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CHAPTER 8

OVERBREAK CONTROL
8.1 CONTROLLED BLASTING
Blasting techniques have been developed to control overbreak at excavation limits. The
operator must decide the ultimate purpose of the control technique, before selection of the
technique can be made. Some techniques are used to produce a cosmetically appealing wall
with little or no concern for stability within the rock mass. Other techniques are used to
provide stability by forming a fracture plane before any production blasting is conducted.
This second technique may or may not be as cosmetically appealing, but from a stability
standpoint, performs its function. Overbreak control methods can be broken down into three
types: presplitting, trim (cushion) blasting and line drilling.
Presplitting utilizes liyhtly loaded. closely svaced drill holes. fired before the production
blast. The vuqmse of presvlitting is to form a fracture plane across which the radial cracks
from the vroduction blast cannot travel, The fracture plane formed may be cosmetically
appealing and allow the use of steeper slopes with less maintenance. Presplitting should be
thought of as a protective measure to keev the final wall from being damaged by the
production blasting.
Trim blasting is a control techniaue which is used to clean up a final wall after production
blasting has taken place. The production blasting may have taken place many years earlier or
could have taken place on an earlier delay within the same blast. Since the trim row of holes
alon~ a ~erimeter is the last to fire in a production blast, it does nothing to Drotect the
stability of the final wall. Radial fractures from production blasting can go back into the final
wall. Mud seams or other discontinuities can channel gasses from the production blast areas
into the final wall. The sole purpose of a trim blast is to create a cosmetically appealing,
stable perimeter. It offers no protection to the wall from the production blast.
Line drill in^ is an expensive techniaue. that under the vroper geologic conditions. can be
used to produce a cosmeticallv appealin? final wall. It may, under proper circumstances, help
protect the final contour from radial fractures by acting as stress concentrators causing the
fracture to form between line drill holes during the production blasting cycle. If. on the other
hand. the wall contour was extremely important. one could not devend on line drilling to
necessarily protect the final wall. Line drilling is more commonly used in conjunction with
either presplitting or trim blasting rather than being used alone. Although the use of control

blasting is more common for surface excavations, it has been successfully used underground,
residual stress conditions permitting.
8.1.1 PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION
The explosive used for both presplitting and trim blasting is normally one which contains
considerable ammonium nitrate. Ex~erience shows that high gas-producing explosives
produce a better fracture and reduce the pssibilitv of forming hairline cracks on borehole
walls. However, the type of explosive used is not critical. Mdst empirical formulas express
the amount of explosives needed as the pounds of (any) explosive per foot of borehole.
Common rules of thumb also indicate that the charge diameter be less thm half the diameter
of the hole. By using a small diameter charge in a larger diameter hole, the gas pressures drop
quickly due to expansion into a larger volume. This procedure is called decoupling. This
rapid drop in pressure has the effect of bringing different explosive pressures into a narrow
range of values for most types of common explosives used. In effect what occurs is that under
the proper decoupling, different explosives produce stresses in the rock which are
approximately within 10% of one another in a presplitting or trim bla~ting application. An
example of the stresses produced 12 inches from the blasthole is given in Figure 8.1. The
decoupling ratio is defined as the diameter of borehole divided by the diameter of charge.
Past explanations of presplitting indicate that it was caused entirely by the reflection of stress
waves as shown in Figure 8.2. Later research proved that the magnitude of the resultant stress
wave is insufficient to cause the splitting action to occur in real blasting situations. Zf one had
to rely only on the stress waves to cause presplittin~. spacipgs would have to be reduced to
115 of those which are commonly used in the field. According to Figure 8.2, if blastholes
within a presplit row were not fired truly instantaneously, the splitting action could not
possibly result since stress wave collision would not occur between holes. This is contrary to
fact. since blasters commonlv delav each hole in a mesplit shot and still produce good wall
conditions. Figure 8.3 shows a presplit forming from radial crack growth. not stress wave
collision.
This point is significant because if one would believe in the stress wave breakage concept as
being the prime mechanism for presplit formation, then all presplit holes would need to be
fired insta~~taneously. Since the presplit blastholes are normally the closest to residences and
also the most heavily confined holes in the entire blast, higher vibration levels would be
produced per pound used. Levels could he as much as five times higher than those in

