Irish metalsmiths used several techniques to assemble metal parts. Riveting was a process of connecting parts without the use of heat, i.e. a cold connection. The technique allows delicate components to be assembled without the risk of heat damage. St Manchan’s shrine was primarily assembled using nails, but large rivets were used to attach the shrine’s feet to the corner brackets. Rivets were also used to attach the enamelled panels to the corner brackets and were probably used to attach filigree onto the central bosses.
A rivet is a malleable metal pin, usually cylindrical in shape, used to hold two or more metal parts together. The rivet consists of a head at one end, a shank which passes through the parts that are being joined, and a tail that will be formed into a second head at the back of the parts. Rivets can be fixed tightly to hold metal parts together permanently or be loosely fitted to allow movement. The rivet head must have a wider diameter than the holes drilled in the metal parts. The rivet shank is fed through the metal parts that are to be attached. The tail, which protrudes from the back, is carefully formed over the connection, joining the parts securely.
Text and photography: Kevin O'Dwyer