Rivets: more questions... - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-23-2016, 01:26 PM   #1
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Name: Sylvio
Trailer: 1975 Boler
Quebec
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Rivets: more questions...

I spent a few hours on our Boler today. My plan was to remove the two end windows and the two jalousie windows. I managed the end windows ok. But my jalousie windows have over 30 (THIRTY!) rivets each... And it did not go well.

Thanks to RogerDat, I managed to get the last rivet out on my indoor frame for the jalousie by using my Dremel tool. I also got the feel to remove the stem by drilling past the point when the head spins.

But I broke three drill bits...to take out about 5 rivets! So I need better bits.

I also need to understand the difference in rivets. Even though I've read quite a bit on this forum, I'm not sure I understand the three different rivets I saw on the jalousie I worked on, the one next to the closet.

Here's what I saw:
A. The typical rivet that looks like just a head and nothing else.
B. The rivet with the "acorn" end (for looks and to cover a larger area on the fiberglass, or so I read).
C. The rivet with a washer-like ending (to cover a larger area...mostly on the elephant skin from what I observe).

Many questions in my head:

1. How to keep track of what hole goes with which rivet?
2. I assume I need to replace a given rivet with same model?
3. Still going for aluminum? Even around the windows?
4. Any tips on what material the 1/8'' bit should be made of?
5. Any hints as to what length the rivets should be?

Related question:
6. Most rivets on the shell are drowning in silicone goop. When replacing rivets on the shell, should they be sealed somehow? Is it necessary?

Thanks!

Uncle Cereal
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:20 AM   #2
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Name: Darral
Trailer: Scamp Standard 13' 2010
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No one has posted, so I'll give it a shot. One thing, ALWAYS drill the rivet from the "head" side and not the swelled side. IF you can get the head off, I'd use a small straight "die punch" and see if I could knock the rivet out.

The "acorn" on Scamp's rivets are simply covers..nothing more. You can screw those off.

As far as the sizes, you'll need to go back with the same size (diameter). On the length, you'll just have to determine how thick the area is and get a rivet that would come through far enough that you could add a small washer to it. In fact, if the holes are wallowed out enough, you may want to add a small washer for backing as it seems some already have them.

On the bits, you can get more expensive bits, they're just going to cost more when they break. Make sure you're holding the drill perfectly straight and dont apply too much pressure to cause the bit to "bend" or it WILL snap instantly. You might look for a "cobalt" drill bit...but again...be careful with it.

I would go back with alum rivets just to prevent rust and they're lighter... especially with the number of them you say you're adding! Plus, they're easier to install.... pull with the rivet "gun". I would seal with silicone, others are going to tell you "butyl rubber".

Hope this helps a little....
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:20 PM   #3
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Trailer: 2003 Casita 16' SD
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Random thoughts:

A lot of this rivet stuff is a 2 person job; someone on the outside operating the rivet gun and another inside holding things in place.

There are few hard and fast rules. Casita once told me not to drill the hole out with a bit more than 1/64th over the rivet diameter.

Lacking information as to what length was originally installed, length can be estimated by one person putting something of a known length through the hole and the second person pushing on the surrounding fiberglass to compress the joint. You can use a long rivet of known length and measure how much comes out of the hole or possibly marking a cutoff length of wire hanger (say an inch) and again measuring how much is exposed. You'd want to use a rivet maybe 1/8-3/16" longer than your measurement. If you're using a washer on the inside be sure to include it in the length calculation.

Remember that rivet length is the length of the rivet sleeve and doesn't include the ball tip of the center pin.

Washers help with riveting softer materials, including fiberglass. Aluminum rivet washers in 1/8 and 3/16" ID are readily available locally in your hardware or big box home improvement store.

You're going to want a dab of sealant under the head of the rivet before and afterwards in the hole left by pulling the center pin unless you buy "closed end" rivets.


I know Scamp and probably Casita will sell you a small bag of longer length rivets if you need them. Otherwise, my supplier of choice is McMaster-Carr.


Casita uses "snap caps" on the outside. These are also found practically everywhere but I spend a little more and get them from a marine supply store if they reference UV resistance on the package.
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Old 01-25-2016, 01:58 PM   #4
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Name: RogerDat
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Snap caps are a really good idea since they protect and help seal the rivet. I put a bit of butyl tape under the snap when I tighten the rivet. I purchased mine from Scamp but called and gave credit card because web store charges way more for shipping than Scamp can mail them for. McMaster-Carr is a heck of a good source of supply also.

On rivet length you can take a rivet that is too long, pull the pin out by the ball end, cut the barrel and then put the pin back in. Carol told me about that trick and I have used it a few places where the stock sizes were either too long or too short and it allows me to make a long one work. I cut with fine bladed hacksaw.

