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Old 01-28-2014, 08:47 PM   #1
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Structural riveting

I am posting a new thread on this because it seems to be a topic worthy of a specific discussion. While any union of skin to the c-channel is considered structural, of prime importance seems to be the area in the front and back secured by the steel angle referred to as a hold down plate.

As I am about to secure the rear plate, I am not very confident as to how to best do this in my case. The variables: 1) the stacked materials that need to be secured: due to the presence of the steel in these areas, necessitates a longer fastener (rivet, bolt). 2) choice of fastener 3) choice of material ( steel, aluminum- which can be further divided into hard or soft alloy 4)method of application: rivet gun, pneumatics, etc.

In my specific case, I have added another piece of aluminum sheet in an attempt to act as a flashing for prevention of water intrusion over the bumper and under the plywood subfloor. So unfortunately, this adds thickness and may alter the considerations above. My total thickness is right around .5 inches. I had prepared to use the air rivet gun that I purchased from VTS to buck rivet and secure this area.

I am expecting a shipment of rivets tomorrow, but I am not confident at all. Some issues of doubt are proper alloy: soft vs. hard. With the length of fastener is riveting even appropriate? Is the strength of rivet gun adequate? While waiting for this shipment, I have sought advice on how to proceed. I want to take advantage of all those who have gone before me and am asking for any advice, tips, methods or help here. Thanks.
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Old 01-28-2014, 09:09 PM   #2
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Just finished my own rear floor replacement job this year. The vertical fasteners were bolts, c channel/plate/floor/cross member. Rivets are not suitable for this. The skin to plate to c channel joint is riveted with solid rivets, as they are structurally stronger than pop or pull rivets. I junked the steel plate as it was an invitation to corrosion and replaced it with a 6061 angle that I re bent to the proper angle. It was thicker than the steel angle but far less corrosive. Bolts should be stainless just to be on the safe side. Hope this is some help.....Phil.
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Old 01-29-2014, 12:40 AM   #3
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Thanks for responding, pgr32e. Another vote for solid rivets. I am also using stainless bolts for vertical at the hold down plate. For the rest I think I have zinc elevators, which I may Change out at least on the c-channel for stainless also. My main area of interest is on specifics of rivets used for skin to hold down to c-channel. Any comments on characteristics of rivets that have worked well: soft vs. hard alloy, diameter, and length? Comments on rivet gun or compressor used?

I'm sure once I have completed this area, details will be fast forgotten. Right now, though, these details have become a little bit of an obsession to me. I can't seem to find much consensus on my proddings. These seem to be important enough details not to overlook and I don't want to have to either spend time removing questionable fasteners or, even worse, have a failure down the road. Still hoping that I can get detailed information to help me now. And also, glowing reviews of a rivet gun would be great to hear also. I hope this post will help anyone in my situation in the future, perhaps even with tips that might booster confidence and skills in this important area of restoration.
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Old 01-29-2014, 04:05 AM   #4
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Did the solid(bucked) rivets not function properly over the past 42 years? My question should answer yours.
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Old 01-29-2014, 07:36 AM   #5
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Four threads now covering the same somewhat clouded issue. There's at least one professional airstream restorer and at least two licensed aviation structural engineers saying the same thing, buck rivet with MS20AD rivets which is as close to factory original as possible. The gun is fine, the rivets are fine, probably the real issue is the huge gap, that, from the one photo in another thread, is only partially padded out with an additional strip of aluminum. I'd suggest removing the non variables from your equation and focus on variable 1 the stacked materials and gap, this appears to be guiding you into a fastener maze. Can you tightly close the stacked material with cleco's?
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Old 01-29-2014, 09:44 AM   #6
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Truckasaurus-
I am seeking to part any clouds. I am very grateful for the enlghtenment I have gained from aviators and professionals, like Aerowood. Now I have more understanding about what is involved in buck riveting, just lack the experience of you guys so I am begging for more information. By the way I am able to close the gap between the c-channel and the hold down plate using a jack. That eliminates the need for adding a shim, so that is no longer a variable. (Thanks for following my progress/lack of). There is still roughly around .5 inches to fasten. I have been going from general to specific in my quest for the proper (or at least, consensus) material fastener for this. I had initially been advised against screws/nuts, then Olympic pop rivets. So I took the plunge into a pneumatic rivet kit with all the parts (I had hoped was) necessary, only to find that the included rivets were not long enough for this (my) particular hold down plate area.

