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4e Conférence spécialisée en génie des structures

de la Société canadienne de génie civil

4th Structural Specialty Conference

of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

Montréal, Québec, Canada

5-8 juin 2002 / June 5-8, 2002


C. R. Franchuk, R. G. Driver, G. Y. Grondin
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada

ABSTRACT: Relatively few tests have been conducted to determine the block shear capacity and
behaviour of coped steel beams. Furthermore, design standards are not consistent in the way they treat
this mode of connection failure and they may predict capacities significantly higher than the experimentally
determined failure loads. To address these issues, 17 full-scale tests were conducted on coped wide
flange beams with bolted double angle header connections. Parameters considered in the study include
beam end rotation, bolt layout, end and edge distances, and bolt diameter. All specimens failed in block
shear. Load vs. deformation plots are presented and the capacities are compared to those predicted by
governing North American design standards. It was found that not all connection configurations are being
provided with an adequate level of safety. The test results also indicate that beam end rotation, a
parameter that has not been investigated explicitly in previous research, has no adverse effect on block
shear capacity.


Block shear is a connection failure mechanism, most commonly associated with bolted connections, in
which a block of material is torn out in a combination of tensile and shear failure, as shown in Figure 1. In
coped beams, the removal of flange material increases the susceptibility of the web to block shear failure,
often making it the governing connection failure mode.

Figure 1. Block Shear Failure Mode in Coped Beams

Historically, block shear failure of coped beams has not been well understood. Capacity equations are
largely based on tests of block shear in gusset plates, and although the two failure mechanisms are
similar, there are marked differences. The effects of beam end rotation and the asymmetric stress
distribution on the block that are not present in typical gusset plates may be influential in the load carrying
capacity of coped beams.

The block shear failure mode in coped beams was first identified by Birkemoe and Gilmor (1978), who
conducted tests on one coped and one uncoped beam, each with a double angle shear connection. These
tests were prompted largely by a significant increase in allowable bolt bearing stresses in the standards of
the day (e.g., CAN/CSA–S16–74), making certain connections more susceptible to failure by the tearing
out of a block of material. The test results showed a 24% reduction in strength due to the presence of the
cope and it was recognized that new design equations were required to account for this reduction.
Although the authors suggested that a combination of shear and tensile stresses acting over their
respective areas be used to predict the block shear capacity, they gave no definitive equation.

Further research completed by Yura et al. (1982) and Ricles and Yura (1983) increased the number of
coped beam laboratory tests by 12. Of these, ten failed in a block shear mode. In these tests, an increase
in end distance from 25 mm to 50 mm increased the capacity by 10% to 16%, while a similar increase in
edge distance yielded an increase in strength of 18% to 37%. Slotted holes caused a decrease in capacity
of 9% to 16%. In tests of two otherwise identical compact two-line connections, the number of bolt holes in
the shear failure plane had little effect on the connection capacity. This indicates that the shear
component of the connection resistance is developed on the gross section rather than the net section. The
authors suggested in their conclusions that more tests with three and four bolt patterns are required.

Aalberg and Larsen (2000) completed eight block shear tests on normal and high strength steel wide
flange beams—four each with single and double copes. The authors found no significant differences in
behaviour, with the onset of failure occurring at a similar displacement regardless of steel strength.

Ricles and Yura (1983) carried out linear elastic finite element analyses on nine coped beam models
consisting of eight two-line connections similar to their experimental investigation as well as one with a
single line of bolts. The connections were loaded to 445 kN and the elastic stress distributions over the
shear and tension faces were mapped. It was found that the stress distribution is approximately constant
over the shear area and varies either linearly or bi-linearly over the tension face.

Existing North American steel design standards overestimate the connection capacity of many of the tests
described above, and the relatively small number of coped beam test results available makes it difficult to
define a method that more closely reflects the true behaviour. The experiments that have been completed
have investigated a number of variables, but have neglected some important ones. For example, no tests
have taken beam end rotation into account and this factor may influence the strength of real connections.


