The use of rivets to join metal together must be one of the most soul destroying pastimes both in full scale and model. For our models, rivets are an essential detail in many cases but it is only too easy to end up with a terrible mess!

etched sheets

Some etched model kits come with rivets already etched in. An example would be the Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin produced by Backwoods miniatures. This does mean that the sheet thickness has been reduced by 50% so it is usual to apply the sheet to a backing plate for additional strength. The rivets are also a bit pointed and feel worse than a cat's tongue. I always very lightly sand them with 400 paper to smooth them over.

punching rivets

Other etched kits leave you to do the work by etching a small half depth hole at the back of the sheet. One is then expected to use some tool to push the rivet through. This is not as easy as it seems and it is only too easy to finish up with different sized rivets and a buckled sheet. This is where a proper riveter comes into its own. Sadly, ones that work are also expensive.

One tool comes from Metalsmith and costs around 60. In my mind, it is a jolly good tool for pushing out etched rivet holes, but it is still a horrible job to punch out dozes of rivets from scratch. The difficulty is to ensure correct spacing and in no time at all, you will become cross eyed!

The bees knees comes from G W Models and costs nearly 100. They have no website.

GW Models
11 Croshaw Close
West Sussex
BN15 9LE
Tel: 01903 767 231

This tool has verniers, so the plate can be accurately moved thus ensuring equally spaced rivets in a perfect straight line.

Such tools minimise plate distortion and there is a choice of dies so different sized rivets can be created. A long line of rivets will still result in distortion.

Such tools can also be used on Plasticard, of course.

glue or resin rivets

Another way is to drop on white glue using something like a toothpick. In craftwork a stylus is used to place dots of paint on, for example, the eyes of very small dolls. A stylus is basically a wooden dowel; each end has a 1-inch steel rod that tapers almost to a needle-point. What distinguishes it from a double-ended ice pick are the two miniature spheres machined into each end. When either end is dipped into glue and then touched to a surface, it leaves a virtually perfect round glue dot that comes out the same size almost every time. It can be held like a pencil.

The beauty of this method is that the end of the tool can touch the model surface and still produce a small "rivet." The tool can also be allowed to touch the surface at an angle, so the palm of your hand can rest on the model's surface as you hold the stylus, just as when you hold a pen. This increases the accuracy of the rivets' placement and greatly decreases the fatigue factor. You can create thousands of rivets at one sitting without going crazy!

Adding the rivets to the model's surface should be the last step before you begin painting. The surface should first be primed and finish-sanded. Using a very soft-lead pencil and a flexible straightedge, draw the lines on the aircraft surface wherever you want to place the rivets. I found that a clear plastic straightedge designed for use with fabric was very helpful; it has many lines imprinted on it that run parallel and perpendicular to its edge. This is a great help in maintaining the correct alignment of your lines.

transfer rivets

These days, my favourite method is to use water slide transfers from Archer Surface Details. The rivets themselves are made of resin and are perfectly formed. These are available in a wide range of sizes and spacings which cover just about any need of the small scale modeller. These should be applied once all priming and sanding is completed. I use Revel transfer softener to get them to really stick down.

an example of a boiler finished with Archer rivets

As always, it needs a bit of practice, but a near perfect job can result. Remember not to apply water based paint directly onto these transfers otherwise you will soften them all over again.