Stainless Steel Rivets - how to remove?

I tried to drill out some rivets from a repair (by the original owner) of the seat hanger in my 2002 Eddyline nighthawk to straighten out the seat, and the bit just slid off of two of the three and chewed right through the soft plastic along side of them. The third rivet was aluminum and drilled right out.

I ended up not getting the stainless steel rivets removed on the side that needed to move back about 1" and instead moved the side that was in the correct position about 1" forward, because those aluminum rivets came out easily. I’d have preferred to have moved the repaired side back to it’s original position.

The seat is now straight in the boat, but now about 1" forward of the stock position.

So, if I decide to move the seat back to the original position, how do I remove the two stainless steel rivets that I chewed up pretty well, but can no longer get the drill bit to bite into after removing about 1/2 of the head of each.

This is my first encounter with stainless steel pop rivets and they caught me by surprise.


Seat off by 1" ??!! Gawd thats bad.
On the SS rivet … Is the shank showing as pulled up close to head ??? This might be causing the wander.

Either way, get a new super sharp ( probably 3/16" ) bit and bear down harder … If you can get a set of vice grips on the back side to keep from spinning mo ’ betta … Don’t worry, the heads will drill off … Just lean on 'em.

Even if you need to drill new holes, just use a # 10 washer as back up on the new rivets… Or switch to machine screws and locknuts.

You can also use a small grinder
(dermel) and grind off the head.

Yeah, a lousy repair.

– Last Updated: Aug-08-10 1:04 AM EST –

They went through a lot of trouble to reinforce the torn seat hanger extension from with thicker plastic, but then didn't rivet the seat in straight. I'm surprised that I didn't notice the crooked seat when I did the initial inspection before buying.

I may have buggered the stainless steel rivet heads up too much to drill them out now. The grinder option suggested above may be the required option.

SS Removal
A new cobalt drill bit should work better (available at Ace Hardware); just keep the rivet from spinning like the previous post suggested. Also the Dremel tool with a pointed rock attachment should help too but keep the rivet cool or it will melt the surrounding surface.

I ground the heads off with my dremel
Jack L

grind em off
with a Dremel or any other grinder you can get in there with.

You can also try filing them off if you have no grinder, and they are accessable.

A grinder or sanding pad that fits in your drill might do the trick too.

Drilling them out is sometimes kinda tricky, but if you are having wandering issues, start with the smallest bit you can use without breaking it, and try to get a pilot hole started first.

Shot 'em out with a .22 long rifle.
Just back 'em up with a sandbag.

I didn’t have .22, so I used .270.
Too bad that I missed the rivets.

Oh, but Kevlar will stop any bullet.

Just not sharp rocks !
Jack L

Dremel, as noted above

– Last Updated: Aug-08-10 10:41 PM EST –

Reiterated - be careful of the heat generated.

I’m leaving the seat where it is, for
now. I kind of like the handling of the boat with the seat in it’s current position.

Thanks for the tips on how to remove the steel rivets.

If you change your mind, let me know…

I’ve got a Marlin 45.70 that I personally guarantee will break river heads loose, stainless steel or not.

Be glad to “help you out”.



Drilling Out Rivets

– Last Updated: Aug-22-10 5:00 PM EST –

I have concur with g2d over Bob, the 45/70 is just too much gun for the job(LOL)!

I've had good luck STARTING with a small drill bit to make a "Starter" hole, then switching to the larger size. And, it's worth the extra $ to buy good drill bits (I happen to like DeWalt titanium). WW

Go ahead and ship the Marlin
45.70 and I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the generous offer.

SS rivets
If they are pop-rivets, use a punch to pop out the pin and then drill out rest of rivet. I do it all the time this way-easy. Otherwise, I find a 308 ample to remove rivets.

The best way to remove a stainless-steel rivet is by drilling out the shaft. Doing this will involve the use of cobalt drill bits specially made for metal drilling. The cobalt bits allow for high heat and strength, which is necessary for drilling through steel. Applying a cutting lube to the bits will also lessen heat and prolong the bits’ life for multiple uses. The key to pulling out rivets is to make sure you’re drilling at the middle of the hole. If you drill off canter, you could destroy the material the rivet is holding together. Placing a dent on the rivet head and making a pilot hole will help control larger drill bits.

I ran a restaurant service company and dealt with SS rivets all the time. If you’re luck, the center pin will be recessed and you can just drill them out with a cobalt bit. With drilling stainless, beside using a cobalt bit, the secret is low speed, high pressure, and lubricant. If you use high speed the resulting heat will temper the stainless making it harder to drill. Grinding the head off with a Dremel tool also works. If the rivet spins and you can’t grip it on the back side, use the bit or grinding wheel at a slight angle often works. Another option to start a drill bit at the center where the pin is not protruding is to take a Dremel with a thin carbide cutoff wheel and carefully score an X in the head for starting the drill bit. Starting with a small bit often helps.

A trick with a .stripped or broken screw head is to use again a Dremel tool with a carbide cutoff wheel and cut a screwdriver slot in the head or shaft.

Pound a dent into the rivets with a center punch. That dent will give a drill bit a place to start.

It is also sometimes a good idea to start drilling with a small bit and work you way up to the body size of the rivet.