I assumed that I had the right tool(?3x? Gun) and rivet type(soft alloy) for the job. What I have since learned in bits and pieces:1) brazier and modified brazier heads are becoming obsolete and difficult to find and most use universal head. 2)the harder alloy is preferable to the soft in this type of structural union (and I still have not gotten an answer as to whether or not harder alloy is preferred entirely over soft for ALL applications).

One of my points is that I have now learned that all solid rivets are not created equal. Just as there are Olympic and regular pop rivets. Perhaps using the phrase "hard buck riveting" (or "soft") should be preferred to just solid riveting because it is more descriptive of the alloy used. Similar to alclad vs any old aluminum sheet metal.

More or less, I am commited at this point to a trial of solid riveting. So I am looking more for the specific elements at play. The type of head is merely cosmetic, so not really an issue for the "structural considerations" of which this thread is meant to cover. So that leaves the rivet characteristics (alloy, diameter, and length) and the rivet gun. One aspect I feel I do not understand is the relationship between rivet characteristics and the appropriate desired rivet gun or other pneumatics. Take my particular example: the 3x gun may be perfect for a .5" length or less, but if I go to .75", then have I exceeded my "sweet spot" and do I switch to something different? More powerful?

What I am trying to learn is what has worked to secure the hold-down plate. I started this new thread not necessarily just to be about my particular situation per se, but to also be a guide to include the exact tools and techniques recommended for this. So when the next anal newbie comes along, you can just point them to this thread and be on your way. I have gotten bits and pieces of information from other threads and I plan on posting my experience for others to follow.

Some doubt has been expressed in areas of my current plan such as adequacy of the rivet gun to successfully expand and set an AD rivet of greater than .5 inches. I am just looking for the specifics, these little details that seem to be important. In my opinion, that is the only way to drive out the doubt. And if it is possible to drive this rivet, do I just need a different gun? Hopefully this will be of help to others down the road. Thanks, man, I appreciate your concern and attention.
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Old 01-29-2014, 10:49 AM   #7
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We're definitely getting somewhere now. Closing the gap is what will seal the deal. You really need something that will go in the existing holes and that is able to pull all the stacked material tight together, draw clecos would be perfect but a regular long draw spring cleco would work as would a PK style metal screw or even bolts. Pushing the stack together isn't good enough but it is clearly helping you get stuff better situated. Once tight we need to measure the thickness, maybe use one of your long rivets.

Your curiosity about the gun and terminology is a tricky one to answer as there are literally big fat books written on just this. Suffice to say not all 3x guns are created equal but I'd bet yours will do fine. The terminology is set and is the same across industries and jobs for a reason much like I imagine it is in say the medical field to avoid mistakes and increase efficiency.
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Old 01-29-2014, 12:09 PM   #8
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I am a process learner. There is a certain amount that I will take on faith, but
(Now that I am out of school), I have found a love of learning new things. And I devote myself entirely to my efforts. I was very hesitant to even decide to purchase the rivet gun, mostly due to expense. But now you also see that I expected there would be more to learn and my time is not unlimited. The thing that made me commit and take the plunge were the voices (of reason spurred on by member comments) telling me to do the "right thing" and also the thought that I would most likely be doing similar repair work again, maybe on this one, maybe on my next trailer.

