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How to drill out rivets

A rivet typically consists of 2 pieces, a pin and a head inserted into a pre-drilled hole. They are a low-cost, durable option you can use in place of spot welds, screws, or bolts. However, rivets may stretch and become loose, which requires removal. Several ways of removing rivets exist, but the easiest and most used solution is drilling out the rivets.


What do you need?

Prepare for your drilling by getting a center punch, a hammer, 1/8-inch drill bit and a power drill. You need to get a drill bit that is the proper size for the rivet, it will most likely be a 1/8 inch bit (as a mentioned above) but it could just as easily be a 3/16 inch drill bit in some cases. If the rivet to be removed is stainless steel, the drill bit must be very sharp if it is made of regular high-speed steel. Then your better choice is to get a carbide-tipped bit because it will outlast the regular ones many times over. The drill bit needs to be slightly bigger than the stem of the rivet but smaller than the head.

Strike it with a hammer!

The first thing you need to do is to examine the rivet head because some of them have small indentations in the center while others have a smooth head. If you rivet is the one with a smooth head, then place the point of a small center punch in the central part of the rivet and strike it with a hammer. This will create the indentation which will serve as a guide for the drill bit.

Let’s start!

Place the drill in the center of the head of the rivet, that is the indentations, and start to drill, but keep the speed low at this point with a slight amount of pressure. Use a moderate to low RPM with the application of modest pressure. Please be careful not to let the drill and bit get away from you and go rushing away, out of control. In the case that the rivet turns or spins in its hole and the drill bit does not start cutting into it, try taking a thin stainless steel knife blade and work it under the rivet head. By lifting or twisting the blade, pressure can be applied to the rivet and in most cases hold it firm enough to effectively dill it out.

You also need to know that you don’t need to drill the rivet out completely. Just drill it enough so that the wide head part comes off. After that you can use a flat-end punch or nail to force the remaining shaft into the hole so that it pops through. If you are using a nail, make sure the end is ground off flat, if it’s not you might actually spread the hollow rivet shaft wider rather than just pushing it through the hole.

This is basically an easy process, and after you rivet is drilled out you are free to replace it.


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