This research program is intended to increase significantly the pool of available experimental data, as well
as to account for connection variables that have not yet been considered systematically. The program
includes variables that have been investigated previously such as bolt spacing, end and edge distances,
number of bolt rows and lines, and the effect of a double cope, as well as parameters that have not, such
as beam end rotation, bolt diameter, and section depth. (Bolt rows and lines are defined here as being
transverse and parallel, respectively, to the applied load.)

A total of 17 full-scale tests were completed, nearly doubling the total number of coped beam block shear
tests reported in the literature. In addition to laboratory testing, bolted coped beam connections will be
studied using non-linear finite element analysis to examine the stress distributions in the connection
region near the ultimate load. Numerical results for several of the laboratory specimens will serve to
validate the model. In addition, a parametric study will be undertaken to extend the limits of the variables
beyond those studied experimentally. Using the laboratory test results and finite element studies, a review

of existing design equations will be completed and, if required, a new capacity equation proposed. This
paper discusses only the experimental results.


3.1 Test Apparatus and Procedure

Since beam rotation at the connection was to be a variable in this study, a test apparatus that could
induce rotations at the test end in a controlled manner was required. As such, a hydraulic jack was used
at the opposite reaction, as shown in Figure 2, instead of the support condition used in previous research
that prevented vertical displacement. Lowering the jack as load was applied to the connection simulated
the rotation of the connection due to beam action. Load was applied to the beam specimen near the test
connection through a second hydraulic jack. Unwanted restraint was prevented at both jack locations
through the use of knife edge and roller assemblies. The connection load and connection moment were
calculated from statics using data obtained from load cells situated at the two jack locations. Lateral
supports were provided at the load and reaction points for all tests, as shown in Figure 2, and an
additional support was provided at the extended cope for the two bolt-line tests to ensure that web
buckling at the cope did not occur prior to block shear failure. Stiffeners were provided under the load
application point in order to prevent local web crippling in the beam.

Figure 2. Test Set-up Schematic

Electronic measurements of vertical displacement were taken with cable transducers at four locations: top
of the beam at the connection, bottom of the beam at the connection, bottom of the beam at the load
point, and bottom of the beam at the reaction point. A clinometer was mounted on the beam web near the
connection to monitor and control connection rotation. A dial gauge was used to monitor lateral movement

of the top flange at the cope, and six strain gauges were mounted on the beam at midspan to provide a
means of verifying, through statics, that frictional forces developed at the brace points were negligible.

Each beam was connected, in turn, to the reaction column through a double L127x127x9.5 connection for
single bolt-line connections and a double bent 10 mm plate for two-line connections. New 19 mm or
25 mm diameter ASTM A325 bolts were used for all connections and the threads were not located in the
shear planes. The bolts were tightened to the snug-tight condition as defined in CSA standard S16.1. The
load was then applied slowly to the test beam with static readings being taken at regular intervals. Loading
continued until the connection capacity had dropped from the peak value by a significant margin. In the
cases where beam end rotations were imposed, the rotation was varied linearly with load up to the onset
of non-linear connection behaviour. At this point, the rotation was kept constant and the connection loaded
to failure.

3.2 Test Specimens

A total of 17 specimens of two different section sizes were tested. A summary of the connection details is
shown in Figure 3. Various configurations were used to investigate variables including end distance, edge
distance, connection depth, net and gross areas, and bolt diameter. All bolt holes were punched and were
of standard size. Two series of tests on end rotation of single bolt-line connections were included, each of
which consisted of three tests of the same connection configuration at three different rotations. One test
was completed with no end rotation, one with an intermediate rotation (approximately 2° at ultimate), and
one with a large rotation (approximately 3° at ultimate). In addition, two different end rotations were
investigated for a two bolt-line connection configuration. Connections G1 and G2 were identical to assess
repeatability of the test results. Table 1 summarizes the groupings of test specimens within which only one
parameter is varied.

A1 – W410x46 C1 – W410x46 C2 – W410x46 D1 – W410x46 D2 – W410x46

A2 – W410x46 J1 – W410x46
B1 – W410x46
B2 – W410x46

E1 – W410x46 E2 – W410x46 F1 – W410x46 G1 – W310x60 J2 – W410x46

H1 – W410x46 G2 – W310x60
H2 – W410x46
Note: All dimensions in millimeters. All hole diameters 21 mm unless noted otherwise.

