Sunday, June 6, 2010

Connection Technique: Joining Any Combination of Materials Together.

By: Maria Whetman

Although I can silver solder, there are times when other methods of joining are required, or I just fancy a change, or a design warrants the look of little rivets. All my work is either soldered or riveted. "Rivets" sounds technical, sounds 'hardware store', but it needn't be. The great thing about rivets is that you can make them yourself, very very easily, you can connect together any materials you like, they have a beautiful decorative look to them, they're easy to make and use and they can even become the essence of your jewellery or mixed-media artwork. Best of all, it's smarter, more sophisticated, more permanent and more satisfying than using glue. Glue has it's place, but consider rivets.

Here is a sample I made to show you how to rivet, I'm going to show you how to Tube Rivet and how to Wire Rivet. You see a piece of wood, rusty steel, embossed copper shape, snippet of tin can, scrap of fabric and a shard of plastic.

1. You can buy lengths of very small diameter, round tube in copper, brass and aluminum from model shops. You can buy silver and gold tube from your jewellery suppliers. You can make your own tube too, but I wont go into that here.

2. Here are all the materials waiting to be connected together.

3. Choose the tube you want to make your rivets out of. Find a drill bit that's the same diameter, like above.

4. Drill a hole through all the pieces to be joined. The tube should be a snug fit in the holes. The little copper rectangle shape you see in the 2nd picture, is a 'washer' I made to stop the tube rivet from sinking into the soft squashy wood. Your 'sandwich' of materials need to have the outer layers consisting of hard materials, or else make a washer. Your washer could be a tiny little disc with a hole in it, mine is a shape you can see for the purpose of this exercise.

5. Next, you need to saw a piece of your tube down to the right length for a rivet. You want the tube to protrude from each side of your sandwich by no less than 1mm and no more than 2mm. If your tube is too long, it will bend over when riveting and look ugly. Too short and the tube will disappear in the hole. Here is the back of my sample, the rectangular shape is the washer that stops the tube being pulled into the soft wood.

6. Here I am using a basic tube vice (chenier vice) to hold my tube while I saw through it with my saw blade to the right length. You don't need one of these, but it is important that each end of the tube is sawn flat and perpendicular to the tube.

7. Now, with tube section threaded through your sandwich, place you sandwich of materials onto a flat steel block. Use a pointed punch (you can make one by filing a cheap hardware store nail to a point) to flare out the protruding tube, by tapping gently with a hammer or mallet.

8. Gently flare out the other end of the tube by turning over your sandwich and tapping your punch point into the tube again, as before.

9. When the tube ends are flared and the connection is well and truly made, use the round head of a hammer to finish the flare / spreading of the tube end...

10. ...and then use the flat head of a hammer to make the rivet flat. Your tube rivet connection is complete. There are variations on this simple way of doing a tube rivet, you could solder the tube onto the back of the metal so that only one side shows the distinctive little 'donut' of the rivet (blind rivet). You could re-drill your hole very slightly, not all the way through, with a larger drill bit to create a dimple which would allow the donut to lie flush with the rest of the surface.

1. Once again, your materials need holes drilled through them that are the same diameter as the WIRE you want to make into a rivet. Again, the wire needs to protrude at the top of the sandwich by about 1.5mm and by about 1.5mm at the back of the sandwich, as you can see here above.

2. As with step 6 of the tube rivet, place your materials with the wire in place onto a steel block. Now instead of using a punch, just use the round head of your hammer to tap the head of the in the above illustration. The black circle represents the flat protruding end of the wire. Your hammer blows should start in the center of the circle and spiral outwards to gradually spread the head of the wire. You can also hit around the edge of the circle by 'stroking' your hammer blows outwards, as described by the orange arrows. Do a little on one side of the sandwich then turn over and do a bit on the other side, same as for the tube rivet.

3. Here you can see how the end of the wire has spread into a sparkly little rivet head.

4. Here on the back of the sample, you can see how much the rivet head has spread, compared to an offcut of the wire in its original condition.

Here are 3 books I own that concentrate on "cold connections" of many kinds. I recommend them all! (I do not represent the authors or publishers). I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful and inspiring.

I can't thank Maria enough for this tutorial. I'm am now working with rivets and will show my attempts in next weeks blog.

Please visit and anf follow Maria at:

Maria has been working in small-metals for 22 years+ and is based in West Devon, in the UK where she has a small workshop. She has been working as a jeweller, designer, maker and fully qualified teacher in schools and colleges since graduating with a BA.hons in Jewellery design from Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design, London, in the early 90's. Currently Maria is a part time lecturer at the Plymouth College of Art & Design in Devon and is also one of the tutors at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery. Maria's small workshop overlooking her vegetable patch is where her hands, eyes and thoughts turn materials into wearable artworks. She enjoys designing, making, experimenting with materials, playing with ideas, teaching others and learning from others.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I found your blog via Kate Barker's website. It's so fun to see some of your new artwork! Have a very inspired day.