production blasting. In most cases, many holes fired instantaneously would cause excessively
high ground vibrations. The realization that holes can be delayed is important because it
allows the contractor flexibility to fire each hole on a separate delay if necessary.
Presplitting is nothing new. It became a recognized technique for wall control when it was
used in the mid-1950's on the Niagara Power Project (Figure 8.5). Its use was reported as
early as the 1940's on a sporadic basis
Presplittin~ was used as a rock fracturing technique before ex~losives were used for blastinp.
The pyramids of ancient Egypt were built by craftsmen that used presplitting. The technique
was employed by pounding wooden wedges into natural cracks or holes drilled into the rock.
The wooden wedges were soaked with water and the wood expansion caused fractures to
occur between wedges. The blocks could then be removed.
In northern climates, man found that he could use ice to cause rock to fracture by drilling
holes in a rock mass, filling them with water and letting the water freeze during the winter.
Rock would then crack between holes freeing the blocks. Both the wooden wedges and the
freezing water exerted static pressure on the rock mass similar to what occurs from the
explosive gas pressure.
Empirical formulas used in presplitting normally do not take into consideration strength
characteristics of the rock mass. Although this may seem unusual, it must be remembered that
tensile strength ranges from a few hundred to no more than a few thousand psi in most rock.
Crushing strength, on the other hand, is normally rated in tens of thousands of psi. If the
explosive pressure within the blasthole is such that it is below the crushing strength and
above the tensile strength, fractures will occur without damaging the rock mass around the
borehole. In most presplitting and trim blasting applications, pressures approximate 8,000 to
15,000 psi and vastly exceed the tensile strength of any rock. Therefore, these strength
characteristics would not be a consideration.
8.1.2 EFFECTS OF LOCAL GEOLOGIC CONDITIONS
Control techniques such as presplitting, trim blasting and line drilling work best in massive
rock. In massive rock, one can see the half casts or half of each borehole on the final wall. In
massive rock, 100% of the holes produce half cast. Some operators try to assess the success
or failure of presplit or cushion blasts by what is called a half cast factor. Half cast factors are
the percentage of the total half casts which are visible after the rock has been excavated. If
only 40% of the drill holes remain visible on the final wall as half casts, then the half cast

factor would be 40%. This technique could have some merit when blasting in solid
homogeneous massive material. However, half casts may totally disappear in geologically
complicated rock. One cannot assume that the lack of half casts indicate a poor blasting job.
In geologically complicated material a simple crack does not form. There is a broken shatter
zone formed along the perimeter, and that zone serves as protection for the final wall from the
effects of radial cracks emanating from the production blast. Half cast factors only have
validity if the rock type in which the half casts are being counted are considered in the
evaluation.
When rock has numerous joints between blastholes and those ioints intersect the face at less
than a 15" angle. it will be impossible to form a good smooth face with control blasting
techniaues. In fact. for the wall to be halfway cosmetically pleasing. the ioints must intersect
the face at greater than a 30" an~le. Anything less will cause fractures to intersect the jointing
planes having large pieces of material fall out from the face durin~ the excavation Drocess.
In a weak material, the skill of the excavator operator is extremely critical. Some machines
can exert considerable thrust, whereby they can dig into an unblasted wall severely damaging
the final contour. Other geologic factors which effect the outcome of control blasting
techniques are soft seams or mud seams. If the bench is intersected by numerous mud seams
it is difficult to produce good results.
8.1.3 PRESPLITTING
In order to evaluate presplit blasting plan, one could use the equations shown below.
To determine the approximate powder load per foot which will not damage the wall but will
produce sufficient pressure to cause the splitting action to occur, the powder load can be
approximated by:
where:
d , = Explosive load (lbslft) Dh = Diameter of empty holes (in)
If this approximate powder load is used, the spacing between holes in a presplit blast can be
determined by:
where:
S = Spacing (in) Dh = Diameter of the empty hole (in)

