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How to Put Snaps and Rivets Into Leather

How to Put Snaps and Rivets Into Leather main article image
Posted on September 30, 2022 by Lyndsey Drooby

So after you have developed the basic skills of working with leather, from cutting to gluing and molding, to finish any structured piece, you’ll need to learn how to place rivets and snaps onto leather. Rivets can serve an aesthetic purpose as well as a functional purpose while snaps are used for closures on wallets, purses and the like.

When attaching pieces of leather together, you will be using the method of riveting. It requires a few tools which most importantly, you will need a hole punching tool. There are a few hole punch tools out there so we will get into what works best for placing rivets on the project. The same goes for adding snaps onto two pieces so they match up for a working closure.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

The First Step: Punching Holes with Rotary and Manual Punches

When attaching rivets and snaps to leather, the first thing you need to do is obviously punch some holes into the leather. Holes can be punched strategically when you need to cut slots, say, for card spaces inside a wallet.

There are some options when it comes to hole punches. The rotary punch is the easiest and more convenient in terms of usage. The rotating head has different punching blades to make holes in different sizes. Just like a hole punch for paper, the leather in placed between the chosen blade size and the other end while the dual handles are squeezed together to create the hole. The rotary punch is easy to use for straps and smaller pieces that allow you to work 1”-2” from the edge of the leather. Any further punching work from the edge would require manual punches.

Like any other tool with a blade, the blades on a rotary punch can also dull so they need to be sharpened or replaced.

A manual punch is the versatile option. You can create holes further from the leather’s edge and work with tougher, thicker leather. Manual punch blades range in many sizes and can work in tandem with a shaft to attach the blade onto. The punch is placed over the spot where a hold will be made and the tapping of a mallet engages the blade to puncture the leather. One strike of the mallet should be enough to make the hole. Use a softer surface, like a work table and use a cutting mat in between because working straight on a hard surface like metal can dull the punch blades.

The Second Step: All About Rivets

As mentioned, rivets are used to attaché two pieces of leather together as they are set through the holes made on the leather. Rivets comes in different sizes, colors and finishes so you can pick and choose if you want to camouflage the look for purpose and use some that pops against the color of the leather for a decorative look.

Rivets have two parts, an end that has a rounded or cone-shaped end, and an end that has a small cap to fit into the other end. To attach, you punch a hole in the leather that corresponds to the rivet stem, or the top rounded piece. After the hole, insert that stem piece and snap the cap onto the other end. To set these in place, you need to use a mallet that has a rivet setting shaft that has a concaved end to engulf the rivet and pound it into place without denting or flattening the rivet.

Keep in mind, always test on a scrap of leather first. Some rivets have different stem lengths and could stick out through the other side of the leather and not match up with the corresponding end. If you make a mistake you can use a pair of nippers to cut off the stem. The next step shows how to remove rivets in case of mistakes or general removing.

The Third Step: How to Remove Rivets

Whether you’re replacing rivets or you noticed you made a horrendous mistake with your riveting, you’ll need to properly remove them without ruining the leather.

Take a pair of wire nippers to cut off a rivet. You will start by cutting the stem of the rivet between the two layers of leather. By doing this, you will not be damaging the natural grain of the leather. Squeezing the stem will loosen the top of the cap and it will pop off from the base of the cap. Don’t worry if the leather looks a little messy, but if you’re replacing the spot with a new rivet, it will be covered up.

The same process applies to adding snaps to leather. The difference is with structure that snaps have flat pieces and made of a harder and thicker metal. They can be pounded into place with any type of mallet or hammer. A little more strength in pounding can be applied to make sure the snaps are securely in place.

The Fourth Step: Punching Holes and Cutting Card Slots

When you noticed card slots on a leather wallet, there are usually two small holes at each end of the cut slits. The main purpose of these holes is meant to keep the slits from tearing. The holes also make the slits easier to cut.

The holes are first marked with an awl and finished off with a smaller blade to punch the holes. To make the slit, use a metal ruler and an x-acto knife to glide across the leather. Holding the knife at a 90-degree angle will help prevent the need to overcut the leather.

What should be mentioned when constructed a piece like a wallet together is that when you are riveting two pieces together, you can try to punch both pieces together if the leather is not too thick. Both layers will have a perfectly aligned cut groove that eases the movement of the rivet to go through.

Seems easy to place rivets, right? It is a fast and secure way to keep pieces connected together while adding something to the overall design.

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