From looking at the forums, I know I *can* use the Harbor Freight rivet gun to build a Zenith, with the mods to the tip.

If you did use the HF gun for your build, I'd like to hear your experience with it - good, bad or ugly.



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You buy the harbor freight one and then either send that nose piece to ZAC to have them machine it, do it yourself or buy one from ZAC

In case anyone is pondering this same question, I stopped at Harbor Freight today with the Zenith heads in hand to test for thread fit on the HF rivet guns. It turns out that the threads on the Zenith custom-machined heads will NOT fit the HF 3/16" Rivet Gun, but they WILL fit the 1/4" model (SKU 98898). There's a $30 price difference between the two, but you can get a 20% discount coupon (on-line) pretty much at will.

Just an FYI in case anyone is researching it here.


John Mattson

I did the same thing. Bought the 3/16" then returned it and purchased the 1/4". Works great. I have heard however of people buying the 3/16" and mailing the nose piece to Zenith to machine.

No biggie machining them yourself. Simply heat it up red hot first to take the temper out of it. Then a dremel will cut into it. Then when you have the right shape (most important to look at how they come out on the plane - or spare chunk of aluminum), simply heat it up again and then drop it into some water. It'll be hard as rock again and will do your airplane no sweat. I made two of each size in about an hour total.
No problems so far. Like others, I bought 2 riveters (one for each size rivet so I can avoid changing heads all the time). One is from Zenith and one from HF. The Zenith one seems more solid and I use it for the bigger A5 rivets, but I think the HF model would work just fine. I also bought a hand riveter from Zenith.

I have not primed mine like the instructions say, but I do occasionally put a few drops of oil in the air port on the base before I use it and that seems to work fine.
Harbor Freight seems to be similar to our Canadian Princess Auto and many of the parts including this riveter are the same. I agree that the quality of the tools aren't as good as the top brands but they also cost a small fraction and in many cases are quite good enough. I've driven over a thousand rivets with this tool and had to drill out none. I have lots of name brand tools like Milwaukee, Makita, De Walt and Bosch but I wouldn't trade my rivet gun for twice the price I paid ($80) and now you can get it new for $40 Cdn. No point being a tool snob on this one. And oh by the way, this is the same tool found at aircraft Spruce for $90 (US). The next model up is $285. I'd rather spend the money on improving the plane.

I got that same riveter. have had it for decades...built 5 or 6 planes with it and everybody around here has used it. also have done countless mods and repairs. the thing has probably pulled at least 100K rivets and still going strong. doing a tail mod on this 701 with it now. I keep around 1000 avex 4s around all the time for miscellaneous projects like this one. I've had some junk harbor freight stuff but overall it's been ok. that old rivet puller has been the best deal of all. their cup on top hvlp spray guns have been good for me too.

I tried it, and pitched it in the trash.  Ditto for the green one that came with the Zenith tool kits of 10 years ago.

Got much better results with a hand riveter.  Except for the first hundred or so rivets, I entirely hand-riveted my airplane.

10K hand rivets.... Not sure I want to shake your hand! :-). To each his own I guess. I found that it's actually much easier to get a good straight rivet with the pneumatic gun as you only have to hold it completely vertical for as long as it takes to lightly pull the trigger whereas by hand you have to hold it straight while considerably putting pressure on it through three full cycles.

I bought my from zenith factory build my complete 650 and it is working on another 650 i think it was around 100.00 probably pulled around 10,000 rivets. They got the special rounded heads for both the a4 and a5 rivets


Have had 2 pneumatic pullers.  One looked like this:

Bad Puller

The other looked like this:

Good Puller

The bad one lasted about an hour, and pulled maybe 100 rivets.  The good puller lasted the rest of the project and pulled thousands of rivets.

The second is what I've got (From Princess Auto in Canada's). I've pulled thousands of rivets with it too. I've seen it priced as little as $39 Cdn on sale although this one looks to have a rubber boot on the bottom which is a great new feature as it won't March up your wing if you set it down.


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