The constant 10 in the above formula is somewhat conservative. It is meant to make sure that
the presplit distance is not excessive and that the presplit will occur. Field experience
indicates that often this value can be increased to 12 and sometimes 14.
In most vresvlitting avvlications there is no drilling below grade. However. a concentrated
charge. which is equivalent to approximatelv 2 or 3 times dec, - is placed in the bottom of the
blasthole. The blasthole should be fired either instantaneously or on a short delay between
each hole. Although some contractors have reported satisfactory results, iLh not
recommended to delav greater - than 50 milliseconds between holes.
A presplit shot is meant to cause a fracture to occur and travel to the surface of the ground. If
this occurs, no amount of stemming placed in the hole will hold and it will be ejected.
Therefore. drill cuttings - can be used safelv as stemmin~ since its function is to momentarilv
confine~the gasses and to cut down on some of the noise. Normally. holes are stemmed in the
top two to five feet depending on their diameter. The larger the hole diameter, in general, the
more stemming is used.
The question as to whether to stem between charges in the hole is one where there are
differing opinions. The author recommends the following, if the rock mass to be blasted is
seamy in nature and has many partings of low cohesion and mud seams, it might be wise to
stem between charges. On the other hand, if the rock mass is competent, although it may be
bedded, stemming between charges is not necessary, especially in materials that have a very
low crushing strength such as weak shales. Leaving an air gap around charges is beneficial.
By not stemming around charges, a greater empty volume is available for the explosive gas
expansion, thereby dropping the gas pressure more quickly. The pressure per square inch is
lower yet, more square inches of the hole are being stressed and therefore good fracture
results. In weak rock, if stemming is used between charges, the walls can be pock-marked at
the charge locations.
Explosives for presplitting come in many types. There are polyethylene coils which are
snaked down the hole in diameters less than an inch. These polyethylene tubes contain slurry
explosives. Other types of charges are slender dynamite cartridges which couple together as
they are put down the hole to form a continuous charge. Other methods of placing charges
consist of taping either full or fractions of dynamite cartridges to detonating cord and
lowering that assembly into the blasthole. The choice of which charges to use depends on the
operator and what is available in his area. What is important is that the char~es be less than

half the diameter of the blasthole and b refer ably not touching thwblasthole walls. An
example of the use of these formulas for determining the adequacy of design for a presplit
shot is given in example 8.1.
Example 8.1
A presplit blasting plan is submitted for approval. The plan shows 3 inch blastholes spaced at
48 inches. The explosive load is 0.2 lbs/ft. The bottom load is one pound of dynamite. Holes
will be fired with detonating cord. Is the plan reasonable?
Check powder load:
Check spacing:
Bottom load: deb = 3 x dm
The proposed plan has too large a spacing and too light a column load. The bottom load is
acceptable.
Some operators prefer to load the production holes nearest the presplit line lighter than they
would load the remainder of the production holes. The first row of buffer holes, as they are
commonly called, are often closer spaced with smaller burdens and lighter loads so that less
pressure will be placed on the final wall.
Trim blasts are fired after the production round has been fired. They are designed in a similar
manner to presplit blasts. The powder load per foot of hole is determined by equation 8.1 as
used in presplitting. The spacing is normally larger than one would expect in a presplit. The
following equation could be used to determine the approximate spaciqg for a trim blast.
where:
S = Spacing (in) Dh = Diameter of the empty hole (in)
With trim blasting, confinement conditions are different than when presplitting. During
presplitting, the production round has not yet fired, and for all practical purposes, the burden
is infinite. In trim blasting, burdens exist since the production round has been fired. The
burden must be considered in the design of a trim blast. To be sure that the fractures link
properly between holes rather than prematurely going toward the burden, one would design
the blast so that the burden is greater than the spacing. The following equation is commonly
used:
where:

B = Burden (in) S = Spacing (in)


Stemming considerations both at the collar of the blasthole and also around the charges for
trim blasting would be the same as those for presplitting. In the trim blast application,
subdrilling is not normally necessary. However, concentrated bottom loads to cause the
cracks to go to the grade line are normally used. These bottom loads can be determined in the
same fashion as was described under presplitting. Example 8.2 shows how a trim blast design
can be evaluated.
Example 8.2
A contractor proposed the following plan for a trim blast.
Blasthole size = 2.5 in Blasthole spacing = 25 in Powder load = 0.25 lbslft Bottom load =
0.75 lbs Minimum burden = 30 in
Check powder load (Eq. 8.1):
Check spacing (Eq. 8.4):
Check bottom load:
Check minimum burden (Eq. 8.5)
8.1.5 TRIM BLASTING WITH DETONATING CORD
In some applications where trim holes must be drilled at very close spacings, normal charges
are too large and cause overbreak around the holes. The use of closely spaced holes, on 12 to
24 inch centers, may be necessary in some geologic formations and for concrete removal in
some structures. In some cases, it is necessary to drill larger holes than normally would be
used, however, the spacings are small. Additional airspace around the charges is not normally
detrimental to the formation of the split. If one uses the equations based on the hole diameter
to calculate the loads, the charges would be too large for the spacings. On these close
spacings, use formula 8.6 to determine the amount of explosive which would be necessary for
a fixed close spacing. It is often convenient to use detonating cord to provide this small
distributed load.
where:
d , = Loading density (grainlft) S = Spacing (in)
Example 8.3

