Watched a guy install mast steps on his boat in the marina. Used a bosun's chair and rivets. He was working solo, took a lot of trips up and down the mast and two days and lots of hours to do the job. Came out okay though he screwed up a couple of the steps and got them cocked a bit. All in all, would much rather watch this than be doing it myself.
Have installed steps on three masts with it sitting on horses, way way way easier. Did two with drilled and tapped machine screws. Takes a bit of time but works well. Wouldn't worry about chafing on a halyard
if you use the minimum length fasteners. Pop rivets stick farther into the mast than a proper sized threaded fastener.
Did my last set using SS pop rivets. Tried setting the rivets with a hand tool. My hands and wrists gave out on the first step. Bought a pneumatic rivet tool from Harbor Freight and made the job possible. Don't know how anyone could set a bunch of SS rivets even with high quality plier type tool without Popeye fore arms. Wouldn't trust aluminum rivets. Have seen way too many of those fail with minimum stress placed on them.
Ran the steps to the mast head
on the first boat. Wouldn't recommend it. The one time I tried to work at the mast head
using the steps found it painfully unpleasant. You have to lash yourself to the mast or be real good at working with one hand. Standing on the steps got tiring very fast. The one or two other times I used the steps climbed up using the steps but worked from a bosun's chair that my wife secured to a winch
. Had constant issues with the steps snagging halyards and generally found them unsat. Stopped at the spreaders on the other boats. Primarily used the steps to get to the spreaders to navigate in the reefs
and atolls in SoPac. They were very handy for that but not for much else.