The hex headed acorn is actually a nut. The rivet is pushed into it and installed as normal, it grabs the threads in the nut and pulls tight. Really a two person job since someone has to hold the acorn nut tight to the wall/cabinet. Washers may indicate an oversized hole or having gotten too close to the edge. I think Scamp considered that the normal "fix" for those problems.

Drill bits break for just a few reasons, they are in a hole and get snapped by being bent sideways, hard tool steel don't bend. You can sometimes get this from drilling at an awkward angle as the drill creates a hole the flutes catch on the edge. Flutes not intended to cut, they just help material get moved up out of the hole. Or they bend from being pushed too hard. They are a cutting tool and can only be pushed down at the rate they will cut material thinner the drill the more susceptible it is to this. Only real difference between the high priced bits and the more modest priced ones of decent quality is how well the edges at the point hold an edge, they are about equally susceptible to breakage.

When you tighten window rivets do them all one squeeze, then let it sit to compress the butyl tape, then come back through and do a second squeeze, wait a bit and then a third, they will start popping at the second or third time they are squeezed but it gives the seal a chance to compress fully first. Oh and do a pattern like you would on tire or head bolts. Go from one side to the opposite side to the top then the bottom, then opposite corners etc. Going around in a circle doing the rivets one after another will tend to pull the window into the opening cocked at an angle, a leak waiting to happen.
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Old 01-25-2016, 03:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerDat View Post

On rivet length you can take a rivet that is too long, pull the pin out by the ball end, cut the barrel and then put the pin back in. Carol told me about that trick and I have used it a few places where the stock sizes were either too long or too short and it allows me to make a long one work. I cut with fine bladed hacksaw.

Glad to hear that tip has worked for you. making sure you use the correct sized rivet (diameter and length) is the key to long lasting leak free rivets.

I BTW have found that if the correct sized rivet has been used with acorn nuts on the inside there is no way to unscrew the acorn nut as has been suggested. The rivet should have expand inside of the nut preventing any movement. If you can unscrew an acorn nut from a rivet then I would suspect there is something wrong with the installation of them - perhaps to small a rivet diameter or something??
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Old 01-25-2016, 04:02 PM   #6
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The rivets are all either 1/8" or 3/16" in diameter. Length is determined by what you are joining to whatever else you attach to it. The acorn nuts are just held on by the pressure of the squeezed bulb end of the rivet, and should unscrew off the end of the rivet without much difficulty. Most of the acorn nuts have 1/4 - 20 threads and will only attach to the larger 3/16" diameter rivets. The 1/8" rivets are too small in diameter to grip the nut. The acorn nuts aren't structural, but are only used to "dress up" the ugly rivet bottoms where they show. I also would not advise using butyl tape under the rivets when installing them. Use a tube of marine grade sealer like SikaFlex or 3M 4200. I'm not fond of silicone sealants either.
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Old 01-25-2016, 04:47 PM   #7
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Name: Sylvio
Trailer: 1975 Boler
Quebec
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Thank you everyone for your generous answers! I'll read through them again before my next step.

As someone suggested to me in another thread, I used a 9/64 drill bit. The advantage of that bit is that if you go over, it takes the stem right out but doesn't make the whole bigger. In other words, it's just a little bit bigger than the rivet: something like what Steve wrote.

When I first started, the first few rivets came out right away! I could just hear then fall on the other side as I went: I felt like a rivet ninja!!! But then, I snapped a bit. Here's my diagnosis. As someone wrote, my bits broke because I was putting too much pressure on them. Now the question: "Why was I putting too much pressure?" Answer: Because the bits were dull and were not drilling anymore... So here's my personal flow chart that helped me attain my plan of taking out a total of 70+ rivets today, most of them steel ones that will be replaced by aluminum ones out of compassion for the next owners!

Here's my rivet flow chart:

a. Try the 9/64 drill bit on all rivets except the "outies". The goal is to remove the head so the window can get loose. (Afterward, you'll be able to fight with the stem...) In most cases, it worked.

b. For "outies" and rivets that didn't work for some reason, I used a 4'' grinder. Sounds crazy, but human eye-hand coordination is something amazing! The goal is still to remove the head, all the head, nothing but the head. And it worked! It makes fireworks as well: bonus! When the head is pretty much gone, you start seeing a little circle where the stem is: it's time to use the punch.

c. Then you fight with the stems: pushing, pulling, sticking a 1/8 bit into it... Sometimes, a little shot of "Gig-a-Loo" (lubricant) makes a difference.

By noon I had removed my two jalousie windows and quickly removed the ceiling vent after lunch. [I heat up my friend's garage with a wood stove. Canning is one of my useful hobbies so I take a Mason jar off whatever (pulled pork today!) stick it on the wood stove around lunchtime and it heats up by itself! Then, I grab a glove, take my jar, go sit on the floor of my Boler and eat: pure pleasure!]

