How to make rivets for cosplay and prop building
When we are talking about rivets for cosplay and prop-making we are generally looking at them from two perspectives. In the first case we are using rivets to join two or more pieces together, this is their utilitarian value. The second case however is probably more interesting to prop and costume makers.
As a group, we are excellent at faking things. We use foam to represent metal armour and make our swords from wood. We strive to replicate the form of an object while casting aside aspects of its nature like weight, strength, cost etc. When we seek to replicate rivets for cosplay or prop making, we are more interested in the aesthetics than in their mechanical nature. This becomes even more important when we are replicating science fiction or fantasy items. The placement of rivets on studio props, in CGI models and video game design has everything to do with the aesthetic considerations of the artist that created them, and almost nothing to do with the mechanical nature of rivets themselves. With this in mind, the rest of this article looks at different ways of representing rivets for cosplay and prop-making.
Using Actual Rivets:
It is perhaps ironic (Alanis Morissette please take note) that rivets are often not a great choice to represent rivets in the world of prop building and cosplay. Allow me to put that frustrating tautology aside and explain. Rivets are great at joining flat metal surfaces together with great force, creating a very strong joint. However, we make our costumes and props out of flimsy materials like foam, rubber and soft plastics and the process of forming the rivet is usually too violent for these delicate materials. However, when joining metal to metal, or some plastics, rivets can be a useful choice.
From a prop and cosplay perspective, there are really only two types of rivet that are relevant to us: round head and pop rivets. Round (or dome) head rivets (shown above) are very typical in fantasy and video game settings, and thus need to be replicated on all sorts of cosplay and prop builds, from swords to armour, guns and accessories. Real dome head rivets require either a hydraulic machine to form, or a thorough beating with a hammer. Consequently, these aren’t a great choice for us. However, you can use the top part of an unformed round head rivet to obtain the look of a riveted joint. However, this requires either drilling very deep holes (which may not be possible) or cutting down a steel shank to length, which is time consuming. To represent round head rivets in my prop and cosplay builds, I usually use Furniture tacks (discussed in detail later).
The other type of rivet that matters to us is pop-rivets (shown above). These are generally used in applications where aesthetics are a secondary concern to function. Pop-rivets are a great way of attaching thin sections of strong materials together. Pop-rivets are, in most cases, a purely functional tool and are best not used for aesthetic value to represent rivets on your props and costumes. However, there are some cases in which the real world item did in fact use pop rivets. Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre from Star Wars: A New hope uses pop rivets to hold on the T-track grip pieces which feature prominently in the design. The takeaway here is that pop-rivets are a functional tool for joining pieces of your props together and are not really to be used for their aesthetic value.
Using Furniture Tacks to Represent Rivets
I use furniture tacks to represent round head rivets in almost all my prop and cosplay builds. They have several advantages over real rivets – they are cheap, light and can be attached to pretty much any material. You can get these tacks in a variety of sizes and shapes, giving the industrious maker a variety of types of rivets for cosplay and prop use. The photograph above of my 10mm SMG from fallout shows the use of two different sizes of furniture tacks to represent the dome head rivets on the in-game model.
Using Leatherworking Rivets
Another interesting option in the field of rivets for cosplay and prop making is leatherwork rivets. These differ from other types of rivet in that they are generally made of two pieces. Leatherwork rivets form a less aggressive joint between two materials, and unsurprisingly are much more suitable for materials like leather and thicker, tougher fabrics. While their utilitarian value is unquestionable, their aesthetic value is also worthy of note. Generally speaking, leather rivets make fantastic fake rivets for cosplay and prop making. As they are designed to join thin pieces of leather, the post is generally pretty short, which allows easy fitment onto thin areas of props and costumes.
When all is said and done there is no right or wrong way to approach our projects. What works for me may well not work for you. What I hope to communicate with this type of article is that there are a number of ways to approach any given making challenge and to highlight a few that work well for me. I know of other makers that sculpt rivet heads from epoxy putty, cut them down from plastic rod, or just carve them out of EVA foam. If you have an inventive way of representing rivets for cosplay and prop-making, be sure to leave a message in the comments.
Next time on the Prop Up Shop culinary blog: I prepare a peppercorn crusted EVA foam fillet with a Kwik-Seal reduction and pan fried hex bolts.
More Posts From the Prop Up Shop:
Prop Builder and fog enthusiast.
I’ve been making things since I was old enough to pronounce Lego. Consequently my maker life has been spent constructing, kit-bashing and scratch-building anything and everything that has taken my fancy. After dedicating my time to Wargaming, Model Armour & Railways, I stumbled across what has now become an obsession – Prop building.