……. for attaching the straps on my purse? This is a common question I see in many of the bag sewing groups I belong to on Facebook, so I will try answering it.
So, what size do you need for purse handles? Short answer – it depends.
What size do I need for 4 layers of vinyl – still depends. And what does it depend on?
Thickness, it all boils down to how thick all the layers are when pressed together. Vinyl comes in many different thicknesses, so your 4 layers of vinyl may be thicker than my 4 layers of vinyl. Fabric handles are the same, The fabric and interfacing you use can vary widely from handle to handle. Even leather can vary in thickness from one side of the hide to the other. So the simple answer to rivet size is – it depends on how thick all the layers are with the piece you are working on at the moment.
Now with that question answered, lets take a look at rivets, how to determine size and the necessary basic tools. The rivets used for most purse handles and such are called “Double Cap” rivets. This is the type I will discuss in this post.
There are 4 basic tools needed to apply rivets – a hammer, an anvil, a rivet punch and a hole punch to make a whole for the rivets.
In the picture on the left side is a hole punch. To the right of it is the anvil and rivet punch. The anvil is concave and the end of the punch is also concave. On the right is another type of hole punch called an awl that you can use if you don’t have anything else to make a hole with. The hammer I did not photograph. You just need a small lightweight hammer or rubber mallet for driving the rivets together.
Next you will need rivets – of course. These are the 4 sizes I keep on hand. From left to right – 6mm, 7mm, 8mm, and 9mm.
When I got my first rivets, I too was not sure of which sizes I would need, so I took the easy route. Tandy offers rivets in 3 sizes – small, medium and large. You do not need to know the millimeter size, only small, medium or large. So I ordered small and medium to get started. I also got a cheap rivet tool kit off Ebay. I already had a hammer and a hole punch came with the tool kit. That takes away the guessing of which size to buy. From there I measured the rivets and now I know the sizes I use the most.
Now you have 2 different size rivets and you need to know which size will work for your handles. Lets look at how to determine that.
First you want to mark on your handle where you want the rivets to go and punch the necessary holes for them.
Next hold a rivet up against the thickness of the strap. You want the rivet to just poke through on the other side so you can get the cap on it.
On the left you can see that the rivet is just a bit longer than the thickness of the vinyl layers.
Here is the rivet pushed through the holes. Notice that just a small amount of the end is showing.
And here it is with the cap just pushed on to the end. When pushing the cap onto the end, it should feel like it snaps in place.
Now the magic….place one rivet side in the concave side of the anvil. Then take the rivet punch and place the concave end over the other side of the rivet. Now while holding the punch straight up and down, use your hammer to give the punch 2 or 3 firm taps. Don’t beat it, just firm taps. Your rivet is now set.
Now let me show you what can happen if you use a rivet that is too long. The above pictures are of a 6mm rivet with 4 layers of vinyl. Below I will show what happens to a 9mm rivet in 2 layers of the same vinyl.
Notice how far the end sticks out past the vinyl.
And here is what it looks like with the cap pressed on.
Now look carefully at the above two pictures. Can you see how the caps are not setting directly over the top of one another. The cap on top is setting further to the right of the one on the bottom. If you don’t see what I mean, look at the picture below – see how the caps are in a straight line over each other.
Now look back at the pictures above – see how they look offset? Well they are and will need to be replaced because they won’t hold. What happened is there was more material going into the cap than it could handle, so when it couldn’t move any more, it collapses.
It does take a while take a while to “get the hang of it” as they say. But it is so worth the effort. After you get better at setting rivets, you may want to invest in a rivet/grommet hand press like this one:
Rivets can be a huge help when material is too thick to sew, plus it can really give a nice finished look to your project. Start with a simple tool set and a couple of different size rivets and practice, practice, practice.