Helen’s Perfect Rivets: Cold Connections for Metal Jewelry Making

A few times a year I’m fortunate to get to spend some time with master goldsmith Helen Driggs, Senior Editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. Helen is one of the most connected and knowledgeable people I know in the industry, plus she’s generous with her knowledge and she’s very funny–all of which makes her an ideal teacher and creator of fun and educational jewelry-making DVDs. She has created several popular jewelry-making DVDs about metalsmithing topics, including metalwork basics and fabrication, forming and texturing, sawing and filing, riveting and cold connections.

how to make perfect rivets

These two photos show a well-fitted tube rivet, one with thick-walled stock and one with thin-walled stock. You should have to coax the tubing into the hole with a little bit of muscle–if the hole is too big, eventually the rivet will fail.

In her two-DVD set, Metalsmith Essentials: Riveting and Cold Connections, Helen shares almost two full hours of fun and educational metalsmithing tips and techniques gained through her years of experience; this time, it’s no-heat jewelry-making techniques of riveting and other cold connections and step-by-step ways for using them in your own cold-connection jewelry designs. You can watch and learn through ten lessons on metalsmithing skills such as drilling, hammering, filing, and more, in addition to learning about different types of cold connections, including tension joins and riveting with tube rivets, wire rivets, and moveable rivets.

It’s interesting to me that riveting and cold connections are sometimes considered the easier option for connecting metal jewelry components, as compared to soldering. I know much of that line of thinking is due to the apprehension some folks feel about soldering torches, but for me, soldering is the easier way; riveting can be complicated! Drilling holes that match the rivets perfectly is a skill that requires practice and precision; fortunately, Helen has that skill and great tips for achieving perfect rivets every time–and she’s happy to share them.

It’s been nearly a year since Helen shared her tips for making perfect rivets here on Jewelry Making Daily, and with the recent release of her newest cold-connection DVD set, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit that lesson in riveting. Helen tackles the three rivet problem areas: how to drill the rivet holes, how long to cut the rivet itself, and how to get a professional finish on your cold connection. She shares tips for tube and wire rivets and good work methods to help you make your riveting work as perfect as possible.

Tight, properly fitting rivets are absolutely essential to good riveted cold connections. With Helen’s help, you can learn the best practices for making them, including her number one tip for making rivet holes: “Once you’ve measured the diameter of the rivet wire (or tubing), drill a hole that is slightly smaller in diameter. Repeat: Always, always err on the side of drilling a smaller hole. Then you can slowly file or ream out the hole to enlarge it for a perfect fit. Go slowly, and test often. The wire should just barely pass through the rivet hole.”

Read on for more of Helen’s master-riveter tips, including how to make a professional rivet head that will hold the rivet during cutting, flaring, and planishing of the other end–plus how to actually trim the excess and finish that other end. Then you’ll be ready to learn more about riveting and other cold connections. Order Helen’s two-DVD set, Metalsmith Essentials: Riveting and Cold Connections, and watch and learn how to punch and drill holes, make rivets to fit in them perfectly, and cut the metal jewelry components to be riveted through them. There’s more than metal, though; cold connections allow you to incorporate other popular materials–including glass, ceramic, and stone that can be difficult to glue to metal as well as plastic, fibers, and paper that would burn under the flame of a torch. You’ll learn to create one-of-a-kind mixed-media jewelry masterpieces, and the only thing hot about them will be you!

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