From deep in my files, here's an excerpt from one of my postings to
the Freight Car List over four years ago on riveters:
"Source 1: Carl Traub's article in the June 1968 MODEL RAILROADER on
constructing a drop-hammer riveter. No matter what kind of riveter
you make or buy, you should be familiar with how this master builder
made and heat-treated rivet impression punch and die sets."
"Source 2: Gene Deimling's article in the August 1975 MODEL
RAILROADER on scratch-building an O-scale Erie covered hopper car.
His sewing machine riveter conversion is in a sidebar to this
The sewing machine riveter is a converted single-stitch, straight
needle machine. Both machines use a punch and die. The die is what
determines the shape of the embossed rivet, and the techniques that
use only a punch (pounce wheel, needle in a pin vise) won't produce
uniform and crisp rivets nearly as well.
Traub's riveter is force-limited, i.e. the drop hammer is raised
against a stop and released, falling onto a spring-loaded punch. Each
stroke is delivered with the same force. You adjust the height of the
stop to give the desired embossing. Deimling's riveter is distance-
limited. Each rotation of the hand wheel strokes the punch the same
distance. You locate the punch in the needle spindle to give the
I've built both of these riveters, and use the sewing machine.
Traub's techniques for forming and hardening punches and dies is a
must read for anyone who wants to make their own.
Bob Hundman and I use the same technique for locating the rivets. Lay
out the rivet pattern in a CAD program, reverse it, print it out in
exact HO scale, afix the print to your sheet of styrene, brass,
flubber, or whatever you're producing your rivets in (I use double-
sided tape, Bob uses spray adhesive), and punch through the rivet
locations. Bob fills the backs of his rivets with modeler's putty so
they won't crush. I don't, but mine are used for patterns and only
have to survive until I can make a mold.