DON'T FALL APART, NOW... OR I'LL SHOOT!
Put a rivet gun in your sights...and your toolbox.
The rivet gun is an essential member of my toolbox!
There's no other tool that can securely fasten thin metal parts together without needing access to both sides of the work. Though screws can sometimes substitute for pop rivets, the other main advantage of a pop rivet is that it actually pulls together the two parts, providing a much more stable joint. Besides these fine reasons, I like the finished appearance of a rivet... very neat and professional!
The rivets (sometimes called "blind rivets" because you don't need access to the rear of the material as you would with other types of fasteners) come in different lengths, the longer lengths allowing you to secure thicker objects together.
Rivets are often used in sheet metal work, such as in metal ducting or in the assembly of gutters/leaders. Probably the only drawback is that the rivet slightly protrudes on the inside of the repair, which can catch debris. However, this is also true of most other through-fastening options except for adhesives!
Use washers to increase the strength of the joint on soft materials...
Sometimes you might want to attach materials with rivets that are softer than metal such as leather, cardboard, heavy fabrics or drillable plastics. Installing a small washer onto the "blind" side of the rivet will increase the holding power immensely and prevent the expanded end of the rivet from pulling through.
Repair broken storm door clip screws with threaded rivets...
You know the knurled screws you use to tighten the clips that hold the glass or screen in your storm door? Ever break one off, or have it strip and spin madly? The repair tool of choice is the rivet gun. You can purchase threaded rivets, which can be installed in the storm door to replace the broken ones.
If you are careful, you can drill out the old rivets and put the new ones in the same holes. This works about half the time, because threaded rivets are picky about the hole size. If you accidentally enlarge the old hole, the new rivet might not grab.
If you don't care about the aesthetics and simply want function, drill a new hole for each rivet you install.
Don't squeeze the threaded rivet too hard, or else!!
We know you're strong. Really strong!! And you don't have anything to prove. So here's a tip... when you squeeze the rivet with the rivet gun, don't get carried away with the force, or you will distort the rivet and the screw won't thread in properly.
If you do mess up, you might be able to save the job by getting a thread cutting screw (left) in the same thread size. The thread cutting screw has specially hardened, tapered threads along the first few turnings, allowing it to re-form or straighten damaged threads inside the rivet. I've found this especially useful when replacing worn aluminum rivets and aluminum thumbscrews for storm door screen clips (right).