As someone that likes to build and fix things, there never seem to be enough tools in the shed; you find that you always need something that you don’t have. Now I do have plenty of hand tools and power tools that I’ve collected over the last 40 or so years, but I’ve always been lacking some tools that are very common in any handyman’s (that includes the handywoman’s) workshop. A drill press is one, but I’ve managed to do without so far, though thought long and hard about getting one. I’ve always had a vice, bench grinder and hand grinder, and another great tool is a linishing machine that I got after many years of putting up with the bench grinder, hand grinder and hand files. But everyone is most likely aware that these tools and similar are very handy and almost essential for the handyman’s toolchest, but there’s a another tool that I’ve found to be at times indispensable and less known.
There’s a tool that perhaps people have seen or heard about, but never really given any thought towards and so what I’ll be talking about are Rivnuts or Nutserts and the tools used to install these handy little items. Rivnuts perform a similar task to pop rivets, in that they allow you to attach things to thin materials with bolts or screws rather than the more or less permanent pop rivets. Rivnuts provide a ‘hidden nut’ in thin materials, where a tap and die won’t have sufficient depth to make a thread. The material doesn’t have to be metal, as you can use Rivnuts in plastic, fibreglass and similar, or any material that is thin but reasonably hard and strong, but which is not suitable to be tapped for a thread. I first came across Rivnuts maybe 15 years ago and kind of fell in love with the concept; however, it wasn’t until maybe 6-7 years ago that I got my first Rivnut kit and I’ve been using it ever since.
The kit that I bought came with a bunch of different Rivnuts, as well as a Rivnut tool. I ordered this kit because of a number of reviews I’d watched on YouTube showing how well this tool worked and how fast it was to use, especially with a cordless drill. In general it is a good tool and does work with a cordless drill, but it does have issues. So I ended up making a few modifications so that I could use it more easily with a socket wrench, which gave me more control and feel when using the tool. One of the important things with Rivnuts is to ensure that the hole drilled for the nut is the exact size so that the flutes on the Rivnut can grip the sides of the hole. It’s also important that the serrated face of the Rivnut tool grips the Rivnut fully, or else the tool will not work well. These issues were the bane of my life and after recurring frustrations with setting the Rivnuts, especially the steel ones that were the most problematic, I bought a different Rivnut insertion tool so that I could insert both aluminium and steel Rivnuts without that constant frustration.
The problem with the original tool was that when using alloy Rivnuts, it was all too easy to strip the thread and have to start all over again. With steel Rivnuts, you often just had the Rivnut spinning around and the flutes not grabbing because the hole was ever so slightly larger than ideal and the serrated face of Rivnut tool wouldn’t properly grab the face of the Rivnut. So I bought what is ostensibly the same as a pop rivet gun that simply pulls on the Rivnut to secure it into place. There are several versions available, but I opted for the dual-handed style rather than the traditional single-handed pop rivet gun style. The dual-handed style gives you much more leverage and control, though it’s not ideal for tight spaces. Of course you don’t need to buy such tools to fit Rivnuts as there are many DIY tools that you can make from just a few nuts and a bolt, but they tend to function in the same way as my original tool, OK up to a point.
One very useful addition to the Rivnut kit is a drill gauge. This will ensure that you have the right drill size before you do any drilling so that you don’t discover that the hole is too big for the selected Rivnut. Additionally, Rivnuts come in both metric and AF threads, so you need to determine from the outset what type of bolts you intend to use. Given that Australia is pretty much a metric nation, there’s no reason to consider AF Rivnut unless you really have a specific application. But even then I don’t think it matters that much, as the Rivnut is replacing the function of a threaded hole or nut.
So here are a few examples of where I’ve used Rivnuts recently and which have helped enormously to either fix a problem or to assist in the fitment of one thing or another. The bracket shown below is for mounting an Anderson plug in a panel and I wanted it installed into the rear corner of my Patrol that is lined with a tough fur coated plastic. The bracket came with nuts and screws, but it would have been virtually impossible to attach the nuts through the small panel opening and I didn’t want to remove the entire panels to get to this part. The Rivnuts worked perfectly. The second car fix was on the rear door panel where the small plastic plugs that hold in the panel simply disappeared. By fitting some Rivnuts into the holes in the metal under the panels, I was able to replace the plugs with screws. The final image is for my tablet holder in the Patrol.
There are a lot more applications for Rivnuts and certainly many of mine have revolved around my Patrol or camper trailer, providing a positive means of attaching one thing or another to panels in the Patrol and camper trailer. Once you own a Rivnut kit, you’ll most certainly find many uses if you happen to be a handyman (or handywoman). Given that Rivnut kits aren’t very expensive, it’s worth giving these a try.