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An easy-to-use pop rivet gun

October 11, 2023 — BarryK

I posted about building an aluminium frame for solar panels:

...and mentioned issues with rivet guns.

I have been discussing pop rivet guns with Rick, via email. Rick has a couple of them, and previous work experience using them.

The two that I own are about 235mm long. I don't have strong "tradie hands" and find that it takes every once of strength in my hand for the final press to break the stem, using 4.0mm pop rivets. 3.2mm (1/8 inch) aluminium rivets are much easier. This is one that I own:


There are two-hands type, with long handles; however, they pose an access problem. I can see how convenient the 90 degree angle of the one-hand type is, for getting into the right positions for riveting the solar panel frame. The one-hand type also leaves the other hand free, which is very useful.

Researching what is available, I discovered a couple of one-hand riveters that have slightly longer handles; approximate total length 350mm. However, I made a discovery, a rivet gun with ratchet mechanism...

It is the Vessel RG-95 rivet gun; amazing, it is made in Japan! Which is getting to be a rarity these days. Furthermore, it is available at a local store, Sydney Tools:


Yes, expensive, AU$149. Compare that with the Bunnings Craftright gun at only AU$9.98. So, is it worth the extra expense?

Did a test 4.0mm rivet, and it just took 3 or 4 pumps of the handle and it was done. Quite easy on the hands. Then open the handle wide to eject the stem.

Found an online PDF:

I found a couple of reviews in Japanese -- one person said that "you need a grip strength as much as no different from the normal rivet gun instead of the ratchet type" (that is a google translation) and he/she only gave two stars.

Another person gave four stars and wrote "As a note, the force required for riveting is not changed, so the work is divided by ratchet structure, but it is better not to think that the grip force will be reduced when riveting".

After reading those reviews, I had to test another 4.0mm rivet. My experience is that there is a greater mechanical advantage and it is easier on the hands. In particular, the final step of breaking the stem is easier. One thing that does make it easier is that the handles are close together, which would give the feeling of greater mechanical advantage, compared with handles further apart.

So, is it worth spending that money? For me it is, as I anticipate using this product many times in the future and less stress on the hands makes it worthwhile. On the otherhand, a longer 350mm rivet gun would probably be satisfactory -- nah, I definitely like the handles close together and the repetitive pump action of the RG-95.

Please take this mini-review with a grain of salt. I wouldn't like it if, after reading the above, you went out and bought one, then decided that you don't like it. Try and find some more reviews first. After using it for a few weeks, I intend to post an addendum to this blog post.

EDIT 2023-10-15:
I used the RG-95 ratchet rivet gun for about 3 hours today, adding some reinforcing brackets to the solar panel frame, using 4.0mm aluminium rivets. Very satisfied.

Some Japanese reviewers have stated that the effort required is the same as normal single-hand pop rivet guns. Hmmm, yes, but I am able to apply the rivets with an overall less effort. I think that there is a slight mechanical advantage due to the ratchet mechanism, but also due to the handles being close together, which allows the muscles of the hand to apply more force.

So, if AU$149 is not an issue for you, then I recommend it. If the cost is an issue, then go for one of the cheaper normal rivet guns -- though I do not recommend the Craftright gun.

I had some discussion with Jon (scsijon in the forum) about rivet guns. We found one other single-hand ratchet-type, the Arrow RT189K; cheap, however the reviews on Amazon are good and bad:

...Arrow is a USA-based company. A lot of stuff sold on comes from the USA. The rivet gun is made in China of course. Here is the Arrow company site:

There are YouTube videos posted by the Arrow company. I'm not recommending it, just putting the information out there, in case anyone wants to investigate this cheaper alternative.         

Tags: light