Set a Copper Rivet for a Roorkhee

Since building my first set of Roorkhee chairs, I’ve been tweaking the details for the set of six chairs I’m working on now.

Most of the changes are in the leather. Instead of riveting the leather, we are stitching and riveting the leather. And we are using different rivets. Instead of rapid rivets, we’ve switched to #9 x 1/2” copper rivets. These rivets take more time to install, but they hold tighter (according to our leather experts) and they are easier to deal with when you are working with leather of inconsistent thickness.

And they are more expensive.

To see how to install them, I shot this short video of my shop assistant, Ty Black, making a sample rivet in some vegetable-tanned leather. There’s also a short clip at the end that shows how we are stitching the leather and riveting the ends.

We are quite pleased with the copper rivets. If you have a Tandy store in your area (or another leatherworking store), stop by and take a look at them.

— Christopher Schwarz

About lostartpress

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to Set a Copper Rivet for a Roorkhee

  1. tjhenrik says:

    I thought I noticed the stitching in earlier photos of your assembly. I think it adds refinement. Watch out Dave Munson!!

  2. tsstahl says:

    Those things are pretty sweet. I used some for a scout craft project with the boys some years ago. Very kid friendly operation.

  3. Ron Underwood says:

    Can you provide a little more detail on the stitching? Done on a “singer” or by hand etc. Thanks

    • lostartpress says:

      Ron,

      The stitching is done on a machine called a walking foot. It’s an industrial thing owned by my shop assistant, Ty Black.

      Any company that sews canvas (such as a sailing operation) will have one. So if you are looking for a local source, the boating industry is one good place to look.

      Ty may offer the seat sets for sale. If he does, I’ll make a note on the blog.

      • adrian says:

        Are you sure the machine is called a walking foot? My wife’s sewing machine can take all manner of different feet, and one of those feet is the “walking foot”. I have a vague notion that the walking foot is important for quilting because it keeps the layers from shifting apart. But the machine is a “sewing machine”, and despite the availability of a walking foot for the machine, it reportedly can only sew very thin leather.

      • ty says:

        Gang,
        Like Chris said, I used a walking foot sewing machine, but It is more accurate to call it a compound walking foot sewing machine.
        Stare at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-QjJgJKKVM. You will notice that the needle moves in a compound or elliptical path. This elliptical path stabs the material and pulls it through the machine. This is fundamentally different from your typical home machine and even machines that looking like walking foot sewing machines like this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxzSA-p_E8Q
        Home machines and the one immediately above rely on the feed dogs to pull the material through the machine. This means that the feed dogs need to be sharp and press down hard. This pressing down with sharp feet mar leather making it look like a Sherman Tank ran all over your leather, not ideal.
        The other major feature to a compound walking foot sewing machine is that the stitch length is very consistent. Meaning that when I lock off a sticht by putting the machine in reverse I can hit the same 3 holes that i just stitched though. Leather does not heal like fabric and being able to reuse the same holes is important to having a great professional looking stich.

  4. Ray Schwanenberger says:

    Chris – the stitching appears to have been done on a machine. Did you outsource that or do you have a heavy duty sewing machine? As for the rivets, in a life long ago I used copper rivets as a sheet metal worker. The tools used are identical except we used a metal base with a cup the size of the rivet head to keep from damaging the head of the river, during the preening process.

    • Ray Schwanenberger says:

      That is rivet not river and peening not preening. I sometimes really dislike auto correct on my iGadgets.

  5. bawrytr says:

    Um, riveting demo? I have been using copper boat nails with roves for odds and ends of jobs in wood and leather over the years, but have not seen a nifty tool like that for peening the nails over. Following the traditional guys, I just use a ball peen hammer. Maybe the thing is that the traditional boat roves are not little washers, but are lightly conical and could be crushed with a tool like that. Have to find one and try.

  6. Jerry Dye says:

    So, by switching to copper rivets are you saying that the rapid rivets do not hold reliably?

    • lostartpress says:

      Jerry,

      We haven’t had any complaints with the rapid rivets. And we haven’t had any that have come loose in the shop either. But the copper rivets are undeniably beefier, old school and time-consuming. Perfect for us.

  7. Mark in the desert says:

    Rivets are nice, and the industrial sewing machine is probably pretty slick. Yet you could likely get a good looking and fully functional seat by simply sewing the leather by hand. Wheel marker marks the holes, punch ‘em, stitch ‘em. Easily repaired, if and when necessary.

    You would probably need large sailmaker’s/canvas needles, and sailmaker’s palm, the wheel marker, a punch, suitable twine or heavy thread. Maybe beewswax to lube the thread. Can’t think of much else.

  8. Justin says:

    I am dying to make one of these! Hopefully next year. Maybe I’ll take the class at Kelly Mehler.

  9. Randy says:

    Thanks Chris! I just started learning about leatherwork a few weeks ago. I’ve been making chisel sheaths as practice. I enjoy the fact that many tools for woodworking can crossover to working with leather. I found that spokeshaves do an excellent job for rounding over leather. Just be sure to get the leather a little wet with a sponge first and it’ll cut like butter. I hope you can post more about this project.

  10. abtuser says:

    So many cool projects and techniques, so little time…

  11. John says:

    I use one of these to sew the thick stuff like leather:

    http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=50700&cat=1,43456,50700

  12. Greg Miller says:

    An industrial sewing machine with compound walking foot is essential to sew this thickness of leather. Cobblers/boot makers, and some upholsterers and motor trimmers will have these. Domestic sewing machines and industrial clothing sewing machines will not cut the mustard. I tried all these over the 10 years that I produced heaps of these chairs. Stitching looks nicer, but after outsourcing the seeing for a while, I changed to only rivetted chairs because I kept all the profits and provided my teenage kids with work. They and I pounded tens of thousands of rivets! Those standard leather rivets will hold forever so long as the post is long enough and crumpled up inside the cap satisfactorily. Love those chairs!!

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