Figure 3. Test Connection Details

Table 1. Test Parameters Summary
Test Parameter Connection Values of Parameter
End Rotation B2 / B1 / A2 0° / 2.0° / 3.3°
F1 / H1 / H2 0° / 1.6° / 3.3°
C2 / J1 0° / 3.8°
Edge Distance B2 / E1 25 mm / 50 mm
End Distance B2 / E2 25 mm / 50 mm
Bolt Diameter C1 / D1 19 mm / 25 mm
Section Depth F1 / G1 / G2 W410 / W310 / W310
Connection Depth C1 / F1 229 mm / 175 mm
Gross Shear Area B2 / C1 2 2
1750 mm / 1603 mm
Number of Bolt Rows B2 / F1 4/3
Number of Bolt Lines C1 / C2 1/2
Double Cope E1 / D2 Single / Double

Tension coupon tests were completed on representative samples from each beam web. The coupons
were oriented perpendicular to the axis of the beam except for beam G. The reduced depth of the
W310x60 section necessitated cutting the coupons oriented parallel to the axis of the beam. Connection
designations having the same letter were located on opposite ends of the same test beam. All steel
conforms to CAN/CSA–G40.21 grade 350W.


Examples of typical block shear failure are shown in Figure 4. Test B1 shows the entire block fractured
from the web (block removed). This failure mode occurred in all but three of the tests. In tests C2, H1, and
H2, the block remained attached to the web through a small portion of the shear face. The tension crack
opened past the connection and continued loading caused further opening of the crack rather than
complete block fracture. In all cases, deformations of the bolts themselves as well as the connection
angles were negligible, indicating that the connection failure was confined to the beam web.

Test B1 Test C2

Figure 4. Typical Block Shear Failures, Tests B1 and C2

Load vs. deformation plots for all tests are shown in Figures 5 through 9. Plotted on the horizontal axis is
the difference between the deflections below and above the connection. This value includes only the
deformation of the web block and excludes bolt bearing and slippage deformations. In test D2, little block
shear deformation occurred due to the removal of the bottom flange. The horizontal axis for Figure 9,
therefore, is the deflection of the bottom of the connection.


600 A2
Reaction, P (kN)

300 A1



0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 5. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests A1, A2, B1, and B2


600 J1

Reaction, P (kN)

400 C2


J2 (4 bolts)

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 6. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests C2, J1, and J2



Reaction, P (kN)

400 G1 H2

300 H1

100 G2

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 7. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests F1, G1, G2, H1, and H2


600 E1

Reaction, P (kN)

D1 (3-25mm bolts)

E2 C1 (3 bolts)


0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Block Shear Deformation, ∆1-∆2 (mm)

Figure 8. Load vs. Block Shear Deformation Response, Tests C1, D1, E1, and E2



500 D2
Reaction, P (kN)




100 slip

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Connection Deflection, ∆1 (mm)

Figure 9. Load vs. Connection Deflection Response, Test D2

In some of the tests, conditions required that the load be removed and then reapplied. In test A1, a slight
movement of the test frame required that the connection be unloaded and the problem resolved. Re-
loading of the specimen caused web buckling to occur, preventing a full tear-out of the block. This is
reflected in the low connection deformation for this specimen, as shown in Figure 5. Test J1 was also
unloaded when the web began to buckle at the cope. An additional stiffener, cut to fit the slightly buckled
shape, was added at the cope and the specimen loaded to failure.

