Riveting for Beginners: Make a Simple Riveted Cuff Bracelet
By Karla Rosenbusch
Okay, I have a confession to make. I’m a riveting addict. I love making jewelry, but as an apartment dweller, I have very limited workspace and a landlord who would probably object to fire, torches, and tanks. So cold-connected “kitchen table” metalsmithing techniques are much more my style than soldering. And since I’ve discovered riveting, I can’t seem to stop.
I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve tried riveting but haven’t been able to “get it right.” Honestly, once you understand the technique, riveting is simply a matter of patience . . . and practice! As I was learning to rivet, one of the first pieces I made was a very simple riveted cuff. It’s a fantastic way to practice your rivets–and to end up with a nice piece of jewelry. I make these all the time now, so I thought I’d share the project with you.
contrasting metals *
metal hole punch
chasing or riveting hammer
metal shears or jeweler’s saw
steel bench block
ultrafine steel wool or sandpaper
nylon-jawed forming pliers (or mandrel and mallet)
texturing hammer or metal stamps (optional)
* For this demo, I used silver-colored aluminum and textured brass-colored aluminum.
When selecting rivets, remember that it’s important to choose rivets or eyelets that are the same diameter as your hole punch (or just slightly smaller). Also make sure that the stem of the rivet is not too long. You want it long enough to enable you to work with it, but if it’s too long, it won’t form nicely when you hammer it. There’s just too much metal. Whenever possible, shorter stems are better. I prefer to use eyelets because I like the industrial look of the cool holes they make. You can also make your own wire rivets–but that’s a lesson for another day.
|1. Measure your metal. The larger piece should be 6″ long and 1-1/2″ wide, while the smaller one should be 3″ long and 1″ wide. Mark with your Sharpie and cut the metal. I like my shears for this, but a jeweler’s saw would work beautifully, too.|
|2. Very, very important: File all the edges of both metal pieces, and carefully round the corners. No one likes sharp sides and angles on their bracelets.|
|3. Measure 1/8″ in from each end of the smaller piece of metal and then 1/2″ in from the sides. Put dots where those measurements meet. This is where you’ll punch your holes.|
|4. Punch two holes in your smaller piece of metal where you put your marks.|
|5. Measure halfway across your larger piece of metal (3″) and put a mark. Then measure halfway across the smaller piece of metal (1-1/2″) and put a mark. Place the smaller metal on top of the larger metal and line up your marks so that the smaller piece is centered. With your Sharpie, mark through the holes in the smaller piece to indicate where you’ll punch the larger piece.|
|6. Punch two holes in the larger metal piece where you marked.|
|7. Lay the smaller metal piece on the larger piece, line up your holes, and insert a rivet or eyelet through one of the holes. Again, be sure that your rivets fit the holes! You want them to slide through the holes easily, but they must be snug, too. If you’re using larger rivets (I like to use nice big eyelets sometimes for a real industrial look), you can use a round file to carefully file and expand the holes. But be careful! Don’t make your holes too big or your rivets will “wobble” and/or go sideways when you hammer them. Or worse, they will fall out completely after you wear the bracelet for a while.|
|8. Carefully turn your metal over and place it on the bench block with the stem of the rivet pointing up.
9. This is the fun part! With the rounded end of your chasing or riveting hammer, gently tap the stem of the rivet so that the sides spread out and form a nice round circle. Always use the round end and use a light touch. Oh, it’s tempting to use the flat end and just bang the heck out of your rivets! But that’s when they’ll get misshapen and go “funky” on you. So be patient!
|10. Repeat the riveting on the other hole. Then use steel wool or sandpaper to get rid of any stray marks from the filing, punching, or hammering, and polish your piece with a polishing cloth.|
|11. Now you’re ready to form the cuff. You can use a bracelet mandrel and a rawhide, rubber, or nylon hammer, or if you’re like me and love your pliers, you can use nylon-jawed forming pliers. Start at the middle of your piece and slowly work down both sides of the piece, gently forming a nice round cuff.|
And that’s all there is to it! Don’t get frustrated if your rivets aren’t perfect the first time. Just keep practicing and you’ll get there. You can use the techniques from this very basic project to lead to some incredible jewelry–bracelets, pendants, brooches, necklaces, and so much more.
To get started and to learn more about riveting, check out the Kitchen Table Metalsmithing Collection: Riveting. It’s an amazing resource for anyone who wants to get started creating riveted jewelry. It includes rivets, metal blanks, a rivet tool (which I just love), and a Fretz riveting hammer! You’ll also get some terrific riveted jewelry projects and two DVDs by Tracy Stanley on riveting and creating metal jewelry. I cannot recommend Tracy’s DVD, Make 3 Perfect Rivets for Metal Jewelry, highly enough! It’ll tell you everything you need to know about riveting.