OK, so a few questions at the end of my most encouraging work day on my Boler:

(First a confession: I hated silicone way before today, but I hate it even more since I've been working on my trailer...)

If I have to put something under/over the rivets to make them waterproof, I can't paint over them, right?

I'll put the windows and the vent back in after painting, but how about the rivets that are holding the cupboards (a few are broken) or the curtain rod holders?
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Old 01-26-2016, 01:08 AM   #8
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Name: RogerDat
Trailer: 77 Scamp 13
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Snap Caps go on outside of rivets where they are going through the wall to hold on cabinets and such. Going through the aluminum window frame the butyl tape that the aluminum frame is bedding into will seal around the rivet.


Generally speaking the hole in the middle of the rivet tube won't leak because the ball has been pulled tight into the bottom, acts like a cork as it is pulled into the tube to swell the inside end of the rivet.


I use butyl tape under snap cap bases that the rivets go through and it seems to work fine, not that marine caulk/sealant would not also work well. I like the ease with which butyl tape can be removed. I just cut a little square of it, put it under the snap cap base, then push the rivet through. After rivet is tight I use a toothpick to go around the base and trim off the excess. This page has some pictures of it being done. Replacing - Repairing Snap Caps | Scamp Owners International


My trailer as was common on some older ones did not have snap caps so I used a touch of white liquid electrical tape as a temp solution to sealing it for storage the first winter. lasted a year easy, was white, came off easily with a fingernail. I probably could have skipped it, water was not coming through the wall rivets. It had too many other options for entry. Sigh.
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Old 01-31-2016, 01:06 PM   #9
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Name: Sylvio
Trailer: 1975 Boler
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I'm not sure I get the concept of the acorn rivet. I'll look into t some more.

Am I correct to think that the rivets that hold a window in place don't need any sealing since they're already going through the butyl tape? [By the way, butyl tape comes in all kinds of width. Which do you recommand for windows and vents?]

As for other rivets, here's my proccupation. I understand the idea of sealing them. Some use butyl tape, some use some kind of silicon or other sealer. I think a rivet put in after a paint job would look good. I think that a rivet applied before a paint job would also look good after being painted. But I don't see how a silicon-gooped rivet can look clean. So I'm not sure I want to spend hours sanding and painting my shell only to see silicon spots all over afterwards. I'm not an "all looks" kind of guy, au contraire, but is it possible to have a neat look AND waterproof rivets?

As far as length goes, I'll buy different lengths and see.

Thanks!
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Old 01-31-2016, 02:53 PM   #10
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Name: Sylvio
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PS: Another thing about the silicon VS look debate in my head. I imagine myself cleaning up my "Boler" logo/display and fastening it back to the front and the back of the trailer. I imagine myself taking a couple of pictures* before putting on some goop to waterproof the rivets... Something doesn't work in my head.

*Upside-down so they turn out right when I post them to show you!
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Old 07-04-2016, 09:34 AM   #11
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Name: Chad
Trailer: boler
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Boler Rivet alternative

Not sure if you're still working on this, but I've just picked up some closed end rivets that will be waterproof after installation so I don't have to mess around with silicone, butyl tape, or anything else between the rivet and the shell. Obviously a snug fit between the shank and she'll will be necessary, but it sounds like the best type of rivet for our application. Good luck with your project!
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Old 07-04-2016, 10:28 AM   #12
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Name: Sylvio
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All done! You made a good call.

I ended up using butyl tape AND putting a drop of clear Dynaflex 230 on the hole. Nothing leaked yet!
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Old 07-07-2016, 02:57 PM   #13
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Have been replacing rivets with the closed end marine type they are water tight to 500 psi; but our windows have a lot of machine screws holding them in place.
Like above drilling from head close to the rivet body size and then lots of work to get each rivet out. Putting the new rivet in is very hard to do for one person also broke 3 rivet guns so switched to the geared heavy duty type.
Last 3 days doing gelcoat wall crack, breakout, and general gelcoat repairs.

With the cost of new water heater, new furnace, clearance lights, new water lines, gelcoat repairs, and much more we could have saved a little by purchasing a new trailer but it would not be a boler. "plus would miss out on the fun fixing it"
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Old 07-07-2016, 03:43 PM   #14
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Name: Sylvio
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Borden,

Good job on all the repairs! We are about to enjoy our Boler. Like you, I didn't miss on the fun... At this point, let's be frank and say that it's not as fun as it once was!!!

Aunt Cereal is working on the curtains. Got the propane inspected Monday. Looking for a way to install only one propane tank on the tongue instead of two while, at the same time, having a little cargo space there. Will end up mounting a bucket in place of the second propane tank: no real alteration needed, no real investment needed.

Happy camping!
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