A Thumbnail Taxonomy of Rivets

This entry is part 28 of 34 in the series Small World


The rivet family is generally divided into six genuses: fully tubular, semi-tubular, self-piercing, split, tapped & compression rivets. Depending on their niche & matrix, they may be made up of copper, brass, aluminum, stainless steel or carbon steel, and their heads may be flat, oval-shaped, counter-sunk or trussed. Fully tubular rivets are mostly hollow, with a hole depth equal to or greater than 112 percent of the diameter of the body, while semi-tubular rivets, the most commonly encountered genus, have a hole depth less than 112 percent of the diameter of the body. It’s unclear, however, to what extent this classification reflects a meaningful cladistic distinction. Self-piercing rivets, despite their name, do not pierce themselves, but simply pierce sheet metal or aluminum by themselves, without needing to fit into pre-existing holes. Split rivets have evolved to inhabit soft materials—wood, light metals, leather & fibers—which they grip in two ways, the body piercing the material & the sharp prong ends folding back and biting in. Tapped rivets are found in materials too thin to accept their own tapping—a mutualistic arrangement. Compression or cutlery rivets, with their solid bodies & chamfered shanks, have adapted to the extreme environments found in the handles of knives.

Series Navigation← PearlWingnut →
Posted in

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. This post delighted both the botanist and the engineer in this household!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.