Removing steel rivets

My team accidentally used steel rivets to fasten a corner bracket to a piece of 2x1. We’ve been struggling to remove it. Any ideas for how to cleanly remove them?

IMG_3359 2.pdf (2.3 MB)

a #20 drill bit a steady hand and some patience should get them out.

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If they’ve already reached the point where they’re spinning when dilled, then I’ve had some success attacking them from the side with a hammer and chisel and getting under the edges of them. It’ll scratch up the bracket pretty badly, but has worked and it should still be functional afterwards. If you ever looked close enough that our bumpers from last year and noticed that the forward L-gussets were almost gouged that was why.

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A steady hand and a Dremel with a cut off wheel or a die grinder will take the heads off.

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Make sure you’ve got a good sharp drill bit (a cobalt bit helps) that is the size of the rivet hole or slightly larger, just like an aluminum rivet you need to sever the cap from the tube. If they are spinning with the drill bit, sometimes I will use an angle grinder to simply grind off the cap carefully. Or use a wood chisel that is dedicated to abuse to shear the tops. Both of these have high potential to cause scuffs and gauges in the bracket you are freeing, so a steady hand is important. If they are that close to the end, you can sometimes stop the spinning by having a helper reach inside the tube with needlenose pliers.

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When I’ve had tough to remove rivets that are spinning with the bit, we’ve been able to abuse them enough from the sides (screwdriver and a hammer) to get a little flat section good enough to get a grip on them with some needle nose vice grips and stop them from spinning. The gusset doesn’t always look that great when we’re done, but that can be replaced once it’s been removed!

It looks like you have drilled most of the head out. As others have said, a cold chisel to get under the head to cut it off would be my next move. Another option would be to use a round punch and a hammer to knock them down through box, since you have already drilled the material off the center of the head.

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You can try using a belt sander to grind away all or most of the rivet heads. It shouldn’t matter if the rivets are already spinning. Please note that I have never tried this method before.

When the head starts to spin I tip the drill so it digs in to finish off the head. You will want to use stub length or screw machine drill bits for this technique.

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I assume you are having a problem because they are spinning. In this case since you have access to the back of the rivet you can grab it with some needle nose locking pliers. Then drill with a minimum 3/8" drill bit, slowly, and stop as soon as the head starts to spin. You should then be able to either pull it out with the pliers or use a punch to drive it out.

Dilute Nitric Acid will dissolve steel and leave aluminum :wink:

[edit: this is not an actual suggestion]

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