How to Remove Steel Pop Rivets

What You'll Need
Sharp center point chisel
Blunt end cold chisel
Electric drill
1/16-inch drill bit
Safety glasses

Removing steel pop rivets can seem like an impossible task if you aren't acquainted with the procedure. Almost without exception, they will never become loose or work their way out of the surface to which they're attached. There is a method you can use to remove these rivets when you find it necessary to do so. Below is a list of materials and tools that you'll need, along with instructions for removing metal rivets.

Step 1 – Work Safely

During the process of removing a rivet there will likely be tiny fragments of metal flying through the air nearby. One of these fragments can easily become embedded in your eye, unless you're wearing safety goggles. Don't risk injuring your eyes by working without protective eyewear.

Step 2 – Indent the Rivet

First, you'll need to make an indentation on the rivet head that will allow you to drill into the head. Without this indentation, the drill bit will slip off the center of the rivet head as it rotates. The best way to make this indentation is to use a center point chisel and a large hammer. Be sure the chisel point is sharp. If it has become dull, use a metal file or grinder to sharpen it.  Position the chisel point onto the middle of the rivet head, then hit the chisel head with the hammer hard enough to make a dent on the rivet head.

Step 3 – Drill a Pilot Hole in the Rivet

Use your electric drill to make a pilot hole in the rivet. First, insert a 1/16-inch bit into your drill chuck and tighten the chuck so the bit will turn with the chuck when the drill is turned on. Lubricate the bit by placing a drop of oil on the rivet head before you begin drilling into the rivet. Drill into the rivet until you're sure the bit has penetrated the full length of the rivet. Be sure the bit penetrates straight through the rivet. 

Step 4 – Drill a Larger Hole

The first hole you drilled is only intended as a pilot hole for the second bit. This bit will need to be large enough in diameter that it is only slightly smaller than the diameter of the rivet. For example, for a rivet that is ¼-inch, you should use a 3/16-inch bit. If your second drill bit is larger in diameter than the rivet you are removing, you'll risk enlarging the hole the rivet fits into. Replace the smaller bit in your drill chuck with the larger bit. Again, place a drop of oil on the rivet. Then, drill into the pilot hole, being careful not to follow the channel you've made in your pilot hole. Drill completely through the pilot hole but no farther.

Step 5 – Knock out the Rivet

When you've drilled the second hole in the rivet, remove your drill bit from the hole it's made in the rivet. Place the sharp end of your cold chisel against the rivet head and strike the chisel with your hammer. After a few blows of the hammer, the rivet should pop out of the hole.