Saturday, August 5, 2017

Riveting Plywood to Metal

Today I'll give you a quick rundown of my experiment riveting aluminium to plywood.

2.8 mm Plywood Riveted to 1.4 mm Aluminium
If you've read my blog before you may know I like boxes and storage solutions.  I made some prototype storage boxes last year out of 19 mm pine and plywood, and since then they have been used quiet a lot.  The main problem I have with them is they are heavy, use more material than is really needed, and are complicated to make.  I wanted to simplify things and for inspiration I turned to an ammunition case that I have from 1958.  It's made from ply and is riveted together with metal edges.  All the components themselves are not specifically strong, but when assembled the case is rather sturdy.

Ammunition Box
Ammunition Box
I happened to find some brass rivets on AliExpress that are used for material, you may be wearing some now. Have a look at your jeans.  The type I purchased are called double capped, meaning they have flat rivets on both sides.  They consist of a cap and post that are pressed together.

Brass Rivet Cap
I ordered these because they were listed as 10 mm long.  I thought that this would mean I could join materials up to 10 mm (leaving room for compression of course).  Unfortunately I was mistaken. The length of the post is 10 mm but this only leaves 8.5 mm space for materials, and after compression of the rivets only about 5-6 mm are feasible.

Brass Rivet Post
Rivet Test Compression
For my test I planned to join some 6 mm ply to a piece of aluminium angle, but because the rivets are smaller than I planned I used 3 mm plywood.  Two 3 mm holes were drilled into the aluminium and the posts were inserted. A hole slightly larger (about 3.75 mm) was drilled in the ply, the caps inserted and the the rivets clipped together. For the final compression step no fancy tools were used. They were placed in a vice and I squashed the hell out of them.

The results speak for themselves. I think they look awesome and they will not budge.
Aluminium Side
The dark wood and brass look nice together gives the strength I need. I think I'm on to something.
Plywood Side
I'm not actually building a box in this post. This is just a test, and besides I don't think the size of box I want to make will work with 3 mm ply. I need slightly bigger rivets. So now we wait the standard 2 or 3 weeks for a shipment from China. :-(

There are plenty of designs for storage boxes that may be better than mine, but what I'm aiming for is a good strength to weight ratio box that can be easily assembled by people at home without exotic materials and tools.  The idea is that if you want a box you go and buy some ply and metal and use rivets you've purchased.

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