Attaching Rivets – all the know how!

What you will need

Riveting tools
Tools of the trade

To attach your rivets you’ll require the following items:

  • Hammer
  • Old Chopping board or work area you can hammer on
  • Rivet Setting Tool and Anvil
  • Saddler’s / Hole Punch
  • Rivets

Anatomy of a rivet

Rivets are essentially made up of two parts:

The top / head of the rivet and the cap which attaches to the bottom of the shank to close off the unit.

Anatomy of a rivet
Dissecting rivets

An important element of the rivet which is the length of its shank (yes size does matter here!). In the example above the two rivets pictured have the same head size of 9mm, however the shank length differs by 2mm. This is a big difference in the world of rivets.

Choosing the right shank length

Rule of thumb for shank length is 2mm longer than the relaxed thickness of the area you’re riveting.

The correct shank length ensures the rivet has enough traction/compression to hold over the long term.

Shank length
This one is to short. This one is to long. This one is juuust right!

In our Goldilocks example above:

Rivet 1

While it will still work it won’t be on for a long time, only use this in areas of low activity – decoration only.

Rivet 2

Perfect length 2mm over the relaxed thickness of the fabric means there will be enough hold for longevity.

Rivet 3

Too long, this will also still work, however you’ll have trouble keeping it straight and there’s a chance the excess shank may push through causing a bubble in your cap and no one wants that!

What does relaxed thickness mean?

Effectively, when your project is sitting idle without any pressure this is the relaxed thickness. I’ve used one of my favourite tools, the Vernier Calliper, to demonstrate in the photo however you can also use a ruler against the fabric edge.

Relaxed thickness
Bag body thickness

Take into account the fleece, interfacing, fabric, leather or other attachments, you want to get the actual thickness of where the rivet is going without squashing the area.

Relaxed thickness
Handle thickness.

The bag body example with 640 fleece, DHJ501 (SF101) and main/lining fabrics is 6mm thick and so requires the 8mm shank length.

The Handle however is 8mm thick and needs a shank length of 10mm to hold it in place.

How to Attach

Mark the placement of where you’d like the rivet to go following any pattern instructions.

Punch through all layers on the mark you created earlier.

Note on Saddlers / Hole Punch sizing – the diameter of the punch should be slightly less than the diameter of the shank. Eg. Shank diameter is 2.25mm, your punch diameter should be 2mm – slightly smaller so that it’s a snug fit.

Hole punch

Thread the shank of the rivet through the hole so you can see it on the opposite side.

Poke through the other side

Once the rivet shank is through place the cap on the end, it will click into place.


Bring out your chopping board, hammer and smooth side of the setting tool anvil.

Place the anvil on the chopping board (or hammer safe surface).


Centre the cap side of the rivet onto the anvil.

Using the curved end of the setting tool.

Curved side

Ensuring the cap remains in the centre of the anvil, place the setting tool over the top of the rivet head and strike down with your Hammer forcefully several times to close the unit.

Setting tool

NOTE: It’s very important that the alignment of the hammer, direction of strike and setting tool are straight up and down.


And that’s it, you’re all done. Congratulations!

Problem solving

Twisted Rivet

Hammer/Setting tool alignment – pressure/direction needs to be straight down.
Shank length too long for application.

Cap is warped / bubbled

Shank length too long for application.
You’ve hit too hard for too long.

Cap came off after a few uses

Shank length too short for application.

How do I remove a rivet I don’t like

Use your pliers and remove the cap end first than pull the shank out.

I don’t want to spend the money on a rivet tool

The teaspoon method

Yes this does take a bit of practice and you have to be super straight with your hammer and accurate on your shank length, recommend slightly shorter shank length. However, you can do all of this with a teaspoon, blu-tack and a scrap piece of fleece fabric. The teaspoon becomes your Anvil, blu-tack holds the rivet in place in the centre of the teaspoon and your fleece is used to protect the rivet head from the hammer blows.

It’s not perfect but it definitely gets the job done (with a bit of practice)

You can also purchase table top rivet setting tools if you’re getting serious about your riveting. They are expensive and the dies are an added cost, however they are effective. Do make sure you purchase the Die for the machine from the manufacturer/retailer you purchased it from so that they fit properly. Remember you need to fit the cap, the shank length will be variable depending on the application however the cap is what you want the die to fit.

We don’t sell them at Betty Box Pleat however I know in Australia Greenbeans sells them and in the USA you have a Goldstar outlet. Check in with Creative Bag making Facebook group as they discuss this machine regularly.

Happy Riveting! 🙂 

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