Two inch diameter blastholes will be drilled on 18 inch centers and 20 feet deep. Determine
the grain load of detonating cord needed to shear the rock web on the trim blast.
l8
= 314 grainlft
8.1.6 LINE DRILLING
Line drilling is a technique where blastholes are normally drilled within two to four diameters
of one another. These unloaded, closely spaced drill holes under proper geologic conditions
can act as stress concentrators or guides to cause cracks to form between them. Unloaded line
drill holes are sometimes used in tight comers to yide cracks into a specific angle. Line
drilling is also employed between presplit or trim blastholes to help guide the cracks. In
geologically complicated material line drilling may not function as desired since fractures
tend to concentrate at naturally occurring weakness planes rather than at the man- made
weakness plane created by the line drilled holes. It is the author's opinion that although there
has been research in the exclusive use of line drilling for perimeter control purposes,
applications of line drilling in conjunction with either presplitting or trim blasting techniques
is the proven, safe method.
8.1.7 ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS
The above formulas are guidelines which are used both in this country and overseas to
approximate the powder loads and spacing for controlled blasting techniques. After test shots
are conducted, the operator can evaluate the results and determine whether changes are
needed in the blasting plan.
If the rock is massive with few geologic discontinuities, too great or too little spacing can be
assessed by looking at the fracture plane formed. Figure 8.6 indicates the results which would
be obtained if blastholes are spaced too closely for the powder load used. Numerous fractures
link in the plane between holes and when the blast is excavated the material between holes
will fall out leaving half casts protruding from the final wall. If spacings are too far, a face
that is generally rough in appearance will result (Figure 8.7). If the powder load is too great
and holes are overloaded, crushing of the borehole wall will result.
CRUSHED ZONEflNAL WAU
Figure 8.6 Close Presplit Spacing

Figure 8.7 Extended Presplit Spacing


If rock is not massive but contains numerous near vertical joints intersecting the face, the
results will be different. If the joints intersect a line between holes at a 90" angle, the break
line should be relatively straight between the face (Figure 8.8). If the joints intersect the face
at an acute angle. breakwe as indicated in Figures 8.9 and 8.10 will occur. This tyDe of
breakage. which leaves the half cast ~rotrudin~ from the final face. would seem to indicate
that boreholes are s~aced too close. In fact. boreholes may be spaced properly. but the acute
angles of rock ioints cause the rough face. not overloaded holes (Figure 8.11).
FINAL WALL
Figure 8.8 Presplit with Joints at 90'
7 FlNN WALL
FlNAL WALL
Figure 8.9 Presplit with Joints at Acute Angle
Figure 8.10 Presplit in Plexiglas with Joints at Angle with Face (after Worsey)
Figure 8.11 Breakage Diagram for Presplit in Jointed Rock (after Worsey)
If joints approach the face at less than a 15" angle, the face produced by the control technique
may show no half casts whatsoever and may appear to be rough and torn. Little can be done
in this situation. Although not cosmetically pleasing, the face should be stable. This type of
geologic structure may promote raveling of the face, yet the mass movement due to
instability should not occur as a result of blasting.
8.1.7.1 CAUSES OF OVERBREAK
Two general types of overbreak occur from a production blast. Backbreak, the breakage
behind the last row of holes and endbreak, the breakage off the end of the shot.
8.1.7.2 BACKBREAK
There are many causes of backbreak. It can be due to excessive burden on the holes thereby
causing the ex~losive to break and crack radially further behind the last row of holes (Figure
8.12). Benches which are excessively stiff (LIB < 2) cause more uplift and backbreak near
the collar of the hole (Figure 8.13). Lon? stemming depths on stiff benches also promotes
backbreak. Im~roper delay timing. from row-to-row can cause backbreak if the timing is too
short. thereby resulting in excessive confinement on the last rows in the shot. The timing

