The story of riveting

From the Eiffel Tower to Levi jeans

riveting tool

Did you know that rivets were 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, although wood, clay and fabric are also used. But how did this tool get its name?

Well, we use this word as riveting two objects (usually metal) together is a simple and efficient way to create an almost permanent attachment. It’s even used outside of the construction world, like ‘when you’re riveted to something and unable to tear yourself away’.

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


How does it work?

On installation, the rivet is placed in a punched or drilled hole. The tail is then upset or bucked (meaning deformed) so that it expands to about 1.5x the original shaft diameter, holding the rivet in place.



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The first rivets appeared in Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago, where they fixed handles to clay jars.


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By the mid-1800s, rivets were being used in the construction of architectural buildings. Iron beams began being riveted together, creating immensely strong structures and paving the way for the skyscrapers that surround us today.


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In 1873, Levi Strauss secured a patent for his denim jeans, with copper rivets to reinforce the jeans at common stress points. Today, Levi's have sold more than 200 million pairs of copper-riveted jeans.


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During WWII, the American government launched the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign. This encouraged women on the home front to take on roles such as labourers and engineers, particularly in the aviation industry. 


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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. 

Do you have any fun rivet facts you'd like to share? Let us know and join the conversation on Facebook or X!

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