip and retract the mandrel. Due to its longer range of leverage, this type of tool typically only requires a single cycle to set the rivet and break off the mandrel.

The third common manual riveter is the lever type, which resembles a pair of shrub trimmers. The two long handles, or levers, are opened to insert the rivet mandrel into the jaws and closed again to secure and retract it. Due to the wide range of motion of which the handles are capable, this type of tool also only needs a single cycle to set the rivet. Both the lever and lazy-tong types of hand riveter are often used for heavier steel rivets due to their increased mechanical advantage.

Although not as commonly used as manual riveters, pneumatic tools are often used in industries wherein high riveting volumes and speeds are required. These tools are operated by hand but rely on a supply of compressed air to retract the jaw mechanism and set the rivets. These tools can be used with the heaviest of blind rivets and allow the operator to complete far more riveting cycles in any given time than manual varieties. Additional refinements found on pneumatic hand riveters include rivet cassettes and mandrel catchers, which further speed up production.

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