problem will not be discussed since it has already been referred to in another chapter. If
blastholes are short, with low LIB ratios due to excessive burden, the obvious solution to the
problem would be to change to smaller holes thereby reducing the burden and increasing the
stiffness ratio. This procedure cannot be followed in all operations. Therefore, other
techniques must be used to cleanly shear holes at their collars.
Figure 8.12 Backbreak Due to Excessive Burden
190
Figure 8.13 Backbreak Due to Excessive Stiffness
Satellite holes can be used between the production holes whereby the cap rock in the area of
the stemming zone can be lightly loaded and fired on a later delay. Operators often drill
satellite holes (Figure 8.14). This helps reduce problems with cap rock and reduce overbreak.
If satellite charges are used within the stemming zone as indicated in Figure 8.14, those
charges should be fired on a shot delay after the main charge shoots. One would not want to
prematurely unconfine the main charge in the blasthole by having the satellite charge fire first
and blow out the stemming.
SATELLITE CHARGE
*
Figure 8.14 Satellite Charges in Collar
Another technique similar to using satellite charges is to continue the main charge into the
stemming zone. However, the main charge is significantly reduced in diameter. This small
diameter charge in a much larger hole produces sufficient pressure to cause some cracking
similar to presplitting in the collar area (Figure 8.15).
Figure 8.15 Charge Extended into Stemming
8.1.7.3 ENDBREAK
Endbreak off the end of a shot usually results from one of two reasons (Figure 8.16). The
local geologic structure can vromote extension of cracks off the end of the shot. This can be
corrected by shortening the spacing distance on the end to the nearest production holes
thereby causing the hole to function and resvond in a different fashion.
Endbreak can also be caused by having improper timing on the perimeter holes, If the timing
is too fast, blastholes will tend to sense a much larger than normal burden thereby either

rifling and causing uplift, or by cracking back into the formation. The problem of timing can
be corrected in the same manner as that described for backbreak. Longer delay times, such as
those which were previously discussed in Chapter 6, can be used on the end holes, allowing
time for the center portion of the blast to move out. This produces additional relief before the
end holes fire.
8.1.7.4 FLYROCK CONTROL
In general, flyrock results from one of two places in the shot. It either comes from the face or
it comes from the top. If flyrock is originating from the face and flying considerable
distances, it could be an indication that too little burden is used or that mud seams or other
geologic discontinuities are prevalent. Most flyrock, however, is not produced from the face.
It is produced from the top of the shot. It results from geysering or vertical cratering of holes.
Geysering of blastholes normally results from overconfinement of holes at the time they fire,
due to poor initiation timing. Although vertical cratering can result for similar reasons, it can
also occur due to careless loading where explosive columns are either brought up too high in
the hole or powder cartridge during loading becomes lodged in the stemming zone and
insufficient stemming is used. Care in loading would solve both problems before they occur.
The timing problem is similar to what has been discussed for backbreak and endbreak.
Increasing the time between rows of holes within the blast should solve the problem.
There are times when to produce proper breakage, one must deliberately load higher and
heavier in the hole than would normally be required. These situations result when very low
L/B ratios occur in massive rock. In these cases, when blastholes are deliberately slightly
overloaded to promote top breakage, one can use 3 - 4 feet of deep soil over the shot to act as
a blasting mat to restrain potential flyrock. Blasting mats made of woven wire or wire and
rubber tires can also be placed on top of the shot both with and without earth mats to contain
the flyrock (Figure 8.17).
Figure 8.17 Blasting Mats
8.2 CHAPTER 8 SUMMARY
The basic principles of controlled blasting techniques are different than those which were
commonly accepted a decade ago. Stress waves are not responsible for the fracture and
therefore blast design considerations must reflect these differences to produce good
perimeters with little disturbance.

Presplitting, cushion blasting and line drilling are discussed with formulas for the
determination of the appropriate design dimensions.
The effects of local geology has considerable effects on the results of controlled blasting.
PROBLEMS - CHAPTER 8
1). The perimeter along a highway must be presplit for stability. The depth of the cut will be
40 feet. A track drill with 3.5 inch bit will be used to drill the blastholes.
(a) Determine the loading density of the explosive.
(b) Determine the total explosive load per hole.
(c) Determine the spacing.
2). You are responsible to trim blast a 30 foot granite face. The specific gravity of the granite
is 2.65. The drilling holes will be 2.75 inches in diameter.
(a) Determine the loading density.
(b) Determine the spacing of blastholes.
(c) Determine the necessary burden.