One of the best tools for setting rivets into leather strapping is the pop rivet gun. The rivet is a particular advancement on the nut and bolt, and can be used to secure pieces of leather together where you cannot get into flat with a sewing machine. Riveting has the advantage of securely fastening two layers together where the material is too thick to do so otherwise.
The tool itself works on a spring mechanism which draws the pin of the blind rivet close to its head before deforming the metal. You can change the size of the pin dye to match the size of rivet you wish to use (see fig. 1). Blind rivets, or pop rivets named after the sound they make when they are fastened, are one of the lesser rivets being used for handbag assembly and are available in various sizes and light metals such as copper, tin, and aluminum. These rivets are round in shape, and have a small pin-like shape at the bottom, which is used to seal the rivet. (see fig. 2)
If you are unsure about how to use a pop rivet gun, here are some simple rules to follow that should help you to get the job done.
Step 1 – Preparing
The first thing to do is to put on your safety glasses for eye protection. Once you are ready, use a hole punch to puncture holes in two pieces of leather, or thread the purse hardware onto leather strapping and fold the strapping end back on itself to hold the hardware in place, then punch the desired size hole. Keep the hole small yet just big enough to allow the rivet pin to enter snugly. Align the leather so that it has overlapping holes, and are fixed together as you would want. You may wish to hold the leather layers together in some fashion, such as double-sided basting tape, or some rubber cement. I use binder clips to hold the two layers together, as well, to prevent the layers from shifting.
Take a rivet, and place it into the pop rivet tool with the pin shape towards the tool. Let the round head of the rivet rest against the holding edge of the rivet tool. Apply a gentle pressure to the handle of the tool, in order to keep the rivet in place, and then push the top of the rivet through both layers of leather. Make sure that it goes through both sides and there is nothing impeding the rivet. For softer leathers, I place a small metal washer between the 2 layers of leather to reinforce its attachment.
Step 3 – Close the Rivet
Now you have the rivet in position, apply steady pressure downwards onto the leather surface while pushing hard on the spring-action handle of the tool. Let the handle go, and make sure that the rivet gun is right next to the head of the rivet (see fig. 3). Squeeze the handle again, and repeat pumping the handle until the pop rivet makes a loud popping noise, and pulls away from the rivet. What should happen is that the gun will force the pin shape through the rivet, and out towards the head, while both top and bottom of the rivet expand, thereby preventing them from passing back through the holes they were pushed into. The pop rivet gun will push the pin right through until there is a slight popping sound, which means that the pin has broken off, and the rivet is sealed.
Finish off the task by turning the pop rivet gun over, and allowing the pin to exit out of the head of the tool. You can then install another pop rivet and repeat the process, or you can smooth down the ends of your new rivet with a piece of sandpaper, in order to remove any sharp edges where the pin broke away.
It’s a great tool to have in your tool kit and makes handbag construction an easy job with professional results.