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"Kevin is as imaginative as he is talented."
--Michael Larsen, Larsen & Pomada Literary Agency, San Francisco, California

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How to Use Reusable Pop Rivets to Clamp Steel

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you playing with?

Kevin Caron: They're called fasteners. If you want to put two pieces of metal together, you'll want pop rivets.

These fasteners have become pretty popular lately, but what happens if you want to work on a metal art project; what happens if you're building it and you want to put it together and take it apart again?

You can't use these, because if you put it in and you pull on the mandrel and you pop this thing off, it's permanent. You?d have to drill it out and start over. There's an easier way.

These are called Clecos. That's c-l-e-c-o. Find them on the web. They're very popular in the aircraft industry. This is what the airframe mechanics use to get the skin on an airplane, because these are removable pop rivets.

You'll need a special pair of pliers. Come here and notice what happens when I move it. This little jaw works back and forth. Right now, this is an eighth of an inch across and an eighth of an inch at the wide part of the jaw. But when you compress it all the way out, the jaw comes together and now it's less than an eighth of an inch, so it will fit inside an eighth-inch hole. If you let go of it, now it's held tight.

You can use one of these to put sheet metal together, such as body panels, if you're working on your car. Cars have frames under them. You can drill that little eighth-inch hole in the sub-frame where you can use these Clecos to attach the body panel while you're shaping or forming, getting your panel just right.

Then you can mark off where you want your cut to be made and pull the Clecos back out again. Then you can go ahead and cut the panel off, and now it's ready to be put in place and welded. Just add one or two or three, whatever, little eighth-inch holes, fill those in, grind them smooth, and you're all done.

Use these pop rivets when you have a sub-frame where you can attach the Cleco to, where you're making separate little pieces that you're trying to fit all together; or if you're just doing some free-form structure.

I've done that before while working on a metal sculpture. I'll cut my piece oversize, cut the next one oversize, where they'll overlap. Then I put it all together using Clecos. It looks like a little porcupine when I get done with it.
Then you can do all your marks, take them off one at a time, cut them, put them together, weld them, grind them, and you're all done.

They also have these: a little clamp version of a Cleco. When you don't want to drill a hole, or if there's nothing to get into behind it, you've got these great little clamps; they hold nice and tight, work good.

The only problem with these is that they don't like heat. These are aluminum jaws. I got a little too close with the welder one day--whoops, have to get a new one of these someday.

These are a great, handy little tool to have in your toolbox anytime you're working on sheet metal. It doesn't matter how many clamps you have: big ones, small ones, C-clamps, vice grips, or a big pair of pliers, these are a great little addition.

See you next time.

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