Rivets and your favorite tools

After the thread on “Is Welding Worth It” (and I think it is) I was prompted to ask about rivets. We’ve been using more of these in recent designs. They were all coming from Lowes (till we bought out all the local stores, they are not on an FRC pace to re-order.) Then we started ordering from McMaster Carr. These were better… but… we’re still using Lowes and Harbor Freight Rivet tools. They wear out fast and don’t always do a good job. We are casting about for cost effective pneumatic or a quality manual rivet tool.


  1. Favorite rivet brand/supplier?
  2. Cost effective sources for reliable rivet tools?
  3. Pneumatic/powered versus manual
    Any other thoughts?


We’re huge fans of the Harbor Freight pneumatic rivet puller. Obviously, this requires an air compressor, but it has allowed us to install over 4000 rivets over the past 2 years.

We order our rivets through mcmaster purely out of convenience, but there are cheaper vendors out there.

We buy LOTS of rivets from blindrivetsupply.com

Prices are great. $250-500 from there should last most teams many seasons.

  1. We buy most of our rivets from boltdepot, since we order most of our other fasteners from them, anyway.

  2. As far as manual riveters go, Astro Pneumatic make some really nice ones, including one of the few manual riveters I’ve used that can handle 1/4’’ steel rivets without issue. They also make nice rivnut tools. We also have a harbor freight pneumatic rivet gun, which works well.

  3. It depends on how many rivets you’re putting in, and whether you have a compressor. If it’s a big job and you have a compressor handy, pneumatic wins easily. Even so, it’s always worth having a manual riveter around for those situations where setting up the pneumatic tool is too much of a hassle.

One construction method a fellow mentor taught me a few years ago is to fasten gusset plates with both rivets and glue (you don’t want a brittle glue for this - “amazing goop” works pretty well). The glue will help absorb shock loads, and keep the rivets from working loose. Of course, the down-side is that taking the thing apart becomes very hard/impossible.

We’ve used locally sourced rivet tools. All I can say is do not get Stanley. 2/2 were hopelessly broken in about 100 rivets due to breakage or jamming of the mandrel gripping part.

We only started regular riveting in 2016, when everything was procured at a local hardware store or home center. Last year we ordered a bunch from hansonrivet.com, particularly in sizes (lengths) we can’t get in a few minutes, and some copper colored rivets where we wanted to go with the steampunk theme, e.g. on our banner.

+1 on blindrivetsupply. Great prices and quick shipping.

5402 got a couple Astro 1423 rivet tools off some recommendations here and were highly satisfied this year. Very smooth, no issues, and at $26.36 it’s really hard to go wrong.

We have a pneumatic rivet puller we use for large build jobs.

For the pits and small jobs one of the swivel head manual ones. Something like:

or the identical

I can’t recall any of those manual ones breaking. They’re likely all made in the same factory with different paint and brand names. So I don’t think any one of them is particularly better than the other.

We buy most of standards from Tacoma Screw in bulk (1000 rivets). They have a store that’s a few miles form our shop. If were in a hurry for something or on a weekend, we have a large ACE hardware four blocks away.

So not exactly manual but our team purchased a drill attachment that you put in the chuck and you spin the drill and it pops the rivet, its absolutely better than a manual one. Best part is you get almost the speed of a pneumatic one, but it doesn’t require a compressor or air tank, which means more portability for those hard to get spots

It looks like this:


Hi MrBill252,

Lots of good starting points in here! I’ll be coming back around to make some more notes but I’ve actually gotta go and work on a little situation I’ve got here on my hands - courtesy of our recent weather here in Florida! Hope you aren’t not in a rush because I’ve got a couple days of work left before I can get back to you. Hold tight

Best Regards,

We use a lot of rivets. We typically order from McMaster. I’m sure there are cheaper places, but their prices aren’t unreasonable, and it’s reliable and convenient, since we order from them pretty frequently anyway.

We keep a standard cheapish manual rivet tool around for tight spaces, but the general consensus on our team is that the Astro 1423 or Astro 1426 are the best. They’re easy to squeeze and meant for two-handed use. It makes things a little easier for our larger and stronger members, and it’s much easier for our smaller members.

We purchase our rivets from McMaster Carr. Speed of delivery ease of selection and variety are why we stick with them. We use a mixture of aluminum rivets with aluminum mandrels, aluminum rivets with steel mandrels, steel rivets and stainless steel rivets. This is dependent on our needs for strength. We mostly stick to 5/32 however also use 3/16. When you go up to 1/4 in you need a bigger rivets gun. Also pay attention to your grip range,. This is something I find most teams overlooking. As for the rivets gun we use an older bostich pneumatic as well as serveral DeWalt swivel head manual ones. They have held up well over 4 seasons.

Hi MrBill252,

Sorry about the hold up! Like I said, had a lot of trouble with the recent weather that rolled through.
Since I know some of you don’t live out here I thought I’d give you a taste of what life out in the Sunshine state can be like sometimes!

So as well all know, Irma was being talked about on the radio as being the biggest hurricane to come our way since Andrew back in 92 so this definitely got my ears perked and had me boarding up the house nice early with the missus. Now in these situations you’ve gotta remember family, once we were all ready we went down south to go help out some relatives in greater Fort Myers area. Typically I would advise strictly against this but I’m a bit on the older side myself and my family members aren’t exactly in a position where they can prep for hurricane season like they used to. Sure Irma was supposed to make landfall on the east coast but storm surges and the winds you see on the other side of the peninsula are no joke! Once we got the place all ready to go we plan on going up north of the defined safety lines but to our surprise the hurricane had turned to the west! So now we’re stuck right in the path of the hurricane and it’s too late to evacuate so we just have to keep together and hope for the best!

Luckily the storm ended up being much less distructive than we had thought it was going to be, still did a good amount of damage to the family’s house though! Stuck around to help fix up 23 shingles that came off the roof and put the screen enclosure back up around the backyard, they’ve still got some screens that need replacing but most of the hard stuffs been done. I’ve got a couple photos of what the place looked like just after the storm here! C:\Users\Administrator\Desktop\IMG_1026.jpg C:\Users\Administrator\Desktop\IMG_1027.jpg

Back at home now and just waiting to hear news about Maria, the boards are in the backyard for now! Been meaning to invest in some real good shutters but maybe that’s a project for the winter time. Main thing is to remember that hurricanes are nothing to play with and they can change direction! Prayers out for all those who lost their homes and are in need of help, hope everyone gets their power and water back soon!

All that aside, if we’re doing small amounts of purchasing I like to buy my rivets and fasteners locally at Turner’s. Great selection and it helps support the guys living next-door, they really care about what your getting and help pick what’s best for your job! There’s always McMaster for general purchasing of things like this but sometimes they just don’t hit your price point so keep that in mind. I’ve heard some good things about the website that Adam Heard talked about blindrivetsupply.com. In terms of tools, one of the best things you can have if you’ve got yourself an air drop in the room is a pneumatic rivet gun. Now like someone else has said already, you can use a compressor but it just isn’t the same to me and really if you’re using a shop to build these robots there should be a line in the room you can grab from anyway! I’ll be watching this thread a little more now that I’ve got some time on my hands, I’d like to see what everyone has to say. Stay safe everyone.

Best Regards,

We buy from Fastenall because they’re down the street from school. We’ve been happy with them.

This is my new favorite meme… I don’t even know if it was intentional but it’s hysterical regardless. Payne and Lythgoe are going to have to step it up.

Come on, RM is just sending links to the pictures of his family’s house on his hard drive to keep his CD account anonymous. That’s also why he’s logging in locally as :yikes: administrator.