How to Remove a Drive Rivet


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Drive rivets, also known as hammer rivets, available from Lawson Products, are quite common on sailboats. Made of aluminum with a dome head they come in 3/16" and 1/4" diameters and in various lengths. This is a 3/16" #6, commonly used on masts and booms to attach fittings. Quite easy to install, just drill a 3/16" hole, insert rivet, and drive the pin down flush with the head (not further!) with a hammer. Tap the pin just hard enough to move it. If the pin mushrooms you need a longer rivet or you're hitting it too hard.


Removing the rivet without enlarging or distorting the hole is important, so the new rivet will fit well. I DON'T just pick up a 3/16" drill and try to hit the hole when drilling out the rivet. First I carefully grind off most of the head to make it a little easier to drive down the pin.
Using a suitable sized punch I drive the pin down through the rivet part way. This gives me a 1/8" hole exactly in the center of the rivet. Keep the punch straight, here I'm just holding the punch for the picture and it's not straight.
Using a 1/8" drill bit, I drill out the rest of the pin to complete the 1/8" pilot hole exactly in the middle of the rivet.
Changing to a 3/16" drill bit and using the 1/8" hole for a pilot hole, it is now simple to drill out the rivet without damaging the original hole. On the right is the remainder of the rivet head.

Bob DeRoeck offers this much faster way to remove a drive rivet.

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Hi David,
A much simpler way to remove an aluminum drive rivet is to use a punch to drive the center pin all the way into the spar. Then use a sharp wood chisel and hammer to shear off the head of the drive rivet. Finally, drive the remaining part of the drive rivet shaft into the spar using the punch.
With this method a drive rivet is removed in about one minute with no damage to the hole or spar.
Regards,
Bob DeRoeck

I tried Bob's method, but I neglected to drive the center pin through first, big mistake. He's right, you really don't need to drill them out, after removing the head you can just drive them in. However, Brad's chisel didn't hold up well. The drive rivet was so strong it ruined the edge of the chisel. This chisel was in perfect condition, the picture is after cutting through only one rivet! It also took quite a bit of hammering to cut the rivet, so the hole was distorted somewhat. I'll have to try it with driving the pin through first, or maybe I'll just grind off the head instead.