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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Swages for rivet gun (3)
Catalog #: 1994.3119.6., 20., 21, Accession #: 1994.3119
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
Swages are used with a pneumatically powered rivet gun. Fitted into the gun, the swage is the tool that does the actual work; the gun activates the swage. A riveting swage (at left in picture) heads and shapes a rivet of a specified size. A shaping swage (lower right in picture) seals (curls the ends of) small flues inside boilers. A cutting swage (above the shaping swage) cuts thin steel sheet. These swages and gun used at Culp Welding and Machine Co. Silver Spring, MD. Swages apparently made by Meideke Co.
Physical Description
Dimension: Overall: 5 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 3/4 in.; 13.97 x 3.175 x 1.905 cm. Metal (hardened tool steel) pieces (3).
Date Made:
Dates Used:
1920s - Today
Type swages used everywhere
Gift of Culp Welding and Machine Co. Silver Spring, MD

Part of a small array of hand tools displayed in "America On The Move" - such tools were used in the inspection and repair of steam locomotives. Light repairs on steam locomotives were usually done in roundhouses at the many small locomotive terminals throughout a railroad's system; heavy repairs were done in a large, centralized repair shop serving the whole system (often referred to as the "Back Shop"). Most of these tools date from the early- to the mid-20th century, roughly 1900-1955.

Rivet guns were used with variously shaped "swages." A "swage" is the small tool inserted into the business end of the gun; the swage is the tool that actually does the work, while the gun activates the swage. Particular swages were chosen to hammer home rivets with different shaped heads (rivet heads could be half-spherical, conical, flattened, or other shapes), to cut pieces from thin steel sheets (with a cutting swage, used as a fast moving chisel), or to shape the ends of tubes and flues on the inside of boilers ("curling" the ends of tubes with a blunt swage shaped for the purpose).

See Rivet Gun in this database.

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