In the boot fitting trade, it’s sometimes necessary to remove a ski boot cuff rivet fastener. For example, while working on canting issues or replacing rivets with better friction-free alternatives. Sometimes a boot maker is enlightened to the 7 paths of how to build a perfect ski boot, and the cuff fasteners are threaded. But most have not achieved the 7th level and still smush a permanent aluminum rivet as they’ve been doing for half a century. I’ve always hacked out the old-style cuff rives by using various tool abuse. This has not been pretty and I’ve ruined a few shells. But I mended my ways, and over past years I’ve learned various methods that work. (For DIY rivet replacement methods, see linkage at bottom of this post.)
When we’ve taken boot fitter certification classes from Masterfit, the method shown was to simply grind the fastener out from the inside using a large diameter burr on a flexible shaft. Tooling for that is not particularly challenging, the process is time consuming and friction heat is a problem — though it is indeed the simplest solution. I’ve thus been inspired to improve my approach to this. Lots of options, check it all out.
Method 1, large orb grinder and brute force:
Method 2, drill from inside:
I’ve recently refined my process to create less heat and be more precise, here is my latest, works well. Despite the number of steps, once you get this wired it takes mere minutes.
First steps are center drilling the rivet from the outside, and securing from rotation.
Method 3, do all drilling from outside (probably best DIY method for standard home shop tools).
Notes: For the basic method of grinding down the rivet, you can buy large carbide orb burrs but they’re pricey. The Kutzall seems to work well (see links below) though too much steel contact will diminish life as it’s designed for wood working. With new condition boots, take care not to make tool marks while prying cuff from shell if you need to pop a stubborn rivet. As always this is an evolving system here at WildSnow Labs. Amazon links follow.
3Pcs High Speed Steel Titanium Coated Step Drill Bit Set, 3-12/4-12/4-20mm 24Sizes, 1/4″ Hex Shaft Drive Quick Change Multifunctional Industrial DIY Woodworking Punching Tool Metal Perforator by Jelbo
For the simpler alternative, just hook up the following carbide burr to a rotary grinder or flex shaft, use plenty of cooling water, and have it it.
The following $25 die grinder probably won’t support a full time metal worker, but for occasional DIY work it’s hard to pass on. It fits nicely inside ski boot for grinding the cuff rivets, but is too large for any other internal boot work. I use my die grinders quite a bit for more than ski boot work, so I got one of these for light duty use when I don’t want to fire up the air compressor.
Optional anti rotation method: After you drill a pilot hole all the way through rivet, drill about 3/16″ deep with 5/32 bit. Once threaded to 10/24, this 5/32 hole allows an inserted bolt to bottom out and lock from rotation.
— Go slow, use copious water from spray bottle. Overheating the rivet and damaging boot is easily done.
— All cutting tools must be sharp, otherwise inordinate friction makes excessive heat. For cutting aluminum, cheap, newly sharp bits from big-box store work well.
— If you do this with minimal DIY tooling such as simply drilling the rivet from exterior, key is preventing rotation of the rivet and is challenging. Use any of the methods above.
— A vacuum cleaner works well for clearing aluminum chips from inside boot.
— If you’re tooled up for doing so, re-pressing a loose rivet before you begin can make everything easier. Pressing rivets is more difficult than one would assume.
Need to replace a ski boot fastener as do-it-yourself DIY? We’ve got lots of posts about doing cuff rivets with more coming.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.