A riveting story

Today was the day I finally addressed my last resolution from last year. I taught myself to rivet.

I’m shocked that I put off learning this simple cold connection for so long. What was I thinking? (I admit it. I was afraid to fail. Let that be a lesson to me. It was actually pretty easy.)


For my first rivet experience I used an unfinished piece I made in Celie Fago’s  workshop last September. I had already drilled holes in the back of the piece where I wanted to put rivets. That’s as far as I got. No holes were drilled on the front because I would be drilling all the way through, one hole at a time, to make it easier to line up each rivet.

I had two of these unfinished pieces. Potential pendants. Below are 3 successful rivets with 20 gauge wire. (And one unsuccessful spot.) My very first rivet is the one inside the red marker. The rivet at “12 o’clock” on the piece was made with a piece of silver wire that I balled on one end.

Now, about that unsuccessful spot. When I drilled through the hole in back, the hole in front was half on the silver and half on the recessed area with the polymer clay. Arrgh! First I tried to make up for it by using a balled end piece of wire:

Yeah, I knew it wouldn’t work. But maybe adding a little washer would work. (Notice the hole in the washer is too roomy for the wire…)

The look I wanted…

What actually happened…

I kept trying to make a bad fit work. It never did.

This is the point where I stopped worrying about making this into a wearable piece. I left this trouble section alone for a while and started to drill holes in other spots to see what would work for a rivet. 18 gauge wire vs 20 gauge. Copper wire. Gold-filled commercial head pins. Glass bead washers. (That one didn’t work so well.) Another attempt with 3 washers to fill in the trouble spot.

I knew this was not a piece to wear, but it was a great opportunity to figure out a way to make a bale and rivet it, so it could be worn. Now I’ll know what to do when I do make a piece to wear.

A tight fit is necessary for hot connections. (Are they called hot connections?) Solder won’t fill a gap and fine silver won’t fuse across a gap. This I already knew. Today I learned, from experience, how important a close fit is for a cold connection. The hole and the wire rivet need to be the same size/gauge.

Designs with rivets are flying through my head. At last!



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9 responses to “A riveting story

  1. LeAnn

    This is pretty exciting that you’ve tried all of these things on one piece. I love that you’ve shown your learning process. Cold connections always seem so easy to me compared to soldering. But it really is an art of its own. BTW, I have had my own challenges with using rivets. I do think this has a lot of potential with the sort of work you do. Good on ya!


    • Barb Fernald

      Thanks LeAnn. I avoid soldering whenever I can. That is one of the reasons I like metal clay so much. I can make hollow beads without soldering.
      But I kept putting off the rivets, for years. Once I decided to make the piece a sampler, not caring how it looked, it got to be a lot more fun. I have sketches from the past of things that would require riveting. Time to get them out again!


    • Barb Fernald

      I just thought of something. I wonder how this “tear away” texture technique would work with ceramics?


  2. Hooray for mastering new skills and proving to yourself that you can do it!
    PS I got my earrings in the mail today and I absolutely adore them! My daughter asked why I was wearing earrings with my jammies (still sick), and I told her because they’re new and they’re making me feel better.


  3. holly kellogg

    interesting that you mentioned the tear-away with ceramic (great minds…)-next week i will be teaching my friend judi tear-away during one of our staff development days because she is interested in trying it with her ceramics students…i’ll blog about how it goes!
    any word from virginia about when we need to send funds? counting the weeks!


  4. crnbrycst

    It may not be to wear, but would certainly have a home in a shadow box or some other creation. I like the look! ..a form of collage almost.


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