6 Hot Tips for Cold Connections: Master Riveting, Metal Tools, and More

Sometimes the journey from knowing to mastering a skill takes just as long as the journey to knowing did. In addition to practice, practice, practice, you can often expedite that journey with a few good tips–especially when they're the result of someone else's years of practice, practice, practice!

For me, one of the hardest metalsmithing skills to master has been riveting. You might be thinking, "You can solder, why would you ever use cold connections like rivets?" Sometimes it's a matter of personal preference, but other times, soldering simply isn't an option for some materials. Cold connections are ideal for working with materials that can't be near a torch flame. They also provide an opportunity and method for adding movement to your jewelry designs. So even for jewelry designers who can solder, cold connections are an important skill to master.

I stopped shortcutting and got the perfect riveting hammer and a vise to help hold my pieces in place during hammering, but my rivets were still wonky–uneven and off center. That wonkiness meant they also terminated before I was ready for them to, so they were never quite as snug as I'd like them to be. Finally I learned that I wasn't hammering properly; I was hammering too hard and too fast, not tapping more gently as I should have been, and that speed was preventing me from hammering as accurately as I needed to, as well.

All it took was the right tools and a good tip reminder to get my rivets in line, literally and figuratively. Here are some good tips and tool pointers from Helen Driggs' new eBook, Jewelry Rivets and Other Cold Connections, to help quicken your path to riveting and cold-connection mastery.

1. When hammering rivets and other cold connections or just hammering metal in general: Try to keep one side of your bench block smooth and let the other side ding as it may. Or keep a smooth block and a rough block so you have two options. The marks on any steel tool will transfer to the metal you are hammering, so dings and dents will show up on your piece unless the surface you are hammering on is mirror smooth.

2. It might seem like a no brainer to say this, but anneal your wire before you make rivets! Soft wire is easier to make a head on.

3. Start practicing with scrapbooking eyelets. Many of them are aluminum, brass, or copper, perfect for use with jewelry–just make sure to get long ones because the regular ones, made for paper, are pretty short. Some eyelets may or may not have colored or anodized coatings that will scrape off with rough treatment, so read the packaging and make sure you've got the right diameter, length, and metal. The process for using eyelets is the same as for regular tube rivets, except you're halfway there because you already have a rolled end. Position the rolled end on the top of your piece and flip it over; a few taps on a ball dap will roll the back of the eyelet cleanly.

4. When measuring wire to make a wire rivet, the thickness of a fine-line Sharpie mark is usually a good amount of metal to leave for a decent sized rivet head. If the wire is very thick, leave a bit more metal by cutting to the outside of your marked line. A good rule of thumb is to allow about half the thickness of whatever rivet stock you are using to form a rivet head.

5. When creating a rivet, saw the wire, don't use nippers or cutters. You won't get a clean rivet head unless the wire end is a circle, so saw it. If you must use nippers, allow a little extra wire and file off the beveled end until the end of the wire is a clean circle.

6. Make a Wire Gauge: This is a handy device to throw in your pocket before you go to a supplier or show. How many times have you wavered on buying a strand of beads because you weren't sure the wire you wanted to use would fit through the drilled hole? It's also handy when purchasing drill bits, tubing, or manufactured rivets. Just label the tags (purchased or handmade) with wire gauges and attach them as shown.

Shorten your journey from cold connection and riveting knowing to mastery with Helen's new eBook, Jewelry Rivets and Other Cold Connections. In addition to these and many more tips and technique tutorials, you'll get in-depth knowledge about the tools needed to create cold connections, what exactly rivets are (which will help you better understand the steps required to make and set them properly), jump ring and chain making, lots of great wire info, and more. And you don't have to wait one more minute–download Jewelry Rivets and Other Cold Connections now! 

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