First use of rivets! Repairing a gorget and knife.

I got another cold this weekend.  It's number three or four this winter, which is strange - I usually only get one cold each winter.  It meant that I stayed home from rapier practice on Sunday (and missed a dinner with some other friends), as I didn't want to infect others.  I did have a nice, leisurely day puttering around the house, cleaning and tidying up, though, as the cold meds kicked in enough to let me feel not horrible.

For me, cleaning always takes longer, because it means taking breaks to finish lots of little craft jobs.  Mending jobs never cease, most of which will end up being thrown onto a horizontal surface (the living room table, the craft table, etc...) with the idea of "I should do this soon!"  Well, "soon" doesn't happen.  Then it comes time to clean, and I decide I have to get the projects done now or else they will just get thrown in a tub and not done for many many months, until I decide to organize all my various craft corners of the house.

Today, that meant that I used rivets for the first time!  Assuming I did it correctly, they really are easy - literally just put the two ends together and hit with a mallet a few times.

First Rivet Set Ever: Fixing the Pocket Knife

DeForest always carried a little pocket knife with him on his keychain.  Sometime last year, I took it off his keychain and added it to mine.  It's a useful little thing, and I love using more of his things.  Makes me feel connected to him, and that more of him goes on being awesome.  A couple months ago, the rivet holding the blade onto the knife (that the knife swivels on) came out of the knife.  Thankfully I noticed before losing the blade!

In last year's huge end-of-year Tandy sale, they were selling packs of 1000 rivets for about 1/4 price, in four sizes.  I got all four sizes (4000 rivets) for something like $60-70, if I remember correctly.  The biggest size fit through the hole in the knife.

I put the rivet through the hole and put the cap on.  The knife was placed on top of my hard plastic tooling block, which was on top of a mousepad (to protect my table).  I hit the rivet head with my rawhide mallet a lot.

The knife swivels wonderfully, and it doesn't seem like the rivet is going anywhere!

The rivet isn't quite snug, and swivels around when I move the knife.  I couldn't get it snug, no matter how much I hit it - perhaps because the surface is slightly curved, and the rivet might've been slightly too large.  You can see that it's slightly off the surface of the knife.  Still, it appears to work just fine.  Anyone know if this is normal for rivets?

Fixing the Loaner Gorget

The SCA is an awesome place.  Not only do we teach our love of what we do for free, we often have gear the people can borrow to do it in.  This is true for rapier!  SCA rapier (fencing) is fantastic - it's so different from modern fencing.  We try to make our fighting as close to actual fighting with swords as we can, within safety requirements.  That means we can move around in any direction (not just in a straight line), we can use a variety of weapons and parrying devices - one sword, two swords, daggers, bucklers, cloaks, etc - and you can do fun things like use your free hand to manipulate your opponent's blade.  If you're at all interested in fencing (or even if you're not!  I got into it by accident - was asked to try on gear and try it, and then LOVED IT - you get to hit people with swords omg!!!  Bwahahaha!), you should check it out.  If you're male, you will be asked to provide groin protection.  Besides that one piece of very cheap equipment (they are available for ~$10 at Meijer), you can try rapier fighting for free, as we have tons of loaner equipment.  If you're in Ann Arbor, check out our calendar at to find out when we have practice next (I can also tell you where the Lansing and Detroit practices are, and get you in contact from people in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo doing fencing, along with various people in Ohio and Indiana or even further away...).

Anyway, one of pieces of equipment is called a gorget (first syllable like "gore," second syllable pronounced the French way, with a J like the name Jacques followed by "ay" as in "day").  It's a rigid piece that projects the windpipe and upper vertebrae around the neck.  One of of loaner gorgets had the buckle fall off a long time ago, and it's been really awkwardly "fixed" by threading a piece of rope through the hole to awkwardly tie to the other side.  I decided to really fix it.

Here's the other side.  All the buckles I had on hand (I always buy buckles when I find them at thrift stores) were too small, so I picked the one that was close enough and cut down the strap to fit into it.  I tried to center my cuts so that the holes would be in the middle.

I started with the rotary cutter and cutting mat...

Then used my swivel knife to cut deeper along the strap and smooth out the cut.  I braced the gorget on top of a wood block on my knee - this way the metal could sit flat on the wood, and if the blade slipped it would hit the wood and not my leg. 

The resulting edge was very rough.

I took some sand paper and smoothed it out.  It's hard to see in the pictures, but the edge is much smoother now (doesn't look nearly so jagged and crappy).

I put the buckle on it on the tightest setting, and held the gorget completely shut so I could measure the distance from the middle of the bucket to the rivet hole.

The first place I looked was in my bin of random loose leather scraps.  I have tons of leather scraps in my craft room, as I mainly do leatherworking with scraps.  When I finish projects and have loose scraps left or am given small scraps by others, they often end up in my loose scrap bin before I eventually empty it and sort them.  From a recent repair job on a pair of shoes, I found a black strap that was already the exact width I needed with enough length to it.  It was also a fairly sturdy piece of leather, so it would be able to stand up to a fair amount of tugging.  I did not use thick veg-tanned leather (like on the other side of the gorget) because I needed the leather to be fairly thin to fit through the middle of the buckle, while still leaving room for the other side's strap to go through it.

I lengthened the existing hole by cutting a small slit with my swivel knife, so that the tong of the buckle could move back and forth easily.  I folded the strap underneath and sewed it down, securing the buckle to the strap.

The last step was to put a new rivet in the hole and hammer it tight!  I placed the skinny edge of my block of wood underneath the rivet to provide a solid flat surface to hammer against (the curved metal made it impossible to hammer against the table).

And there it is, the finished buckle.  Not a bad repair job for using what I had on hand.  For commissioned work I would've purchased a buckle that fit the original strap better and made sure all the colors of the leather matched, but since this was for a beat up old piece of loaner equipment (very functional, but not pretty), I used what was on hand and easy.

I take leatherworking commissions for repairs or original design work.  Contact me for a discussion of prices!  :)

My living room table is now clear of tiny repair jobs!  I can play board games on it again, yay!

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