The test results indicate that end rotation has no adverse effect on block shear capacity. In fact,
increasing the end rotation tended to increase the connection capacity. It is also observed that in general,
end rotation has little effect on ductility and connection behaviour (the large connection deformations
observed in specimens C2, H1, and H2 can be attributed to the incomplete block tear-out depicted in
Figure 4). As expected, increased end distance increases capacity as does increased edge distance. The
reduced capacity of C1 over B2 is related to the reduced gross shear area since the two connections had
the same net shear and net tension areas, but C1 had an 8% smaller gross shear area than B2. This
observation supports the theory that the shear portion of block shear capacity should be determined using
the gross section. Bolt diameter does not appear to have any effect on strength as indicated by the failure
loads for tests C1 and D1, the difference of which can be accounted for by the slight differences in gross
shear area and material strength. Tests F1, G1, and G2 consisted of the same connection configuration

on different sized beams. The difference in load between the two sections is, for the most part, due to the
difference in web thickness. It is therefore concluded that connection strength is not significantly affected
by section depth. The double cope (D2) results in a reduction of strength when compared to the same
connection with a single cope (E1). However, the change to a shear failure mode (eliminating the tension
face which carries a significant portion of the load in E1) indicates that the amount of reduction is a
function of the depth of the bottom cope. Bolt spacing has little effect on connection behaviour, as seen in
tests C1 and F1. No significant change in behaviour is noted when the depth of the connection changes,
but the capacity increases due to the increased shear area in C1.


Although many block shear capacity equations have been proposed, Kulak and Grondin (2001) showed
that none of these provide an adequate level of safety for all connection configurations. Canadian and
American design standards use different criteria for the prediction of block shear capacity. These
equations are generally conservative for gusset plates and tension members but can give unconservative
results for coped beams.

The 1994 Canadian steel standard, CAN/CSA–S16.1–94, combines ultimate resistance of the tension
area with ultimate resistance of the shear area, both being calculated using the respective net areas:

[1] Pr = 0.85φ(AntFu + 0.6AnvFu)

Kulak and Grondin (2001) showed that in several cases this equation gives predictions for coped beams
that are unconservative, sometimes by a significant margin. Ricles and Yura (1983) proposed a linearly
varying stress distribution over the net tension area, which results in a lower predicted capacity. This
approach has been adopted for CAN/CSA–S16–01 where the block shear capacity is taken as the lesser
of the following two equations:

[2] Pr = φ(0.5AntFu + 0.6AgvFy)

[3] Pr = φ(0.5AntFu + 0.6AnvFu)

These equations provide more conservative results than Equation 1, although there is still significant
dispersion of the results. Equation 2 is applicable to 17 of the 36 existing tests, while Equation 3 applies
to the remaining cases.

The American Institute of Steel Construction Load and Resistance Factor Design specification uses two

[4] if AntFu ≥ 0.6AnvFu then Pr = φ(AntFu + 0.6AgvFy) ≤ φ(AntFu + 0.6AnvFu)

[5] if AntFu < 0.6AnvFu then Pr = φ(AgtFy + 0.6AnvFu) ≤ φ(AntFu + 0.6AnvFu)

These equations combine tensile and shear resistances based on their respective ultimate strengths.
Although the combination of ultimate tensile strength and gross shear yielding shown in the first part of
Equation 3 is logical, the qualifying statement effectively precludes it from being used. In the 36 existing
block shear tests, this equation is applicable only once. The first part of Equation 4 is applicable to
one-third of the cases and the upper bound of ultimate tensile and ultimate shear resistance applies for
the remaining tests.

Table 2 shows the test and predicted loads for the 17 tests from this research program. Predicted loads
are based on as-built connection configurations and measured material properties, and resistance factors
are taken as 1.0 (the constant 0.85 in Equation 1 is considered to be part of the resistance factor). Values
of test/predicted greater than 1.0 are conservative. Although the equations are, in general, conservative in
their capacity predictions, there are cases where they are unconservative. For example, test J2 has a
test/predicted ratio of 0.86 for the S16.1–94 equation, representing an over-estimation of capacity by 16%.