I am just seeking basic competence, not mastery. So I was kinda just enquiring into if I had the right rivet gun for my airstream needs or if there was a more appropriate one. I am not looking to start a collection. I don't even own a compressor(yet). I am partly relieved that rivet gun application can be complex. For a second there I was thinking it was being kept a big secret. If you say my gun is sufficient, I will take it on faith. I promise to stop badgering, but feel free to share. Thanks.

I was basically planning to rivet one at a time. I will be drilling some new holes, but I wanted to get that first one in to see how it will go. I was just going to move the jack set-up as needed to drill then buck each one starting in the middle and then progressing gradually to the sides. The rest of the c-channel is already clecoed in place outside of the vertical rivet lines just outside of the hold down. I was going to try and use 1/8" diameter and cut to length. On the sides, I am assuming it will be much simpler, having less material stacked.
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Old 01-29-2014, 01:45 PM   #9
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OK, accepted practice would be something like dry assemble the finished deburred parts, which means assemble using temporary fasteners such as the clecos and check. Assuming it passed the check, disassemble, apply sealant, reassemble, fasten with temporary fasteners and start riveting. I think you are suggesting one floor jack holding everything very roughly in place, drill one hole and rivet and proceed to the next. There's a ton of reasons why this is a terrible idea ranging from alignment problems, swarf between the materials from drilling, lack of sealant and the potentially most troublesome will be when the rivet "bucks" not on the rivet tail but squishes at it's middle between some of the stacked materials, drilling this out with leave loose donuts of rivet that will be either hard of impossible to rectify. The big downside will of course be a less than optimal repair in a structurally significant area. The jack technique might work out for you but I would recommend trying to follow the normal path. My goal here is I think the same as yours, to help you complete your repair and at the same time to avoid misinformation that confuses others who may follow the same path. If it was me doing this I'd use 5/32" rivets but there's no reason you can't use the 1/8"s if the holes are still good. A good learning exercise which you will want to do if you've not used a rivet gun before is to test rivet some scrap pieces together, so why not assemble some scrap steel and aluminum about as thick as your repair and drill a hole and try the gun out?
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Old 01-29-2014, 03:19 PM   #10
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How many of these really long rivets do you need? I have some really long round head rivets and will send you some if you PM me your address. The head is the same diameter as original, but protrudes more. If these are not long enough, you are putting to much together. This link to Jay Cee might help you in the future...
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Old 01-29-2014, 03:20 PM   #11
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The ones I have are so long, you will probably need to cut them down.
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Old 01-29-2014, 06:57 PM   #12
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Excellent advice on set-up. It makes good sense to have the jack out of the way.
Some of the rivet holes will be new. So on those I was planning on using 1/8 diameter. On any existing holes I was planning to size up to 5/32. And very round, deburred holes. I was only planning on a little sealant on the rivet. Do you also seal between layers? I have trem proed the edge of subfloor and beaded it at the frame.

And I have already begun youtubing about technique & plan to test on scrap as you suggest.

And I don't expect others to need a jack. I'm not really sure what I did wrong to have the c-channel not want to sit flush again at the center plate. Rookie mistakes. But one thing I have learned is not to be flip about taking the c-channel off the skin if you can help it. In my case I took it off so I could free the rusted plate for POR, but also to use it to make my floor template because my previous floor was too rotted to use at the rear(by the way, this probably explains why I am having c-channel alignment issues, huh?)

62overlander, thanks for the offer and I PMed you.

I am off to HD to pick up some screws to hold temporarily, because I know the clecos will not hold the pressure of the pull away of the c-channel at the hold down plate. Thanks again. Good stuff.
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Old 01-29-2014, 07:15 PM   #13
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I'm glad there's light at the end of the tunnel! And yes I would always endeavour to get sealant between all the materials.
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Old 01-30-2014, 02:53 PM   #14
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Your rivets are on the way. Should be in your hands Saturday they said. If the round head bothers you, just use a shaver to make it smaller.
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