The story of riveting

From the Eiffel Tower to Levi jeans

riveting tool

Did you know that rivets we one of the most used tools for construction in Ancient Rome? That’s just one piece of the fascinating journey riveting has took throughout history. Whilst using our cordless rivet tool to fasten rivets in façade panels, you may have wondered where it all began. How did riveting become so prominent in all types of construction? And why are rivet tools called rivet tools in the first place?

What does riveting mean?

Riveting is used in all types of construction with metal being the most common riveted material, however, wood, clay and fabric aren’t far behind on the list. But how did this tool get this name?

Well, we use this word because riveting two objects (usually metal) together is a simple and efficient way to create an almost permanent attachment. And it’s used outside the construction world, for example ‘when you’re riveted to something and unable to tear yourself away’, similar to the feeling when our new tools  launch.

Over time, the result of this rivet method has become one of the strongest, most permanent ways of attachments. That’s why the Eiffel Tower in France with a height of 1,063 and built using 18,000 pieces of steel has all the pieces joined together using 2.5 million thermally assembled rivets. The notable uses of rivets throughout history don’t stop there, with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the RMS Titanic all using them. In fact, 3,000,000 rivets were used in the construction of Titanic - 2 million of which were done by hand and 1 million were completed using a hydraulic hammer.


Top 5 interesting rivet facts

  1. The first rivets appeared in Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago, where they fixed handles to clay jars.
  2. By the mid-1800s rivets were being used in the construction of architectural buildings. For instance, the iron beams were riveted together, creating immensely strong structures and paving the way for the skyscrapers that surround us today.
  3. Back in 1873, Levi Strauss secured a patent for his denim jeans with copper rivets to reinforce the pants at common stress points. Levis has now sold more than 200 million pairs of copper-riveted jeans.
  4. During WWII, the American government launched the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign encouraging women on the home front to take on roles such as labourers and engineers particularly in the aviation industry. 
  5. The advent of pneumatic tools made riveting more efficient. Today’s riveting process is carried out by riveting guns that fire many times a second, hammering the rivet head into its final shape. 

how does a rivet work?

Basically, on installation, the rivet is placed in a punched or drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked (i.e., deformed), so that it expands to about 1.5 times the original shaft diameter, holding the rivet in place.

Now we’ve clarified how the rivet made it to today – do you have any more interesting rivet facts? Or is there a part of the construction family you’d like to know more about? Let us know and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

Inspired to go and get riveting? Check out our Hilti RT 6 rivet tool.