Table 2. Test to Predicted Load Summary

Connection Fy Fu Test Load CAN/CSA–S16.1–94 CAN/CSA–S16–01 AISC LRFD 1999
Designation (MPa) (MPa) (kN) Predicted Test Predicted Test Predicted Test
Load (kN) Predicted Load (kN) Predicted Load (kN) Predicted
A1 361 519 439 428 1.03 403 1.09 428 1.03
A2 361 519 496 424 1.17 399 1.24 424 1.17
B1 367 513 514 417 1.23 395 1.30 417 1.23
B2 367 513 475 420 1.13 394 1.21 420 1.13
C1 366 516 402 425 0.95 376 1.07 425 0.95
C2 366 516 537 613 0.88 471 1.14 613 0.88
D1 377 523 448 419 1.07 389 1.15 419 1.07
D2 * 377 523 529 402 1.32 402 1.32 402 1.32
E1 370 522 568 516 1.10 445 1.28 504 1.13
E2 370 522 517 477 1.08 452 1.15 477 1.08
F1 367 517 324 308 1.05 282 1.15 308 1.05
G1 368 479 379 323 1.17 297 1.27 323 1.17
G2 368 479 387 321 1.21 298 1.30 321 1.21
H1 355 429 324 254 1.28 234 1.39 254 1.28
H2 355 429 341 255 1.34 234 1.46 255 1.34
J1 378 515 667 630 1.06 497 1.34 630 1.06
J2 378 515 338 395 0.86 274 1.23 395 0.86
Mean - - - - 1.11 - 1.24 - 1.11
* Double cope specimen failed in pure shear.

When considering all 36 coped beam block shear tests, the mean test/predicted ratios reduce to 1.03,
1.23, and 1.04 for S16.1–94, S16–01, and AISC 1999, respectively. As well, the equations can over-
estimate capacity by as much as 69% when considering all tests. Thus, the existing design equations are
providing neither a sufficient nor a consistent level of safety for coped beam connections, although the
S16–01 equations provide the most conservative predictions.


This experimental program has expanded the total number of tests on coped beams significantly and has
considered many connection variables. Factors such as end distance and bolt spacing affect capacity in
coped beams in a similar manner as they do gusset plates. One parameter that has not been studied
previously and is unique to beam connections is the effect of end rotation. It was found that end rotation
has no adverse effect on the block shear capacity of coped beam connections and can therefore be
neglected in connection design.

As a complement to the experimental program, a non-linear finite element model is currently under
development for simulating block shear failure in coped beams. The model will be validated using results
from the laboratory test connections. A parametric study will examine values of connection parameters
beyond those tested, making the study applicable to a wide range of connections. Stress distributions
along the shear face and tension face near ultimate will be mapped and, from this, a relationship between
important connection variables and capacity will be formulated.

Prior to this test program, insufficient data existed to predict accurately the load carrying capacity of coped
beams. With the addition of these 17 full-scale tests and the forthcoming non-linear finite element results,
a better understanding of the connection behaviour and failure mechanism will be obtained. Then, an
improved capacity equation can be developed to determine a safe level of loading for these connections.


The authors thank Supreme Steel Ltd. for their donation of all test specimens. Additional financial support
from the Steel Structures Education Foundation, the C.W. Carry Chair in Steel Structures at the University
of Alberta, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. The
authors also acknowledge the considerable groundwork conducted by Prof. G.L. Kulak that formed the
foundation for this project.


Aalberg, A. and Larsen, P.K. (2000) Strength and Ductility of Bolted Connections in Normal and High
Strength Steels, The Seventh International Symposium on Structural Failure and Plasticity, Melbourne,
American Institute for Steel Construction (1999) Load and Resistance Factor Design Specification for
Structural Steel Buildings, AISC, Chicago, Il, USA.
Birkemoe, P.C. and Gilmor, M.I. (1978) Behavior of Bearing Critical Double-Angle Beam Connections,
Engineering Journal, AISC, 15(4): 109-115.
Canadian Standards Association (1974,1994,2001) CAN/CSA–S16.1 Limit States Design of Steel
Structures, CSA, Rexdale, ON, Canada.
Kulak, G.L. and Grondin, G.Y. (2001) Block Shear Failure in Steel Members – A Review of Design
Practice, Engineering Journal, American Institute of Steel Construction, 38(4): 199-203.
Ricles, J.M. and Yura, J.A. (1983) Strength of Double-Row Bolted-Web Connections, Journal of Structural
Engineering, ASCE, 109(1): 126-142.
Yura, J.A., Birkemoe, P.C., and Ricles, J.M. (1982) Beam Web Shear Connections: An Experimental
Study, Journal of the Structural Division, ASCE, 108(ST2): 311-325.